Fork in the Road: To learn... to grow
When our paths crossed again several years later, he may as well have been a complete stranger. There was nothing – not even a flickering spark of what we had once shared. The very tales he spun that had had me hanging off of every word seemed boring and dull. His once sexy rugged exterior was haggard. When I looked into his eyes, no longer did I see a vision of him and I, but instead emptiness. I felt no longing when we said goodbye.
The reason I elected this anecdote as the starting place for my Fork in the Road series this year is because its message is rather relevant to you: students embarking on their post-secondary careers, many of whom are away from the warm cockles of their familial homes (and childhood friends) for the first time.
As your world expands through education, you’ll learn about and incorporate new ideas, thoughts, philosophies and beliefs into your person. It’s not that your fundamental nature as a human being changes (whether you’re an optimist or pessimist, a skeptic or a dreamer), but your worldview and what you maintain on your life’s “priority list” most certainly will.
While the explicit purpose of schooling (to improve one’s chances of finding gainful employment) is obvious, beyond that, higher education is not simply about “what” is taught but more importantly, what your studies teach you about yourself.
Speaking from my own experience of attending both of London’s well-regarded educational institutes, I know for certain that, without my six years of post-secondary, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I became more worldly, more other-oriented, more compassionate, and more analytical. In other words, I matured (and it wasn’t just because I aged… but more on that later).
During the process of maturation, we often have to say goodbye to those who no longer serve us (well) not simply because you find you have increasingly less in common, but because at the end of the day, friendship (well, relationships in general) is about mutual benefit. The older and wiser you become, the less time you have for drama and one-sided co-dependencies.
It is emotionally draining to always have to be the shoulder to cry on when there’s a clear “unwelcomeness” on the part of the other person for the roles to ever become reversed. It’s exhausting to constantly act as the voice of reason for those who are more content with complaining than actually fixing the issues in their lives.
In sum, as you mature, you’ll grow tired of listening to individuals boast about how they were your high school’s prom queen or lead jock as you’ll recognize the reason as to why they continue to relive these “glory days” is because they remain their greatest accomplishments. They failed to grow up.
Instead, you’ll desire meetings of the minds based on deeper connections – connections rooted in more substantial areas of your life beyond just a shared taste in music. Your career, your relationship and family status, and perhaps most importantly your worldview will play a critical role in who you be- or un-friend.
In my experience, people enter our lives when we need them, and stay until their purpose is fulfilled. As we grow and mature, we require the company of individuals who will support and nurture our new selves, not stifle us. Some friendships remain fluid in that you fall in and out of each other’s lives for many years depending upon the personal circumstances of both of you; others you have to say goodbye to forever.
Of course, in real life, none of this is as “academic” as it sounds on paper. There are always emotions involved and oftentimes, you’ll find yourself at odds with those who don’t want to let go of you who you’ve simply outgrown. What is important to keep in mind in all this is that it is far more essential to your spirit to have a few close friends who act as a solid support network in the good times and bad, than to maintain a bunch of superficial connections which may prove more damaging than productive.
To return momentarily to my opening tale, what happened between my ex and I can be summated in two simple sentences: I had changed. He had not.
This month’s lesson: Don’t become ever stagnant. Maturity, growth and self-actualization require an ongoing thirst for knowledge and constant self-improvement. There’s no such thing as perfection, so don’t ever stop trying!