In the pursuit of many endeavors and goals, it is easy to be caught up in the act of chasing what excites you. Adrenaline rushes in, and you tell yourself you can take on a new book right now and knock out a blog post this week and start a new friendship and kick off that initiative at work you’ve been dying to find significant chunks of time for. But then you look at that list and realize that 1) many of your goals are not related to each other, 2) you are just one person and unable to do it all – at least do it all well, and 3) you’ve lost some of the energy and joy in the pursuit.
Featured photo: Single malt Scotch for a post from a single guy’s perspective.
The older you get, the more complicated and nuanced life becomes. Now that I’m in my prime, there are types of relationships with one another that I find become more difficult to start, build, maintain, or even understand. Many of us know or learn through experience that friendships are easier to make (and walk away from) in our younger years. Often little thought or premeditated plans are put into them. It can start with the most basic of event based coincidences like being at the same playground or being put on the same dodgeball team during gym class. From there, the smallest of sparks ignites a new friendship just like that! And for the most part, these sorts of situational-based sparked friendships are still made throughout college. As an adult, you wonder why we make it harder on ourselves. We know friendships will change. But oh how we nostalgically look back at the simpler days!
Many of our friendships are forged in the midst of being in the same place at the same time, frequently revolving around our age or place in life especially during the high school through our mid-20s. We do life together as we figure it all out in a collective confusion. These shared times and spaces create experiences that come to shape and define who we are and memories we hold onto and remember quite vividly.
Major life events are called that for a reason. They ripple through and touch every element of yourself, your family, and social circles. They look safe enough on the surface. Right after graduation, Will gets a job offer on the other side of the country which means you only see him during holidays. Jimmy got into that masters program which means evening classes and less time to hangout. Bobby joins a sports league which infuses your core social group with new and fun faces. Jenny starts dating Brad and as they get more serious you start calling them “Benny” or “Jed”. These choices and life moments change you, even when you’re not the one going through them. It’s always interesting to think about the impact the decisions others make affect us.
Of those events, one of the biggest is when you or your friends find significant others. Hanging out starts to feel… different. What you talk about when you’re all together starts to change. You hear the occasional “we” instead of the “I” when one of them speaks. Depending on the couple, the conversations turn to “let me see if he/she is free too” even though you were only inviting one of them. Oops.
Then dating turns to marriage. The wedding and reception day come and it’s a wonderful celebration for all. A new union is very much worth having a big party for! No matter what anyone may try to do to avoid the inevitable, those relationships take a drastic shift and will look and feel very different. There is no avoiding the winds of change.
So what do you do when life trajectories aren’t on the same path anymore and you stop sharing some common goals, interests, and perhaps most importantly, free time?
There’s a number of challenges along the way for which I have found no straightforward answer yet. How do you deal with not being as close to your best friend as you once may have been? What’s an appropriate friendship level with your friend’s spouse who you didn’t know as well before they were married? How do you handle the logistics and nuances of married friends with kids?
More questions and thoughts coming soon! Feedback and response again is welcome, whether in the comments section or privately.
The beginnings of a more public exploration into searching for and understanding connectivity
I’m not sure I’ve had any preconceived notions about what life would be like in my 30s. Well, that’s not entirely true. A long long time ago (back in my 20s), I would have told you that I would probably be married, probably have a kid or two bearing my last name and hopefully some of my better genetic and personality traits, and have a job I enjoy. If you’re keeping score, I got 1 out of 3. A .333 batting average in baseball is pretty good actually so by those standards I’m doing pretty well. For those interested, my bubble gum trading cards will be available for purchase online soon with collector’s editions available in the fall.
I am thankful that I have friends and family who don’t nag me about certain things like relationship status, to which I leave that categorized as “single and complicated.” I attribute the nag-free zone I’m in to distracting them with checking off a number of items on the “Life Stages to Hit to be Considered a Fully Grown Adult” list and with pretty photos in large canvas print format. I became a master of deflection and distraction from myself, even if some friends are finally catching on to and at identifying my schemes. These milestones, or Life Events as Facebook would have us label them, haven’t been done in any significant or specific order. But that’s OK as long as they’re done at some point, right? I got some good ones done:
- College degree? Check.
- Good job? Check.
- Bought a house? Check.
- Personal blog read by tens of people? Check!
I find myself with what we’ll call enough spare time between face to face social interactions. That time is certainly giving me a lot of time to think (perhaps too much) and occasionally do chores. In the midst of this, the term “negative space” kept popping up in my thoughts. As defined by Wikipedia, it’s “… the space around and between the subject(s) of an image”.
While this is mainly used in the context of art, it’s still fitting for me. However, the subject of an image are life events, interactions, moments. The in-between, the downtime, the solitude is my negative space. It’s where I am able to process whatever it was I just experienced and took in. It lets me focus on those specific points and understand as much as I can about them. Too much “stuff” and it gets harder to appreciate everything I have around me. Like many art galleries, each piece needs its room to stand alone and be appreciated for what it is without being imposed on by its surrounding works.
Yet all that space in between is anything but empty. The Japanese term “Ma” also fits in that its an “…experiential place understood with emphasis on interval”. It gives proper weight to the space between and how it shapes those intervals and moments. Reminds me of an early blog post that referenced Imogen Heap’s song “Wait it Out” that says “But what of the wretched hollow, the endless in between?Are we just going to wait it out?” Perhaps it isn’t about waiting it out, but about leaving time to be formed and changed.
It’s a continuous challenge to not overbook myself and to also not take the negative space between moments for granted. They have their purpose, too. Let’s just hope that it is being put to good use.
Something became apparent to me a while ago I was watching too much HGTV. (I’m now working to limit that channel viewing. It sucks up too much time.) I had the best intentions of trying to pick up some design cues and ideas for my own home as I had work done, like bathrooms, flooring, painting, etc. A couple phrases, usually uttered by “normal people” searching for a home or having theirs remodeled, constantly caught my attention and got me thinking recently:
- “I want/love the open concept!”
- “This will be great for entertaining” or “I really need a space to be able to entertain”
What was it about this ideal that is so appealing and apparently universal to all American families that we all must have these huge open concept main floors and spaces to entertain all our friends and family? Why did this become such an important facet of our personal lives? When did homes become a stage instead of a place to be with family and friends?
Practically speaking, I get the tangible benefits of big open spaces for parties and get togethers. Nobody should feel crowded, navigating a room isn’t hard because there’s lots of room, 50 people can all watch the game on the big screen TV at once without feeling cramped and everyone feels like they’re together. Though my favorite reason, from shows anyway, is that whoever is in the kitchen can “entertain” while they prepare things and continue to interact with their guests. Or that the backyard is “perfect for entertaining.” I never realized this element was lacking in all our lives before. The question that really keeps gnawing at me now though is:
Why do we need to be entertaining all the time?
The word choice I believe is key and signals this shift in our culture which has been evolving for quite some time. It’s no longer enough to have people over and enjoy their company and conversation. We are being told we are to put on a show; we are a host and must ensure our guests have maximum enjoyment during their stay. Our personalities and parties must be fun and exciting. It simply isn’t enough to just… be.
I am not a natural entertainer. I can be a good host and usually remember to ask friends who come over if they want something to drink. Usually. As an introvert, my desire is to spend quality time with people in whatever setting that may be. I think what is lacking in these types of home designs are cozy nooks and rooms that facilitate and create a sense of closeness, both figuratively and literally. The furniture may be situated closer together or a couch may just be smaller because the room isn’t humongous. While I like and enjoy larger homes, I also love finding those small spaces or nooks within that larger space to hide away and be on my own or with one or two other people for a more intimate conversation. This desire also ties in with what I like about being last at the party. It also doesn’t provide that stage where I’m always visible and therefore (visually) accessible. Cozy surroundings create atmospheres that better facilitate conversation that goes beyond the weather and sports.
What does this mean for home design or our incessant need for everything and everyone to entertain? I don’t know. It’s something I need to ponder a bit more to understand how any fundamental shift in either would alter my life and the circles I’m in. This topic demands more time for processing and questions about our status quo and about what should change.
It’s no secret that I am an introvert. Before the first time I took a Myers-Briggs personality profile test back in my senior year of high school, it was quite obvious (to me) that I wasn’t that guy who craved all the attention of the party or always needed to be around others to be content. I find I usually can more fully and more clearly express myself in written word. I have an inner circle of friends that are close to me and I would rather spend lots of time with them than short bursts of time with strangers or acquaintances at a party small talking about the weather.
While I’ve had an intellectual fascination about personality profiles to better understand myself and others for quite some time, this interest has been piqued again recently by a TED talk I ran across almost 2 months ago. Susan Cain gives a fantastic talk on Introverts and why they are so important to our world. It inspired me to go out and buy her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking“. I’ve been reading it only since last weekend and I have been challenged to rethink so much of the world around me and reevaluate the social structures I’m a part of and question if they are ideal. The book (so far) has me processing how I as an introvert tap into my leadership skills and style, particularly as I constantly evaluate how to best manage an IT department full of unique people, skills, and personalities. It also ties in well with my intent to focus on leadership this year.
Expect more response to this topic and various subtopics as I continue throughout the book and process my thoughts on the matter. I encourage anyone reading this to take some time to watch and listen to Susan’s TED talk, embedded below. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.