Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
One year ago on a crisp Boston morning, the four of us — Vick, Julia, Mina, and Drew — sat down and decided to write a book together. Other than our friendship, we had very little in common. We had each grown up in different places with different cultures. Our aspirations — to become better engineers, artists, educators, and creators — had little overlap. Some of us were getting into the swing of college, while others were set to graduate.
Despite these differences, we all shared an understanding of the challenges that come with growing up, and a desire to connect with others going through the same difficulties. We decided to write Points of You: Four Friends from MIT on Growing Up to share the lessons we learned and mistakes we made since going through college and growing in life. The book is composed of short stories and reflections that highlight our experiences, real and unfiltered. I see it as everything I wish someone would have told me when I was 17 years old.
This book wrestles with some of the deepest issues that teenagers and young adults struggle with, such as mental wellness, finding purpose, and navigating relationships. Nobody has the answers to life, but through the perspectives of four very different people, thousands of young adults, parents, and teachers have already found understanding and new points of view.
Please see below for a few of our favorite passages:
I found out my good friend was the president of our college Republican Club and had voted for Trump… two days after the 2016 election. I read his name in the school newspaper. I hadn’t even known we had a Republicans Club. It was that day that I realized how much we all hide from one another for fear of repercussions. But find a way to provide people with a way to share their honest views, and you’ll unlock their heart and soul. One of the places I’ve seen this most clearly is with my friend, Efe. Although we are of different faiths (he’s Muslim and I’m Jewish), we trust each other a ton. We do it by constantly asking each other questions about each other’s beliefs and agreeing to disagree. Every conversation is framed as a way to open our minds to the other’s point of view, regardless of what that viewpoint may be. As a result, surprises between us are rare.
— Drew Bent
I used to think that the most beautiful things in life were objects you could buy like supercars and fancy houses, but I was also eleven then. After growing older, I’ve come to realize that the most beautiful things in life are memories — memories of people, places, and feelings. My most cherished possessions are ones you can’t take away: memories of pulling pranks with my friends, memories of watching shooting stars race each other across the sky while camping in the desert, memories of the passion in my friend’s eyes as she told me about what interested her, memories of road trips with my family.
— Vick Liu
If you can, find opportunities to explore an unfamiliar way of life. The summer after my senior year in high school, I spent a few weeks working on a farm in Alaska. To wake up early in the morning and chow down on breakfast before working in the fields, to hitch a ride in the flatbed of a truck to grab lunch, and to spend afternoons chopping wood to fill a stockpile — it was an experience I had only ever read about in my history books. Going through it myself was an entirely new experience and getting to know my hosts, both farmers, was even more delightful. In their community, they traded flowers they grew for freshly baked loaves of bread from one neighbor and freshly made ice cream from trading with another. In this community, good food and conversation were the keys to a fulfilling and happy life. They may not have had as many material possessions as I had observed growing up in LA, but they had a lot more heart, a lot more compassion, and a lot more kindness than anyone I had ever known.
— Vick Liu
One of my best friends, M., now lives across the country and we only get a few hours-long conversations per year. Our free times rarely overlap, so the conversations usually occur during tightly constrained windows of time, such as our lunch breaks or commutes. But the conversations we have go deeper and are more honest than any of the conversations I have with friends who I see on a daily basis. It is so easy for us to get busy and miss a scheduled talk, but we stay persistent and find ways to talk. M. is someone with whom I deeply connect with, and I have realized that losing a talk with her is more than losing a conversation. Our conversations refuel me, and help me reflect and better understand myself. Our conversations are some of the few times that I get to enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures: profoundly empathizing with another. Have you ever considered what you may be losing when you lose a talk with a friend?
— Julia Rue
In what ways does the “me” of a year ago exist? So many of my beliefs have changed. Nearly every cell in my body has died and been replaced. My social world has been completely rebuilt. I used to believe that over time, a new “you” is continually reborn in this way — it gave me hope that I could escape struggles I once faced. But throughout time we also carry memories and lessons which define us, guiding our thoughts and actions. It’s important to recall and respect these past experiences, while knowing that they don’t fully define who you’ll be in the future.
— Mina Fahmi
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