One of the problems with being very busy is that you lose track of the little things that really matter. This past quarter, with friends from the past two years scattered all over campus, and friends scattered across the world, I definitely felt that my personal relationships suffered at the expense of all the projects and leadership positions I have taken on. I was a TA for ECON50, a Creative Catalyst (dorm theme assistant) in Lantana, Head of Marketing for the Stanford Economics Association, President of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra, undergraduate representative on a faculty search committee in the Department of Music, and the only student representative selected to be on the Bookstore Advisory Committee. Each of these activities sounds like a nice line to put on the resume, but the snappy titles belie the sheer amount of time and energy that went into planning and executing my responsibilities, in addition to a full academic course load.
That’s not to say that I was a recluse this quarter. I got to make a lot of new friendships in my dorm and my clubs, visit old friends across campus, and tried to spend a lot of my time outside my room, even if that just meant working on a pset with neighbors lounging in the 2nd floor nook. Since my of my peers are turning 21 this year, I’ve also been invited to a few parties (I don’t drink, no one pressures me to, and I get to have a lot of fun just mingling and catching up with people).
However, there are a lot of people who I haven’t gotten to see much, if at all, this quarter. This naturally extends to non-Stanford friends, but it includes a fair share of people on campus as well. To combat this anxiety, I decided that I would spend one week at the end of the quarter reconnecting with two people per day; email, text, in person, the medium of contact didn’t matter, so long as I made an effort. Some people I hadn’t seen in weeks, and others, months.
To my pleasant surprise, everyone reacted very positively to me reaching out. I got to chat with people from high school, colleagues from past internships, friends from the past couple years at Stanford, all of whom took a little bit of time out of their day during a week when all of us had finals and end-of-quarter deadlines fast approaching. It was fun getting to hear about what projects people were up to, new ideas they had, the mundane goings-on of Junior year, and struggling through finals together.
For me, and for a lot of people, it can be hard to reach out because each point of contact is an emotional risk – if someone doesn’t respond, you start negatively internalizing the lack of communication as rejection, using up emotional energy that you could have applied elsewhere. Out of the 14 people I contacted, however, only one didn’t respond during the week, while chatting with another person led to an impromptu meet-up where I got to see even more friends. Winter Quarter’s going to be busy as well, but I want to spend more time prioritizing my relationships and personal growth, even if it’s as simple as asking an old friend “how’s it going?” Friends keep you sane, keep you grounded, and make your college years a lot more fun.