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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Kolumn: Taking the shape of others


As interpersonal relationships play a good role in the survival and well-being of social animals like humans, ways to establish, maintain or repair connections between subjects have been perpetual hotspots for public opinion to either discuss or reflect upon. Moreover, it has been an aspect that is inevitably analyzed in academia whenever the issue relates to social psychology, anthropology and sociology discourses. Of course, I am not a relationship scientist, but simply writing from my lived experiences. 

Believe it or not, I perceive that there is no difficulty in initiating a relationship. (Here, I define ‘relationship’ as loosely as nodding to a stranger whose outfit you approve of.) To me, the ability to maintain amity is a real gift: You have to possess and utilize communicative tactics, be available for others and express an extensive understanding the list can go on.

However, the most challenging part of the dynamics, in my opinion, is coping with others’ vulnerability, especially when you are not expecting them to manifest this facet. Learning how to react to, adapt to and generalize the resolution to other places is a life-long lesson. 

When I was in middle school, my family went through a time when both my mother and grandmother were sent to the hospital. My mother went through a risky hysterectomy and survived, only to learn that my grandmother’s sudden heart attack had led her to the ICU.  

My mother then started to contemplate life and death. As sentimental as one can get in that situation, she wrote long text messages to me to express her fear and worry for her mother. I couldn’t remember the exact words — in fact, I selectively forgot them. Fifteen-year-old me was startled by the intensity of her emotions, which had never been showcased so explicitly on any occasion. Nor did I have a mature mind for matters as serious as life, death and existence. 

I was so used to her role as a breadwinner, a successful businesswoman and a caretaker that I forgot she isn’t invincible, at all. 

Now, although amnesiac about my response, I am certain that I didn’t give a decent consolation, to say nothing of sharing her emotional burden. Nonetheless, this incident opened a gate for me to reflect on how to cope with ‘anomalies’ in intimate relationships, how to adjust expectations for others and ourselves and homogenize vulnerability in life. 

Accepting someone’s fragility is something unusual, sometimes overwhelming. That is why this type of interaction is often uncomfortable, leaving us unprepared when we are faced with it. It is a delicate endeavor that demands thoughtfulness and considerate manners. 

It would be too ambitious, if not unrealistic, to say that mastery in answering others’ weaknesses would make one a better person, but it indicates the valuable virtues of flexibility and empathy. 

“Be water, my friend.”

Then, you can take the shape of others, of society and of the world.