(Entry #3 in the series) Recently, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Associate Director for Outreach and Development Programming for CAPS and all-around nice guy Gary Glass. The topic: relationships. Relationships in general, with no particular person in mind. It was the first time I'd discussed the topic at length, ever. My conclusion? We should do this more often. Here's #3! Read entries #1 and #2.
It was 2007. Gary stood with a group of students, asking them to move to the “True” or “False” side of the room in response to a few statements.
If a peer had been struggling, you’d want them to know they could come to you.
Everyone in the room moved to “True” side of the room.
If you were struggling, you would go to a peer for support.
Everyone in the room moved to the “False” side of the room.
Well that’s awkward. Everyone wanted to help. No one wanted to ask for help.
Fast forward to 2014 where, fortunately, some things have changed. We still have great people on campus. And we definitely, definitely still have problems (though you probably didn’t need me to tell you that). The difference, according to Gary? We’re admitting it now.
Woohoo personal issues!!!!
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the best way to get rid of a problem is pretend it doesn’t exist. You’ve just been dumped, and you don’t want to give the satisfaction to that @$#&%! that you’re thinking about him/her enough to feel sad? Fake the pride and self-preservation. It will feel real soon enough. Or how about the oh-so-relatable experience of conversing in small talk (more like “ugh” talk) during SLG/Sorority/Fraternity Rush? Fake the confidence. It's not really fake confidence. It’s in there somewhere (and for good reason).
But sometimes you can’t fake it to make it. You have to dive in—heart first, fear second—with a trusted friend by your side. Gary told me that a healthy relationship had “mutual vulnerability.” Maybe another way to think about it is that happy, healthy relationships have, by definition, unhappy moments. Without that, they’d be stuck on the Disney channel.
I’ll end with a moment.
It was the night that commemorated my brother’s death. And still, 11 years later, the day shook 20-year-old me more than the 9-year-old me could have imagined. The tears came slowly at first. I wiped them away. Would my Duke friends even get it? Probably not. But all the same, the tears became many. And I sobbed. For a long time. And sure, perhaps they didn’t “know” what I was feeling. And I imagine they were uncomfortable, or at a minimum lost for words. But they held me. They heard me. And they loved me through every moment of that pain.
They’ve been my best friends ever since.