Real growth, however, requires stretching. It means bravely following our passions, living our unique lives, and keeping a healthy curiosity about the people and world we encounter.
Even the people different than us have a lot to teach us. And to students starting a new school year, tempted to seek safety in huddles or security in cliques, I have a few thoughts to offer about learning to branch out:
It’s no accident that you and your classmates are together. Your lives have intersected during some highly impressionable years, and your job is to figure out why.
It’s easy to care about the people you’re close to, but I encourage you to think bigger. Build community by caring about people even if your paths rarely cross.
The kindest thing you can do for a peer is to appreciate their gift or interest even if it’s not your gift or interest. Celebrate that special thing – art, drama, music, debate, sports – that helps them come alive. By bringing out the best in others, you bring out the best in you.
Nobody needs to be a clone of you to add value to your life. In fact, your best and most enriching interactions will be with people who help you grow in positive, impactful ways. This may happen with your friends or with classmates outside your radar, those you thought you had nothing in common with until you gave them a chance.
So open up your eyes, your heart, and your mind to the possibilities in front of you. Remember you have the power to help or hurt your classmates, to notice them or ignore them, to love them as they are or make them feel like a mistake.
What makes you different makes you great. The same holds true for everyone is your school. You are all a work-in-progress, all part of a bigger plan and part of each other’s stories for many years to come.
We’ve all missed opportunities to meet interesting people or start dynamic new friendships because we were too comfortable in our comfort zone. But moving forward, we can make a point to open up. We can see every individual as someone to learn from, someone who has gifts worth celebrating and a life worth caring about that runs deeper than first impressions and what is obvious on the surface.
This article originally appeared at KariKampakis.com.