Smith: Pruning essential for growth

Last Tuesday, my counselor told me about the brain’s process of making new connections.

In short, there is a period where, especially when attempting to learn something new, the mind creates new neural pathways, becoming more malleable so that fresh ideas and concepts are easier to digest. But after that period, the brain begins to stop making new connections and will even delete what hasn’t been used for a while. My counselor described this process as “necessary pruning.” If our brains do it naturally as a way to stay healthy and fit so that we can learn new things and become better at grasping young concepts, why shouldn’t we do it interpersonally?

I’ve learned hard how it is, at times, to become complacent and to be unaware of stagnation. Growing is everything but pleasant. It’s painful and difficult and grueling and uncomfortable. Achieving that next level of maturity is almost impossible while in a position of leisure. Old friend circles can easily become excuses to hold ourselves back. The friends we have now know us for who we were when we first met them. Not, necessarily, as who we’ve grown into.

Lifelong friends will join you on the journey to betterment, becoming a source of encouragement and love as you move on to new stages. Most friends, though, are temporary. They are amazing for the moment that we’re in, but they will join not us for phase two. The trick is becoming okay with that.

We need to welcome the necessary pruning that comes with life; not as a means to cut off people from our lives, but as a way to constantly grow. Life becomes limitless when you take into account that not everyone is going to be beside you forever. Socially, we’re designed to keep a few friends that’ll be with us always. The rest are still precious, but they won’t be needed for every preceding stage. Sometimes, it’s necessary to cleave the relationships that are holding us back, constantly clearing space for what is next.

University Counseling Services has been a huge help in shaping and correcting my outlook on life and relationships. If you or a friend believes that this could be helpful to you, please consider going in to their walk-in hours or calling to schedule an appointment. It’s a fantastic way to clear the mind and to feel more confidently about yourself, others, and the lives we lead.

Josiah Smith is a third-year English and business management double major.