In my Workaholic Missives post series, I talk (mostly abstractly) about the toll that being a workaholic takes on my social life, and how I navigate it. This post is specifically about friendships.
Being a super-busy person means being really mercenary about how I spend my time. This, unfortunately, includes my social time. I can’t be there for my friends as often as I would like to be, for both the good times and the bad.
As a feminist, I’m hyper aware of how much women are often called on to do emotional labor, and I like to comment on it and draw attention to it when I can. Maintaining friendships? That’s a form of emotional labor, and it’s not something I can delegate (not like I have a personal assistant, but I’m rapidly reaching the point where I might need to cave and admit that I need one).
The result, with me being as busy as I am, trying to save the world and whatnot, is that I don’t have a lot of time for my friends. And not just that: I don’t make a lot of time for my friends. I know that’s on me. The time for socializing only exists if I make it happen. It’s not going to magically fall into my lap from elsewhere. I’m not a Google-Calendar-mancer* who can cast some arcane spell to shift an hour from here to there in order to have time to have tea with someone I’m due to catch up with.
I would like to think that I’d drop anything to help a friend in need, and often, this is the case in emergencies (need help moving right the fuck now? stranded and need a ride? and so on). But even then, there are times when my packed schedule just can’t accommodate one more item, and I have to hope that someone else is on standby to swoop in and save the day.And you know? Sometimes this sucks. Sometimes I wish I could be more available to my friends. But that’s not the life I’ve chosen for myself, and I just have to hope that the people who actually want to be friends with me understand and will stick around anyway.
I’m mostly okay with being a kinda shitty friend. I like to think that I warn people that this is what they’re in for: lots of “hey it’d be great if we could hang out” sentiments interspersed with the occasional super-fun adventure or truly engaging conversation. The land of positive sentiments but little action is where most of my friendships languish, and so long as you’re not one of those people who believes in relationship escalators (only applied to friendships), it can probably work.
I wonder if I’m alone in this, or if other ambitious, goal-driven folks have trouble maintaining friendships. I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to make time for someone if we have similar goals, or can make a work-date out of it. But I also like having friends who are different than me, with very different life experiences and perspectives. There’s little sense in living my whole life in an echo chamber, after all.
There’s probably no right way to do friendships as a workaholic… or at least, that’s what I tell myself during another night spent awake, alone, working. I get mild twinges of regret sometimes for choosing to live this way, but as with everything else it’s a trade-off. Would the alternate-reality version of me with more friends, or more time spent with friends, be happier? I don’t have a way of knowing; it’s like peering into a pleasant painting for a while, but realizing that my attention belongs where it always does: with my work.