September 9, 2019

DELGADO | The Power of Cultivating Relationships

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After a restless night, I finally decided to head to bed at 7 a.m. Generally, my insomniac tendencies show through after staying up multiple nights to complete the grueling problem sets that I should have started well before the day that they are due. However, this time around, I spent the night talking about life with one of my best friends at Cornell.

There have been numerous nights where I have sacrificed sleep to better my relationship with this friend; I am rather abnormally extroverted, and my inability to stop talking has allowed me to cultivate relationships wherever I go. For some of us, we make friends by going out to party. For others, though, friends come through initially unintentional associations, whether that be through mutual friends, class partners or an accidental right swipe.

What Researchers Have to Say About Relationships

Given the breadth of opportunities we have today, many individuals crave achievement: 80 percent of millennials desire to become rich, 50 percent long to attain stardom and approximately 10 percent see themselves becoming an expert in a professional field. Needless to say, people dream big. However, these two states of monetary wealth and fame are described as the be-all-end-all path to happiness; our coveted path is shifting to the red carpet and away from the yellow brick road.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development has been tracking the lives of men for over 80 years to examine development through life events. Selected in 1938, the study considered two groups of 362 men: a group of Harvard sophomores and a group of economically disadvantaged boys from the slums of Boston, living in tenements without running water. Throughout the study, some participants climbed from the bottom of the social ladder to the top, while others backslid. Every one to two years, the men would be interviewed and sent a questionnaire asking about their lives.

After collecting and analyzing reams of data, scientists discovered the true root of happiness: genuine, quality relationships. Strong social connections correlate to a longer life, making us happier and empowering us to be our best. Isolation from our community, however, is a silent killer.

As we become isolated from society, our brain functions begin to deteriorate, our health withers and our willingness to actively impact the world diminishes. Those who exercise affability can construct an idyllic life. Those who find solace in combatting the onerous tasks that assist in the environmentally sustaining our planet possess monumental minds. Their secret to preservation? How are their cognitive performances so sharp? The reason lies in their relationships — the ability to swap personal time for people time is what gives them life; this lesson can be applied today, where we can, rather than petting an inanimate glass screen, give a more meaningful physical connection to loved ones. What does this say about us, the present-day Cornellian?

Life at Cornell: What Truly Matters

Throughout the Cornell community and beyond, there are a plethora of incarnations of the friendships I have created over my time alive. On campus, especially for those freshmen that have been stuffed in the tightly knit North Campus community, it would only make sense that connections would be established after placing an energetic group of Generation Z kids in the same dining halls, dorm buildings and study areas. These relationships, unlike many, are vastly different from any that will be cultivated throughout one’s life — a group of individuals that will be attending our weddings, traveling the depths of the planet and continuously reconnecting for updates on life.

Regardless of where we may have hailed socioeconomically, demographically or politically, we all now share one common virtue — the desire of maturation and the acquisition of adult-like responsibilities. 

Having already spent a whopping two years at Cornell, I can assure any student that maintaining tangible, wholesome relationships is arguably the most important task in leading a healthy college journey. There have been many points in my academic career where I have established, strengthened and lost friendships due to a variety of reasons, some of which have scarred me to this day. Fortunately, Cornell will still be my home for the next few years, enabling me to pursue friendships on campus.

Every single quagmire and opportunity I have encountered during my time here has been alongside a friend. The overcoming of handling the Kafkaesque financial aid application, ruthless differential equations homework, dark times where the second head of frustration had poked out of our skins, have all been accomplished next to my peers.

Although I still have a long time remaining here at Cornell, I feel bittersweetness for all the memories I have made alongside my peers, especially those spent lethargically slouched on the common room couch playing Smash Bros. until we no longer could feel our fingers. As my time dwindles, I become ever so reluctant to even want to move forward, as the relationships I have constructed here will never be able to be duplicated. For those that have kind friends, thank them for all of the shared memories — whether negative or positive — that have impacted your life.

American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher and lecturer Mark Twain cannot have put the importance of relationships into better words: “There isn’t time, so brief is life, for the bickerings, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving and but an instant so to speak for that.”

Canaan Delgado is a junior in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at demassa-delgado@cornellsun.com. No Church in the Wild appears every other Tuesday this semester.