Patel: Tell people how they’ve changed your life

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Patel: Tell people how they’ve changed your life

Meera Patel, Columnist

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Have you noticed that TV shows like “New Girl,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “Friends” always have a couple of college roommates who form the core of the friend group at hand?

Society tells you relationships you create in college are some of the strongest you will ever have. Why?

This is a time when you are really trying to figure out what you are doing. Some people believe they know exactly what they want to do with their lives, exactly who they are and exactly where they are going to be in 10 years. I talked to a girl a couple of days ago who had a year-plan laid out, for Pete’s sake. But there are a lot of us who are still working on ourselves — and in college, we are meeting a lot of people and creating new relationships.

Once you leave college, you will probably remember all the projects you worked on and clubs you joined. You will remember the names of your favorite professors and your grade point average. You will remember all those things you wish you had tried but had not. And if you are lucky, you will emerge with some lifelong friends.

There is a reason for this: When you spend more time with certain people, you tend to like them more.

It is easy to stay friends with the people in your proximity. Whether you like it or not, you are seeing a certain group of people quite often in college. You are living together, which means you are sleeping close to each other, studying near each other and eating similar food.

But what about the other people you have met — the ones who came in for a year, or a few months, and then left?  Or the people that you knew before college, who you spent every day with in high school? Or that professor that you took a class with a couple of years ago that helped you figure out what you are passionate about?

One of my sorority sisters shared a video with us about the scientific connection between expressing gratitude and happiness. It features people writing a letter to the people they value the most — or the people who have changed their lives in one way or another — and then reading that letter to those people. Their happiness increased significantly just by telling someone how much they meant to them.

Make it a point to keep up with the people who have made an impact on your life. Take a second to show them how much you appreciate them or something they did. They may not have any idea of what an impact it had on you; telling them will not only make them feel good but will make you feel much happier.

It may seem risky. It may seem like you are throwing away your dignity. They may think you are crazy for remembering this seemingly irrelevant thing they did for you.

But it is important.

So pick up the phone and call your parents, your childhood best friend or that kid who lived down the hall from you during freshman year, and thank them for anything they have done that had an impact on you. It does not have to be an eloquent 1000-word speech. Just saying, “Hey, you may not remember this, but this thing you did was really cool,” can make a difference. There is no shame in thanking people for what they have done for you.

Maintain your relationships. Because when all is said and done, you will wish that you had kept in touch with that one kid you used to study with all the time freshman year or that person who was always in your lounge sophomore year or your best friend from high school. There is a reason everyone comes into your life. Give them a reason to stay.

Meera Patel is a McCormick junior. She can be reached at meera@u.northwestern.edu. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.edu. 

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