Often in health promotion, and even in this blog, we tend to focus on the physical, dietary, and mental attributes of an individual when promoting health, especially with college students. What are you doing to stay fit? Are you choosing the healthier options at the dining halls? Are you finding ways to minimize stress during midterms and finals, surrounding yourself with happiness when you’re feeling kind of blue, and steering off complacency when you feel OK is good enough?
Don’t get me wrong, those are all essential attributes of health that are vital in building a healthy foundation for a better life. But what about social health; what about the relationships we make, we take, and we break while we are in college? Where does that fall in the continuum of health?
The friendships I made, lost, and sadly destroyed in college have tremendously impacted me in one way or another in the years following graduation from James Madison University in 06 and the University of Delaware in 09. Regardless of how many friends, followers, subscribers, or people you have in your circles – nothing will compare to or provide such rich context to your life as the social relationships you make in school.
Everyone you meet in college will play a role in your life in one way or another. It just may not be clear to you at first, for a long time, or even until you walk through the iron clad gates floating on top of clouds (yes, this is how I envision heaven – well this and unlimited chocolate chip cookies, milk, and reruns of How I Met Your Mother and The Simpsons).
Below describes the 5 people you will meet in college, and whose friendship, advice, input, or even just presence will be intertwined in the remainder of your life in ways you’d never even expect.
The “BFF” or “Bro”: This is the person you click with almost immediately on move-in day or during the first week of fall semester during your freshman year. They can be your roommate, suitemate, friend on the 4th floor, or the person you sit next to in the first class of your college career. They are the ones that will later take you to the health center or local hospital at 3:00a, finish your sentences, hold your hair back or fetch you a G2 after a long night of liquid courage, and will console you with tissues, chocolates, and the Notebook (oh that Ryan Gosling, I hear he’s a dreamboat), or a beer, pizza, and night of Call of Duty and Halo after you and your high school sweetheart call it the quits.
Most importantly though, regardless of how sad, down on your luck or heartbroken you may be over college tenure, this person will teach and reassure to you a thousand times over that your life has a purpose and you will continue to do great things.
The Shadow: This is the best friend at college that you have never met and quite frankly, it’s more exciting to keep it that way. It seems like this person is in every one of your classes, eats at the same time and at the same places, follows your workout schedule, goes to the same parties, and sometimes even on the same peeing schedule as you. How can this be? You both see this; you both know this, and regardless you always exchange friendly smiles. And when you don’t see this individual at a time or location you normally do? You suddenly become concerned of their whereabouts, ponder a million other things that they are doing, and even think to alert the authorities without even knowing their name. For whatever reason, there seems to be a sense of comfort or familiarity when they are in sight.
What does “The Shadow” teach us? That there are no random acts in life and that all incidents and people we come across are intertwined in our life in some way or fashion. It’s the real deal. You can have a great friend you’ve never met. Don’t believe me; check out about 1/3rd of your Facebook friends.
The Buddha: This individual may not be in your inner circle of friends but they definitely play a direct role in your life. This is the friend that always puts quotes up as statuses on Facebook or in PowerPoint presentations in class. They remind you that although you’re having a pretty bad day, really, your life is amazing. Rather than focusing on the next meal, the test coming up, or what outfit to wear to the 80’s party on Saturday, they are asking questions like, “Who am I as a person outside of my possessions?” or “Where do I want to be 20 years from now.”
Regardless of how hooky they can sound from time-to-time, you always know they’re the best person to go to for relationship advice, career planning, or life decisions. They are often the teachers, educating us that when one loses something, we often gain something else. For as…they are the Buddha.
Mother Nature/Father Earth: This person can also go by the name of hipster. In their flannel shirts, hemp bracelets, holey jeans, and delicious organic snacks, their view on life is simple; natural, caring, forgiving, and possibly sometimes a little high. They are not about the politics, societal status, the latest technology (other than Apple), or the current pop culture trends. Instead, they are about being genuine, humanistic, friendly, and taking care of our planet. You can find them playing hacky sack on the quad/green, slack lining, or hanging out at the dive coffee shop on Main Street listening to Bon Iver.
What can we learn from Mother Nature/Father Earth? They will teach us one of the most important lessons in college and for life: Sometimes we just need to let go of the anger, materialistic things we become fixated on, and learn to forgive those that have caused us pain and damage in life. They help us re-center and appreciate the things that matter the most in life – a sense of family, friends, and good health.
The Crush: Like “The Shadow”, you also see them everywhere, but in slightly different ways. They may be at the gym at the same time as you or in your classes, or even at your favorite sandwich place on campus. But most importantly they can be found in your heart and in your head all of time. The thought of them simply puts a smile on your face and a kick in your step. A thousand times over you have thought of reasons why it wouldn’t work out but you still hold onto the hope that dangles on a string. Have you approached them — probably not. Do they know how you feel about them – no chance in hell. But for whatever reasons that’s ok.
The crush teaches us one amazing valuable lesson: that love comes in many forms, times, and ways. It doesn’t have to be direct; it doesn’t have to be romantic, sexual, platonic, or even rational. However, no matter what – there is always a need to be and give your love.
My question is, which one are you?