By Jesse Dolojan, Staff Writer
Imagine being exhausted from work. The day is almost over, and you’re counting the minutes until it’s time to leave. When you make your way to your car, all you can think about is how miserable life is right now. On the way home, your mind drifts from the office to your family. You realize that your life isn’t as bad as it seems, and you realize that life is better because of the people you love.
As recently as 2019, more than 60% of millennials and Gen Zers prioritized making money over having a family or strong relationships. Seeing this statistic hurt me a lot, because I believe that family and friendships should always be placed above everything else. And thankfully, I’m not the only person who thinks this.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development tracked the lives of young males from 1938 to the present day. Participants were questioned and given medical examinations, followed by interviews of their parents. Every two years, an interviewer would meet with the individual, ask them more questions and assess their living situation.
As the researchers followed their lives, they began to realize that good relationships resulted in a happier and healthier life more than anything else.
Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, the fourth and current director of this study, said that there are three pieces of evidence that support this conclusion.
The first is that people who are more socially connected to others tend to be physically healthier than people who are less connected to others.
The second point stated that the quality of one’s relationships matters. People who feel as if they are in a close and loving relationship are less affected by outside factors around them.
For example, if a person with poor relationships were in physical pain, then their pain would be magnified by the pain they face from their relationships. However, if a person in strong relationships is faced with the same amount of pain, then their pain would be unaltered because of their stable emotional wellbeing.
Finally, good relationships help protect our brains. Waldinger states that someone in a strong relationship at 80 years old will retain more memory than people who lack a strong relationship.
Looking back at my personal experience in the world, I wholeheartedly agree with Waldinger’s conclusion and evidence.
During my sophomore year of high school, I experienced trouble balancing my life. At times, it felt like I was going through the motions of school. There were times when I hated myself so much that whenever I saw myself in the mirror, I wanted to punch it so I wouldn’t have to look at myself. I felt like I was living a lie; many people saw me as a happy person who could brighten people’s day with my smile, but in truth I was a mess. I could barely hold myself together. And I never told anyone because I didn’t have it in me to tell everyone that I felt like I was lying to their face.
But as soon as I started to think about why I was in such a terrible condition, I realized that I had lost touch with many of the people I loved. I distanced myself from my family and barely talked to friends.
No one noticed anything wrong with me except for one of my teachers. When no one else saw how broken I was, he did — he was there for me. He never acted like he understood what I was going through, but he was always willing to listen to me. He was one of the first people — one of the only people — who helped me climb out of the personal hell into which I cast myself.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I formed one of my strongest relationships ever with him. I cannot understate what he means to me and the role he has played in my life so far. Through him, I realized how powerful our relationships can be and how little things like saying hello and smiling can have a massive impact on people and their own lives.
Because of this, I believe that our relationships should be held above everything else in life — without them, we would not be able to function or ever be truly happy.