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Columns, Opinions

Anita Sheih: Thank you, friends

By
Guest Columnist
Saturday, May 30, 2020

Over the past four years, my professors taught me about the history of museums, how to read like a writer and to question who has the right to tell what stories. But after I finished my readings, submitted my essays on Canvas and closed my laptop; when I grabbed a meal at the Ratty or went to the basement of the SciLi, more often to socialize than to study, my friends had lessons to teach me too.  

My friend from chamber music taught me by example how to be both a friend and a leader. She showed such compassion every time she remembered to text me good luck on my exam days or to wish me safe travels when I went home for breaks. I am grateful for the immense care she showered me with through these small gestures.

My friend from one summer when our internships landed us in the same city taught me how to be spontaneous. Simply saying yes to adventures as they presented themselves allowed us to enjoy things outside of my Google calendar, leaving space for unexpected experiences.

My friend from Safewalk taught me about the power and beauty in meandering conversations. Throughout my four years, I could count on him and our weekly walks to offer laughs, insight and advice on all of my hardest decisions and even the occasional silly spat. His patient presence paired with his vibrant personality demonstrated what it means to be an active listener, a trustworthy confidant and a spectacular conversationalist.

My friend from the latter half of college taught me that friendship can blossom quickly and forcefully like a wildfire. She taught me that people are like Hermione’s bag and the TARDIS — bigger on the inside. In fact, her heart is endless on the inside, something she proves time and again through her unrelenting reliability and her willingness to give and help and share with no expectations in return.

My friend from a cultural club taught me how to energize a room full of people. He is always the life of the party, the driver of the group, who encourages others to participate and inspires all with his infectious enthusiasm. At the same time, his fondness for contemplative reflection revealed that I don’t have to pick between extroversion and introspection.

My friend from the same professional field taught me that it is possible to choose collaboration over competition, to want the best for others while still caring for yourself. Her desire to unconditionally support others pursuing similar career paths showed my ever more cynical eyes that pure intentions with no ulterior agenda do exist in this world.

My friend from an abroad experience halfway around the world taught me how to relax. In peak thesis season, he famously said, “I’m not in a rush,” both in terms of finishing his thesis and making his mark on the world. “We have the rest of our lives, so let’s just enjoy today.” 

My friend from day one taught me what it looks like to care so deeply about someone that you stick through thick and thin — through uproarious laughter and stress-induced breakdowns, through moments of pure delight and of sadness and fear — to be so invested in another person that their happiness brings you joy and their pains hurt you too.

My friend from Pembroke Campus taught me not to be afraid of my emotions, to validate what I’m feeling and to carry love and understanding for myself. Her constant encouragement to “live your truth” and her fearlessness in the face of conflict have pushed me and allowed me to face it too.

These are only a fraction of the lessons that I’ve learned from a fraction of the people I am lucky enough to call my friends. Others still have taught me what it means to work selflessly, tirelessly and, at times, thanklessly for a cause that we truly believe in; to pick one another up so we can continue moving forward together; to know when to pause and take a breath so we can remember why we’re here and where we’re going. 

Rather than informing me about any particular fields of study, these friends have imparted invaluable lessons on how to be a better person. Countless students, professors and alums agree that the best part of Brown is the community, and I am endlessly thankful to have been a part of it. I am thankful for having learned these lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life, long after I’ve forgotten the names of the human species that preceded the Homo sapiens in the timeline of human evolution, or the exact order of the art historical movements that have led to today. Instead, I’ll remember to care, to adventure, to listen, to give, to excite, to support, to relax and to love others and myself. I’d say those are enough lessons for a lifetime. 

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