On Relationships & Getting Older: Finding Time

One thing I’m learning as I enter my thirties is best explained with a diagram:

When I was younger, as an extrovert, I spent a lot of time nurturing relationships and trying to pull the most amazing people into my circle. I spent lots of time with a lot of amazing people. I also had this notion that the world was comprised of mostly unlikeable people, so I hurried to identify ‘the good ones’ and hold them close, protecting myself from those less appealing to me on the surface.

As I get older, I realize I can’t maintain as many relationships day-to-day.

relationship (n.) 1640s, “sense or state of being related,” from relation (late 14c., “connection, correspondence;” from Latin relationem, “a bringing back, restoring; a report, proposition”) from relate (v.) from Latin relatus, meaning “stand in some relation; have reference or respect” from 1640s; transitive sense of “bring (something) into relation with (something else)” is from 1690s. Meaning “to establish a relation between” is from 1771. Sense of “to feel connected or sympathetic to” is attested from 1950, originally in psychology jargon.

I need more time alone, I have more responsibilities, interests, and deeper sensibilities, which leave me less able to spread my focus out.

In order to get the kind of experience out of my personal relationships that I want, I need to go deep with fewer people, which takes up more time on an individual basis. (There are probably some stats on ‘the size of networks’ to back this.) I’m also learning that I’m pretty amazing too (so are you!) and there’s incredible things to be learned from exploring this relationship.Another thing I’ve learned as I get older — perhaps as a result of becoming less self-focused, more empathetic, and more mindful of the circumstances of others — is that the world is full of amazing people. Much more than I thought before.

Every once in a while, I get a glimpse into the life of someone I once knew better, or someone I recently met; I peer in and think of the amazing possibilities. Sometimes this happens on social media, sometimes after a moment spent with a person I don’t often or ever spend time with.

Since coming back from living abroad for over a year, away from many people I’ve known over the years, I have also noticed that I don’t have as much energy to invest time in seeing many of the amazing people I already had the fortune of knowing.

There are just too many amazing people.

I’m learning to appreciate all of their amazingness from afar, though, knowing well that I can’t delve into every circle and become close with every single person I think is great.

All I can hope for is that all the amazing people I don’t yet know (or ever will get to know), will find their amazing people to spend time with.

Simply, we don’t have time to spend with everyone we like. But, I think we can learn to feel a gratitude for them whether or not we benefit directly from knowing them and spending time with them.

Having a deep mindfulness about our relationships and appreciation for the people in our life will make us nicer to each other in general, I think. In our banal encounters with strangers and acquaintances, maybe we’ll be kinder because we appreciate the kindness we get from our inner circle of amazing people we’ve surrounded ourselves with — even if there are fewer of them than seems possible or was once the case in our younger years.

Originally published on my blog, idefiningi — “relationship (n.)