I listen to Jan as she describes a typical week of her life, working during the day and then spending the evenings with friends, usually one on one. The lack of a significant other allows her to dedicate ample time to various friends with whom she enjoys solo dinners and activities as it gives them the opportunity to bond more quickly than in group settings. Though Jan loves having a widely developed friend circle, she feels pressure to balance her time carefully. With three or more evenings a week committed to friends, Jan rarely spends time doing things for herself. Where does all the time go? Plus, with an ever widening network, it feels like she needs to be spending even more time maintaining those relationships.
It is a fascinating thing, growing up, growing older, becoming an adult and adopting all the complications of modern life in the process. More than anything, the above situation makes me feel like I am not a kid anymore. You start juggling jobs and friends and laundry and, wait, don’t forget sleep… Realizing if I don’t schedule a date with someone means that I don’t see them messes with my head. What the hell happened to long summer days of playing in the street, running into someone at 7-11, slurpee in hand, and then splashing around in the pool for the next three hours? And what about getting sunburned in the park while drinking champagne, practicing handstands, followed by a nap around 4pm? What is life without spontaneity and unplanned time? Who signed up for this? Not me.
It’s an increasingly common struggle. How do we maintain our relationships? And how do we prioritize them to know which ones need to be maintained? What about our own emotional needs? And many of us are single! Don’t get me started on couples, especially couples with kids (I could write extensively about how my brother and his young family have given me a new appreciation for my parents having 4 kids before they were 35).
Listening to Jan talk about the joys and challenges of choosing how to spend her time, I could feel pressure building in my chest. I wanted to cut in, interrupt her, shout out “Stop!” Let’s stop. Let’s slow down. We are an important part of our equation. I’ll be the first to tell you that I am going to preach selfishness and taking care of yourself because this is what I am trying to learn right now. How can we take care of others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves? The great part is that sometimes taking care of ourselves means slowing down and having dinners with people. Knowing your boundaries and when you have to take time to yourself is key.
One of my 12 commandments is: If you can’t get out of it, get into it. When I can’t get into something (a party, a date, a social situation, a project, a book), then I back the fuck out. There’s no point in suffering through something if you have the power to change it and do something different. However, if you can’t get out of it, you better buck up and make the best of the situation. Chances are, you will learn something.