A Reflection on Ending the Semester

      As we come to the end of another semester, another end to another academic year, we find ourselves reflecting on the time we spent in and out of the classroom over the past few months. For some, this is the last time they will spend a semester here at Eastern University. Many people I personally have come to know and form strong friendships with will now be setting off into their proper adult lives. Some of them will be starting full time jobs soon, while others will continue their academic career into graduate school and beyond. Further still, some of them will be getting married, and in a few years, maybe having kids. Does this milestone hold any significance for us? I would assume it does for most, but I think we can understand our lives to have many more unmarked milestones if we look close enough. Even the passing of one year, one semester, or even one week can hold a special meaning for us. The world continues to turn at an even pace, and sometimes we forget the small moments.

      Just as we do, we might devalue the little things, we might also do this with relationships. We often tout the success and longevity of life-long friendships and marriages. We talk about that professor who shaped our life’s course, but not so much the adjunct who invested their time in us. That is not to say that deep and meaningful, strong bonds mean nothing; quite the opposite. What I mean to say is that the temporary and fleeting can be just as beautiful as the old and familiar. Sociologist Mark Granovetter, in his essay “The Strength of Weak Ties” talks about how, while strong ties (close personal relationships) reaffirm and comfort us, it is actually weak ties (impersonal relationships such as classmates and coworkers) that provide the most opportunity. He writes how the strong meaningful connections we make are often with people who we already have much in common with, and that we form weak ties with people farther removed from us. These relationships expose us to new information and ideas. We collect the experiences of these people, and in turn find ourselves molded by that experience. Put simply, we do not understand now how every little connection we have made will affect our lives. Even so, that purpose for that meeting of two people might be nothing more than the smile they put on your face.

      Many of my friends will be gone from this place in a month. In some instances I will know some of them for many long years into the future, but in other instances people will fade out of my life forever. Was the time we spent together wasted? I don’t think it was. Social media allows us to view others’ lives who we no longer get to see in person, but even then it is only an image. Some seemingly separated individuals will find each other again. A friend of mine from high school meets me for coffee once or twice a year, and that’s ok. So even those people you thought you would never see again might find their way back into your life. The truth of the matter is this: There will be a last day you see everyone, and the difference between four years and forty is not so distinct in the grand cosmic scheme of things.

      So cherish the time you spend with the passerby, the classmate, and the teammate. You don’t know yet what kind of impact they will have on you, which leaves us with something else to think about. We are sometimes that fleeting relationship for others, so be careful about how you interact with people, even when they mean very little to you. The memory you leave with them will be all they ever have of you.

     Source: The Strength of Weak Ties (2011, August 24).

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