Countless times I have heard Emerson friends tell me they don’t have time for a boyfriend, to call their parents, or to hang out with friends on a weeknight. With classes, internships, jobs and extracurriculars, Emerson students tend to be involved to the point of utter exhaustion.
We need to reevaluate our priorities.
Two winters ago, for whatever reason, I was captivated by a link to a David Brooks article in The New Yorker titled “Social Animal: How the sciences of human nature can help make sense of a life.” Cool, I thought—and then I continued to read six pages of writing that changed my perspective on what is truly important in life.
You should read the article. But if you don’t, this about sums it up: “Joining a group that meets just once a month produces the same increase in happiness as doubling your income. According to research by Daniel Kahneman, Alan B. Krueger, and others, the daily activities most closely associated with happiness are social—having sex, socializing after work, and having dinner with friends.”
As I began to think about what my days consisted of, I realized how much I agreed with Brooks (in this case, at least). I was a freshman, so let’s say my average day involved waking up in the Little Building, going to a couple of classes, eating in the dining hall, hanging out with friends on the Common, and then going to sleep in the Little Building.
I could have gotten a great grade on my essay, done surprisingly well on a speech for class, and maybe even have gotten a nice critique on an article I had written—all awesome. Still, ask me what I enjoyed most that night and the answer, no doubt, would be meeting up with my friends, having a nice phone call with my parents, and running into the guy I liked.
That grade may have made me beam, that speech may have garnered a sigh of relief, and that critique definitely made me feel proud. But none of these things warm my heart the way an interaction with a loved one does. Whether it’s a text to your best friend from home between classes, or a quick cigarette break with a few classmates you don’t know too well, making time for people is worth your while. After all—we are, as Brooks says, social animals.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in grades, career paths, and internships. All those things are important because they enrich our minds and stretch our potential—making us fully formed individuals. But it’s also essential, more-so even, to feed our need for people. We are humans and, as such, need hugs. Yes, hugs. And good conversations, romance, and knowing glances shared with close friends across a room. These are not petty things and should not be routinely set aside in favor of professional advancement. If joining a book club can bring you that much happiness, just imagine what a loving embrace can do.
Reading the article didn’t change the way I live my life. I’m still an overcommitted Emerson kid with a job, internship, and classes, suffering from a severe lack of sleep. The article did, however, change my perspective. I enjoy the people in my life more and realize that they are my priority. But also, most importantly, David Brooks made me really appreciate a good hug.