One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my time at UW-Madison came neither out of the classroom nor from the daunting collection of textbooks on my bookshelf. After what I will conservatively label as a tumultuous tenure in the College of Engineering, I am now only beginning to realize the value of the relationships we have with our friends, families, advisors and acquaintances. While perhaps a trivial sounding statement on the surface, the unique personalities and talents that define us as individuals can act both as agents that bind us together or drive us apart. No class can adequately prepare one for what they will learn about other people in college.
We are told that our years in college are the best times to branch out into new experiences and to try new things in the interest of self-discovery and growth. Most of us find that the best way to learn is by doing, but by doing something new, you leave yourself vulnerable and susceptible to failure. For some, the fear of failure is a perpetual spectre that stands between us and our ambitions. However, it is only by allowing ourselves the opportunity to fail that we can truly learn something meaningful.
How and with whom we choose to interact can be just as influential on our performance in the classroom as our dedication to Wendt library. We rely upon other people to bring out the best in ourselves. It was tough for me to wrap my head around the idea that there were others that were invested in my success as a student here. It takes a certain amount of courage to be able to let your guard down and find out who those people are; you will also find out who those people are not.
The lesson I learned is that people will surprise you. It is impossible to predict how two people can benefit each other until they try. You will never really know where you stand with someone until you ask. Leave no stone unturned because some of the most meaningful relationships you will develop could be born of the most unlikely of circumstances.
December graduation is soon approaching and my biggest fear about diving into the ‘real world’ is not knowing who I will make friends with when I move to a new city to start my career. I have had many best friends through the years: the boy I’ve known since preschool, my high school tennis partner, my freshman year roommate, the guy I met in the library studying for a calculus exam, a friend from high school who turned into a roommate in college and the guy from a semester long group project that ended up being more than just a friend. It’s not that the people who have fallen in and out of my life in the past few years have changed that quickly, but the time and effort that I have put into these relationships has.
Every relationship has its ups and downs; the manner in which you handle the hard times usually determines how close you are to a person or how much work you are willing to put in to keep them in your life. You may have a bad experience with someone that makes you realize that you are a better person without them, or you may realize that you really do need them in your life. Sometimes it only takes one small fight to determine who your true friends are; the people who stand by you when you’re at your best are not always there for you when you’re at your worst.
Often the biggest determining factor in any relationship is time. It can be very easy to get along with someone when you first meet them, but it is what you learn about people after time has passed that will either make you want to keep them in your life or not. What I have learned about relationships is to work for the ones that mean something to you and to not stress over people that won’t be there to pick you up when you fall.
It will be hard moving to a new city and not having any relationships that have had time to develop, but hopefully the relationships I have worked so hard to keep over the past few years will continue to get stronger.