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An Exploration Of 'Branching Out'

I’m tempted to write an article that advocates branching out and making an effort to meet new people in the new year. But I think that, with a few exceptions, branching out should be nearly natural. I say “nearly natural” because while we can interact with one another and create relationships instinctively, we often have the tendency to settle for very convenient relationships based on similar demographics or extreme proximity, i.e. roommates. Meeting people who aren’t necessarily the same as us isn’t as common.

But I don’t think I should devote an entire article to that topic, because at the end of the day, meeting new people (regardless of how dissimilar you may be) isn’t complicated. All it takes is light conversation and basic respect for other human beings. If you give people the time of day, new relationships form naturally. Acting decent and taking the time to lift your eyes and see someone new isn't too difficult—particularly when you live with so many of your peers. In fact, it’s amazing to me when these interactions don't occur.

For me at least, living amidst thousands of people my age means that thoughts of branching out are constantly on my mind. Freshman year, I was so intoxicated by the prospect of how many people I could meet that I couldn’t sit down in the dining hall for more than five or ten minutes at a time. I was constantly springing up when I saw someone I knew, and maybe because of that, I now know a good number of people at BC, in my junior year. Whatever apprehensions I might have had about meeting people are pretty insignificant now; if I’m in the right mood, which I often am, I can feel comfortable in conversation with total strangers.

But I don’t think that college campus housing is the healthiest way to live. Being surrounded by thousands of people within a closed, controlled bubble naturally accelerates the rate at which students branch out—to such an extent that many of the attachments are superficial and frail. It can be difficult to rest and detach from the rapidity of daily life because this environment is completely immersive.

Last semester, I was so badly distracted that I constantly felt anxious about commitments and academics. I thought I was happiest when I was surrounded by people and living on-campus. But in the odd gap of time between now and going abroad in April, I don’t have time to take a semester of spring courses at BC. I’m living off-campus, working two jobs, and helping out with a BC program, which means that I’m not in sync with BC anymore. I have a room to myself and I only meet up with the people at BC I really care to see. And suddenly I find that my room is much cleaner (and consistently so) than it has been in the past few years.

I enjoy reading again, now that I have time for it. I appreciate the people with whom I choose to spend my time, and my memory and focus has improved. At work, I feel the satisfaction of knowing that my tasks have been completed thoroughly. I have enough time to put in work for the commitments I’ve neglected so often before. Every week, I meet new people, because I naturally gravitate towards doing so. However, there isn’t the same urgency behind the motion. I’m comfortable enough in my skin to let myself be a cranky, old-lady junior and fight for that weekend night when I get to read Jane Austen and go to bed before 11.

Branching out can signify growth, but it can also reach extremes that aren’t healthy for an individual. Within a college campus in particular, it’s important for an individual to maintain some distance from the constant socialization that can easily dominate his or her life. Trimming said branches and allowing room for personal growth is necessary for a person's health. And for that reason, I advocate not branching out, but instead adopting the stereotypical “old person” mentality: I know what I like, I know what I want, and I’m going to give myself the sweet, sweet time to enjoy it.

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