Washington Bureau Chief
Whether you’ve decided to launch your startup, run a marathon, or (as in my case) read 100 books in 100 days; big, hairy, audacious goals create relationship funnels. When we decide we want to give our hearts to an intense project, no matter what it is, it costs time, and that’s time away from social media, Netflix, and most importantly, relationships. Our social lives thin out, reduced to the people we care about the most. At the narrowest point of the funnel, it’s not our decisions that matter, but those of the people closest to us, the people who can either give us space and encouragement to go the distance or crowd in and facilitate failure.
When I started my 100 day challenge, I told myself, I can do this without sacrificing friend/family time. I assumed that as long as I read during every waking, free moment that I was alone, then I could have it all; friend and family time, decent amounts of sleep, work, and the satisfaction of reaching my goal. How naive of me.
The reality has been that the two worst weeks for my goal so far (though on day 30 I’m on book 24, so not impossibly far behind) were the weeks I spent staying with my parents over Christmas and the days I spent visiting my best friend in San Francisco.
Did my parents and best friend know about my goal? Definitely.
Did they think it was a good idea? Absolutely.
Did they want me to achieve it? Sure.
Were they willing to sacrifice some time with me everyday so that I could work on it? Hard no.
Maybe it’s because when we spend time with the people we care about the most, we are inevitably seized by a violent case of carpe diemism, the sense that, despite seeing each other fairly regularly and talking daily, any moment together might be our last. Maybe it’s because they are selfish, and regardless of what I want for myself, they want to spend time with me.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t make it clear that I needed more time. Maybe it’s because they believe that I’m some sort of super human that doesn’t need sleep and can be awake all day and read all night. Maybe I didn’t say anything because I like the idea that they think that about me, because they’re probably the only ones. Maybe it’s because our collective present is more important than my individual future. Maybe it’s because they know that no matter how big my dreams get, I can’t value dreams more than I value the relationships I have with them.
For my 100 day challenge, the people I love have reminded me that everything has a price. Learning this has been as valuable as anything I’ve gained during this challenge, and it’s underlined the need in my life to support my friends and family in their goals and dreams, which might, at times, require giving them time and space that I would otherwise have loved to share with them. It’s also made me realize how priceless is the friend who trusts you to make the right decision for yourself, who trusts that a decision is right for you because you made it, and will, for that reason, defend it until the end, even when you yourself come to doubt it. I’m going to work harder to be that kind of friend for people in my life.
I‘m so grateful for the amazing support I get from my friends and family in all that I do, and I could not ask to spend my time with a more delightful group of humans. If anything, I’ve realized that when it comes to the people we care about the most, there is a continual oscillation between selfishness and selflessness support, between wanting more than anything to have the people you love beside you, and wanting the people you love to have what they want most of all.
I think what I’m trying to say is, the next time your mom/dad/sibling/friend calls and you’re in the middle of making your dreams come true, check how their dreams are coming before you hang up.
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