Are You Ready to Make Some Human Connections?

Are You Ready to Make Some Human Connections?
Photo by Austin Kehmeier / Unsplash

Recently, I achieved a significant professional milestone. This may or may not surprise you all, but it did not make me as happy as I had thought. I recently learned why people feel empty after achieving their goals, but that’s not something I want to focus on today. After not feeling happy about my achievement, I asked myself, “What truly makes me happy?” And this question took me back to my college days.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that my undergraduate years were some of the most carefree days of my life. Although my major was pharmacy, the educational system back home did not require us to put so much effort into studies all year long unless it was exam time. Fun story though- on my very first day at college, someone mentioned in the morning that only 4 out of 20 students in the earlier batch passed their final exams, which left me mentally devastated before even setting foot in the classroom. I was ready to change major after hearing that. But, looking back, those four years gave me some of the best days of my life (Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ’69” playing in my head). Also, I never failed any exams!

Our class schedules were not as consistent, and we had enough time to explore Kathmandu Valley, watch movies, and do everything else besides studying. However, my favorite pastime was going to one of the three canteens on campus to savor “masala chiya”(tea). Usually, we went to the Boy’s Hostel canteen where some of the boys from my class would also join us. We’d order several cups of tea as we went on and on with our “chiya guff” (tea talks). It was in those canteens, we had deepest conversations about relationships, future plans, life, and everything in between. I still remember the sense of fulfillment I felt as I walked back to my room after those heartfelt conversations.

Later in the evening, when I shared how my day went with my long-distance boyfriend over a video call, I would be beaming with joy. I always told him that deep conversations with someone who understood me made me the happiest person in the world. Now, I think about those days and reflect on the timing—there was not a lot of adulting to do, no worries about money (as my parents would provide for everything), the flexibility of classes, and friends; everything was in such good alignment. I had so many good, fulfilling days with friends back then.

As I graduated and moved to the US for my master’s degree, I kind of lost all those human connections for a while. Being in a different environment, where individualism was prioritized, I became so lost and confused about where to draw the line between being friendly and being nosy. I experienced the feeling of loneliness most of the time during my grad school. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is no joke because I firsthand experienced the feeling of being at the bottom of the pyramid and longing for “real” human connections. It’s not like I was not surrounded by people, I was, but I did not develop any significant connections with anyone during that time. I remember that one day, in particular, when I was on the phone with my friend, telling them that I was not able to focus on why I came to the US because I was feeling lonely and I could not move past that feeling to focus on the other great things that I had set out to achieve.

If you were starting to feel sad and sorry for me, don’t worry- your girl is fine. Eventually, I started finding people I clicked with. I began experiencing that high of human connection again, the feeling I used to get when I felt seen, understood, and heard by another person. No wonder I have moved up Maslow’s pyramid since then.

Humans crave connections- we have evolved that way. In fact, our longing for connections is ingrained in us biologically and psychologically. If we look back at evolutionary history, humans have been living in tribes for as long as we can remember. Human connections have significant benefits from improved immunity to better health and well-being leading to prolonged longevity. Research has shown that one of the secrets behind the longevity of centenarians (people living above 100+ years) is strong social connections. On the flip side, loneliness can increase the risk for heart disease, anxiety, depression, dementia, and even premature death.

I am not surprised to find that loneliness has been recognized as a public health issue in the US. A recent report titled “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation” indicated that one in two adults in America is experiencing loneliness. Although we feel more connected than ever with everyone through social media and virtual platforms, the joy of meeting people, observing their body language, and feeling their presence and energy is different. As much as I love working from home, my days working from the office remind me of the joy of connecting with people in person.

I understand it can be challenging at times to build human connections, especially if you are guarded, if have moved across cities/countries/continents, or are struggling to adjust to a new environment. But, as we now know, everyone is craving connections. So, you might have to be brave out there in letting your guard down and initiating conversations with people.

Since it is easier to make connections with someone who shares your interests, you might consider joining a book club, a local running group, or a gym. If you are a student, there are many student groups in universities; being part of those groups can help you find your buddies. Besides, volunteering can keep you connected with like-minded people as well.

In a world that prioritizes individualism and online interactions, the value of genuine human connections cannot be emphasized enough. It’s in these connections we find the warmth of shared experiences. So, whether you are reaching out to an old friend, joining a new group, or simply striking up a conversation with a stranger, remember that these human connections are worth your time and energy (mostly). These bonds have the power to uplift our spirits, enrich our lives, and lead us to a greater sense of happiness and fulfillment.

So, tell me now, are you ready to make some human connections? 😊