By Kevin Coyle (’23)
When talking about the most significant parts of my life, the ones that pop into my brain are almost always memories I have shared with other people. Those feel-good moments like my high school graduation, that night out in the city with friends, or traveling up north with my family, all produce such strong feelings of happiness within me. When I am laying on my deathbed, I can say with confidence that I will be thinking of how I impacted others, and the impact that they had on me. I believe that social connection is the key to a happy, healthy, fulfilling life.
The darkest, most depressing parts of my life so far, have been filled with uncertainty, loneliness, and a great deal of anxiety. These are often times when I have been socially disconnected, and physically isolated from other people. When this sort of thing occurs, whether it’s due to the current state of the world and responsibility to help slow the spread of a deadly viral disease, or just plain old depression, I find that my brain plays tricks on me. It wants to trap me indoors, strip me of the joy I used to find in the mundane activities of daily life, and cut me off completely from interacting with others. My brain was effectively fooling myself into thinking I was okay with being alone and that it was simply me being my “introverted” self; this could not have been further from the truth. I love connecting with others, it gives me energy and makes me feel alive!
I’ve suffered for years from a variety of different mental health issues during college, and these were only made worse by the pandemic in 2020, where the state of the world got significantly worse during the end of my freshman year. Fortunately, I know how to combat these issues now since going to therapy just last year, and have made great changes to my life which have made me overwhelmingly more happy. This is all to say that during these tough moments of life, the thing that made the biggest difference was connecting with other human beings. With connection, my world view changes, I become less cynical, and develop a more optimistic view of life. Everything gets better when I engage with the world around me. Engagement with the world however is not enough. In order to truly thrive as humans, it is absolutely essential to develop meaningful, healthy relationships with other members of our species. This, I believe.