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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student


OPINON: To be loved is to be changed: the importance of human connection


My roommates and I sat in our living room watching “The Bear” on our projector. With completely opposite schedules, we three have barely gotten to spend time together this semester.  

I took a deep breath. I missed them.  

I looked around the room and realized two years ago, I never would have believed this was where I would be. In fact, I thought I would still be stuck in a loop of disposable friendships and constantly questioning my self-worth with each passing friend.  

I realized in that moment how much these two people have changed me. As I looked in the mirror that night, I discovered even in the last six months I have become a person I never would have imagined.  

For me, my roommates are two of my best friends. I look at them and see so many characteristics that I strive to have. In the last year, they have taught me patience and serenity in the face of hardship. They have taught me so much about love and what it means to care for another person, simply by showing me that love. They have taught me more about myself than I ever imagined possible.  

As I thought about this for the following days, I couldn’t help but think how weird it would be for me not to have changed. What if I had stayed the same? What would that mean about me?  

I truly believe that isn’t possible. Love as an action changes us. Friendships change us. When you spend enough time with somebody, you learn their secrets and their past, you learn to love the hidden parts of them and you begin to morph into a similar person. You pick up character traits they have. Small actions, hand gestures, phrases.  

Human connection means so much more than just a feeling of belonging. It shapes us into who we are.  

You are made up of every person you have ever met. 

[Related: COLUMN: Breaking Free: Three friends and a house]

I’m sure you have heard a million times that everyone comes into your life for a reason and every bad experience is a lesson learned. Sure, the lessons help us grow and develop, but I don’t believe those are the most important.  

What about the people who come into your life and stay? Those people are far more important than the ones who leave. They teach us about perseverance, empathy, commitment and loyalty.  

How those around you react to your pain changes how you react to your own. If someone immediately comforts you and makes you feel safe rather than ashamed and unheard, you begin to realize your feelings are valid.  

It also changes how you react to others. When you remember how loved and heard you felt from another person, you strive to do that for other people.  

For me, my roommates have been with me for all of the hardest moments in the past year, but all of the best ones too. Without them, I wouldn’t be even close to the person I am today.   

Love changes a person. A mother’s love. A friend’s love. A dog’s. A stuffed animal’s. They change us.  

Human connection is the most important thing in becoming you. We thrive by connecting with others — sharing our hopes and dreams with them, sharing our life story over a cup of late-night tea.  

We learn from each other and can escape our single perspective and experience of the world.  

By being surrounded by love, you are opening your mind to another person's perspective. You allow yourself to hear their opinions and their morals. You challenge your own thoughts and maybe sometimes those thoughts change.  

Our mental health thrives with social connection. We become happier. We appreciate the little things more. It’s one of the reasons depression was so high during the COVID-19 pandemic. We needed to be near each other.  

So, when you look in the mirror tomorrow and don’t fully recognize yourself, remember that it is okay.

[Related: OPINION: Friends come and friends go

When you notice that you dress a little differently than you did a year ago or that your insecurities don’t scream as loud and you love yourself a little more than you did six months ago, look towards your friends. Know that they played a part. 

Take time out of your week to see them and tell them you love them. They make up a piece of who you are. 

Gentry Keener (she/her) is a junior studying journalism and political science.  

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