If you ever want to feel wholly insignificant, just stand in the “departures” part of an airport, especially one in a country where you don’t know the language. People are buzzing in and out with places and people to see and with comments like “Ma’am, would you just get out of the way?” I could disappear into this huge terminal and no one would ask me questions. Maybe camping in the woods would give you the same feeling, but I wouldn’t know.
As senior year continues, I can’t help but reread Marina Keegan’s “The Opposite of Loneliness.” Sometimes I tear up as I read the familiar lines and admire her way of touching people she would never meet years down the line, her words not any less true. In many ways, I am ready to graduate. But just because I graduate does not mean I should have to shed this communal lifestyle that I’ve clung so hard to.
I love living in a suite with five people, the most people I’ve ever lived with in my life. I’ll miss coming home, with at least one of my suitemates in the common room. Intermittent and spontaneous dancing to old songs and bemoaning our boy (and girl) problems late into the night, usually over a bowl of Junzi.
I thought about getting my flu shot. I realized I had never gotten a flu shot alone. I always went with my mother growing up, then with my brother. Now, at school, we make a joke of it, and I go with a group of friends, laughing about the sticker we’d get after and complain about the dull band aid we’d get. And I realize that next year, I will have to get this shot alone. And it’s not (only) the needle I’m scared of.
I’m scared of doing these little mundane things alone. People to walk to class with, someone to share breakfasts with, going to the post office. I will have coworkers, but in the same way that not all of our friends at Yale are derived from our majors, I do not want a friend group consisting solely of people I work with.
I’m scared of this loneliness. That I could live in a new city of millions of people and struggle to make a single meaningful relationship. That the time I invested in all my friendships and relationships will have been wasted now that they are miles away. That I can make witty banter with my coworkers and ask how their kids are doing but never know their first concert, biggest heartbreak or if they believe in an afterlife. That I don’t have people to share my breakfasts and dinners with, working up the courage to ask an acquaintance to dinner that happens only once every month.
I was raised to always be independent. The less people I relied on, the less vulnerable I was. Even in a relationship, I highly value the ability to pursue different goals, different dreams, different priorities. School pushes us to do the same, valuing independence of ideas, of work, of drive. Think about it, most of the people I know will admit that they dread the thought of a group project. We don’t write collaborative papers, even though I learn more from my peers than the texts I read. At Yale, we sometimes sequester ourselves, despite being surrounded by people. We shy away from deep relationships because we know they take work.
We live in an introvert’s world — Western nations so value this notion of independence that we forget how nice it can be to rely on someone else. Luckily, the airline seemed to hear my insecurities (Big data or just coincidence?) On the watch list in the inflight entertainment was the Grace Kim Ted Talk about cohousing. Her model demonstrates that cohousing makes us happier and live longer. The model is like an apartment building, with a courtyard for multiple families and other shared spaces. The best part is that three times a week, a pair cooks for the whole group. I want to live in a world like that.
But it takes more than housing to form meaningful relationships. We must rely on ourselves to make others a priority. We must make an active effort to create those friendships wherever we will be after Yale. Don’t treat a housemate as only someone you share a fridge with. Be proactive about visiting your old friends. Realize that life is better the more we allow others into ours.
More importantly, if I don’t have plenty of people in my life, who am I going to write about?
HALA EL SOLH is a senior in Berkeley College. Her column runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .