We are living in “a system of cells interlinked within cells interlinked within cells interlinked within one stem.”
So maybe I just rewatched Blade Runner 2049, but that does not mean it isn’t true. Even though the film depicts flying cars, replicants, and blindsight, I think that of all sci-fi films set in the very foreseeable future, this one is the most accurate. Why? Because Ryan Gosling is literally me. And also, Blade Runner 2049 portrays a world that stigmatizes codependency to a fault. A world that looks like our world in just 25 years if we don’t change our ways.
We are too rooted in individualism, especially as college students.
What if you honestly answered the question, “How are you?” when you were asked it? What if you didn’t factor in who asked you, whether or not the middle of Mac is too public of a setting to give an honest answer, or how much time you had to answer before you would be marked late to your next class? What if you just answered?
Trusting someone enough to say what’s on your mind resolves the feelings of isolation our individualistic lifestyle brings.
When I was dropped off on Newton Campus freshman year, I felt like my life was finally becoming my life. Everything I did was up to me. If I wanted to hang out with friends, I didn’t have to tell my parents I’d be back in three hours, I would just do it. If I wanted to go on a run, I didn’t need to let my sisters know as I left the house, I just ran.
Looking back on it, that feeling was awesome. As college progressed, I was able to apply to clubs, enroll in classes, and meet new people with common interests, all on my own. But somewhere in that timeline, I lost the sense of community at BC.
Sure, I was in these clubs, classes, and groups that valued what I valued, which you’d think would make it easy to speak my mind. But the conversations always went something like:
“How are you?”
“I’m good. You?”
I mean, I might as well have just answered with, “I’m a system of cells, interlinked within cells, interlinked within cells, interlinked within one stem,” right? My response, “Good,” reified the downfall of individualism with a single word. To appear like I had everything together, I was “good,” leading my conversation partner’s response, “I’m good,” to follow almost naturally.
But, it’s not natural. The further I get in my college journey, the more I realize that none of us are “good.” We’re all stressing about our futures—whether that be jobs, internships, relationships, or whatever else. Yet because college is a place rooted and glorified in the freedom of individualism, we resolve to simply tell others that we are “good.” Thus, we fail at opening ourselves up to others because God forbid we let our guard down.
“I’m in charge of myself, and I’m doing a mighty fine job at it.” At least, that’s the impression we try to give.
Let’s stop that. Please. None of us have this shit figured out. While the freedom of college offers many benefits, it also limits our ability to trust others because we are forced to largely rely exclusively on ourselves. But when we want to understand where we fall in the grand scheme of the world, we have no external references that we can trust the way we do ourselves. Thus, self-reliance turns into an inability for proper self-examination. What a paradox!
Aristotle emphasized the importance of the “mean between two extremes.” There is no problem valuing self-reliance, resilience, and distinctiveness. There is also no problem valuing teamwork, connection, harmony, and community. The key is to balance these virtues in our lives (ergo, Aristotle’s mean).
As a college student, it’s hard to accept this fate. We stigmatize the thoughts of connection and community because they seem too close to another c-word: codependency. But, in moderation, what’s wrong with a little bit of codependency? Of course we shouldn’t strive for it, but accepting that we can’t do everything on our own can, at the very least, comfort us. If we were able to embrace individualism so quickly on our first day of college, we can embrace some codependency too.
We can show compassion to others when they’re having a bad day—something as simple as flashing a smile at a frowning face or offering someone a nice big hug. And it’s silly to state this bluntly, but we are often not empathetic enough because we don’t want to somehow feel what they are feeling. Instead, we want to feel the way we do because of individualism.
We weren’t made to go through life alone, so let’s not. Let’s trust others enough to know the response, “I’m good,” isn’t doing anything but fueling our internal struggles. With a different response, I think we’d truly be able to understand that part of the human experience is opening up to and leaning on others.