In study after study, positive psychology shows us that healthy, positive relationships are essential to our well-being. Relationships enable success, productivity, and the creation of positive emotions such as connection and love. In addition, all the success in the world is meaningless if you have no one to share it with. Thus, relationships also provide the foundation for meaning in our lives.
I have always felt particularly blessed for the friends and family in my life. The belief that love is synergistic, enhancing surrounding relationships, rather than a zero-sum game allows me to expand my circle rather than limiting it to a few. As a result, I feel rich in the most important way possible.
The idea of (platonic) love and relationships in the context of teaching has been an evolution for me as I’ve progressed from classroom teacher and advisor to more of a mentor/trainer/coach. The latter has allowed me to explore anything and everything often in depth with the students, and in the process transforms the relationship from teacher-student to fellow travelers. The advantage of this co-education with post-baccalaureate learners is that we truly can engage on a peer level, which may not be available with younger students.
Earlier this week, we completed our summer outings series for students who have participated in our student development class, part of a larger program called VCU BEST. The idea behind VCU BEST is that we strive to educate the “rest” of the student beyond the academic portion of the brain. As such, we gather each summer for optional outings designed to explore our humanity and connection to each other and the larger world: a nature walk, comedy club, meditation, yoga, ethnic cuisines, feeding the poor and, most importantly, bonding with each other.
As I sit among this remarkable group of young people, I cannot help but feel so blessed to be among a group that is willing to both influence and be influenced by each other. Realizing that this is my work, my job, my vocation and avocation, to harvest the richness of the human experience, is a humbling responsibility and a joy. Thank you fellow travelers. Thank you world!