Boxes

Happy Sunday! Honestly. Happy. I need to acknowledge and verbalize moments and days like this more. Really, I’ve had a pretty good entire week. And like a true millennial Nashvillian, I’m writing this in a coffee shop. A place that I now have the perspective to see is a lot more fun to spend time in when it’s not just a place I go to get a change of scenery while studying. And this is a pretty nice place to end the weekend. Well, except for the laundry and errands still ahead of me- but those are enjoyable in a way too. I’m not totally sure why this week felt so good, but a few contributing moments were: epiphanies on the drive home that I get to work downtown and live in a tree-covered, suburban feeling neighborhood and that it’s pretty amazing that the two are like a twelve-minute drive apart; spending time with coworkers I usually work remotely with; spending time with those coworkers outside of work; seeing a funny movie with a friend; sleeping in on a Saturday; and having 75 degree, not humid weather for once. Life is good every week, no matter how good I perceive it to be, but I’m thankful that this week I felt aware of it.

It was a week heavy in the socializing energy department, which was tiring, but there was a ton of smiling and laughing involved which made it so worth it. And it got me thinking a lot about how I identify with introversion versus extraversion and how I balance the temptation some days to be an island and other days to stay surrounded by people as much as possible. Mostly it got me thinking about boxes. Boxes are this thing an old friend told me about a few years ago, where we categorize people in our lives to keep things balanced and making sense and, in a way, to protect ourselves from hurt. It’s kind of hard to reflect on the stuff I picked up from this particular friend, but that’s a story for another day and I can’t deny that I learned quite a bit from that friendship, boxes being part of that.

There are multiple dimensions to boxes as she explained them to me (duh, they’re 3D). On the one hand, we can categorize relationships based on where we spend time together, where we met, how long the connection lasts (Camp friend just for the summer? Significant other for the rest of life? Acquaintance on a plane ride whom we may never see again?), whether they’re family, classmate, coworker, etc. We can also categorize them based on how close we are. This was a different scale my friend taught me and I can’t remember all the words she used as categories for the depth of friendship so I’m grouping it in with boxes. What I mean by this type of categorizing people is kind of seeing your relationships as different because of how close you are, how much you trust one another, and maybe how deep of experiences you’ve shared. For example, some people you know because you have mutual friends and you’ve only met a couple of times so you just have surface level understanding of one another and simple conversations about traffic and the weather. Others, you have that type of connection where you will be in touch for life, no matter how far apart you live or how long you go in between seeing or talking- you can pick up wherever you left off every time. Those are kind of the extremes of the scale, but hopefully it makes sense.

So this week I’ve been reflecting on relationships a lot, which isn’t unusual for me. I’m fascinated by how people connect with each other. I’ve struggled with connections with others, often over- or under-thinking some relationships, but every time I end up learning something about how people work and how I work. I’ve learned one of my greatest fears is being more attached to someone than that person is to me. Yet I can be pretty uncaring to people I don’t categorize as part of my “inner circle.” I’ll get back to that in a second. I used to be upset by my friend’s boxes concept, because I’m the type of person who likes people to be in multiple boxes in life, and who craves to know and be known well by a lot of people. So initially I resisted this idea because I thought it was a way to keep people at arm’s length and would prevent deep connections with people who are in the “wrong” category for that, and overall it just sounds like a way to organize life and people, which I don’t feel are meant to be organized. Hearing about boxes gave me this cold impression of delegating people to certain limited spheres and almost pre-determining how you will know each person.

But I’ve come to think differently about boxes. As painful as it is for me to realize a friend and I aren’t as close as we once were or when I no longer live near loved ones (ahem, graduating college, all friends moving to different cities, me moving home, then moving away again), and I realistically can’t keep in touch well with everyone, I’ve come to see that it’s okay. We either have other people come in to fill those empty spaces or we have a season of individual growth where maybe we don’t feel as connected for a while. And these adjustment periods suck sometimes. I want to keep seeing the same people on a daily or weekly basis, because I love familiarity and continued connection. I want to keep getting to know the same people better, because one of my deepest, most basic cravings as a human is to be perfectly known by others. My gut reaction to this pain of not being able to always have all my favorite people around me forever can be to dwell on how we each go through life on our own and then I can get really lonely. I start to think we’re all islands, or maybe more like boats because those move and come near to other boats more often than islands do… anyway.

There’s that saying that no man is an island, though. So which is it? We go through life on individual paths that sometimes cross with other people’s paths. We have seasons where relationships with others help us grow and other seasons where those relationships can hold us back or even cause us hurt. We are alone on our individual paths going through life, but people come along for many parts of the path. I get confused between what I should anchor my understanding of people in- the idea that we are all islands and need to be totally self-sufficient on the one hand, and on the other hand the idea that we really can’t get through life without other people. They help us feel belonging and joy and challenge and a lot of other stuff. What I’m finding is that we maybe aren’t meant to be so super connected to every single person in our lives that they have to be present all the time, or in constant contact with us, and friends with all the same people, and clued in to every single detail about what we do, otherwise we feel lost. There’s definitely a balance between not being an island and intentionally inviting people into life with us, being in community, feeling connected, and also being content on our own individual path and knowing we could keep going even if we lost one of those connections or it changes to something we don’t recognize. There’s good in having childhood friends and cousin friends and sorority friends and work friends and even having them overlap sometimes, because they each bring us something different. There’s also good in not having our identities totally wrapped up in other people and how they perceive us.

This is where boxes have started to make sense to me. Not in the sense of organizing people into drawers and not allowing overlap between categories, but rather in the sense of seeing how different people bring us something different. Instead of boxes being where I put other people, I see them as being where other people put me. Like which areas of life are currently being stretched and molded partly because of what I’m learning from the people around me. One friend might come into my life and challenge my beliefs about how big of a role career should play in my life, which puts me in the work-life balance box. A family member might get me to reflect how much effort I’m making to stay in touch with my family as I live far away from them, putting me in the lazy versus intentional decision-making box. Maybe in a season where I’m pretty unsure about where I want my future to go, someone sets a good example for me of trusting the process and taking things one step at a time. I might meet someone in a totally different life situation who causes me to reflect on my incredible privilege.

Seeing boxes this way stems from my understanding of relationships not as providing us people to get meals with and go to movies with so we don’t feel lame and lonely, but as influencing factors in how we continue to become who we are made to be. I really think there’s a reason for every beautiful and broken relationship. For every person who hurts us in a way we never imagined possible. For every person who puts our needs before their own when we’ve been nothing but selfish with them. For every person who annoys the crap out of us even though we can’t quite put words to what exactly they do that annoys us. For every person we look up to. Some people drain us and some people make us feel alive. Some people are great influences who push us to grow and others are the perfect buddies to do wrong with and to ignore responsibility with. I think I already referenced this, but there’s a quote from Master of None where Dev says some people are in our lives for a reason, and others are just for a season. Reasons and seasons can both be important, but I really think this gets at what I’m figuring out with boxes. There are different reasons certain connections come in and out of being prevalent in our lives, and sometimes we can figure out those reasons and other times it’s pretty hard to discern. I’ve found I usually don’t figure out the significance of a relationship until either we’ve grown apart or I go into a new season of life where I’ve moved on to new lessons.

People are great. The fact that everyone has a totally unique life experience, set of stories, and viewpoints blows my mind regularly. I love that we get to connect with so many different people in this life. That I get to hear people talk about their families at work. That I get to hear friends and family talk about what their jobs are teaching them. The overlapping of life areas makes me pretty happy a lot of the time. Other times I’m happy to keep work friends and family and college friends and church friends all separated. But in all this I’m just hoping that I’m still recognizable as pretty much the same Kristi in these different settings. There’s a thought for another day.

 

Thankful for: No humidity, and lots of people time this week.

Song of the week: Oblivion by Bastille

Advice for the week: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, find a place where you can stare out the window and just not think, or let your mind wander to something that’s not whatever you’ve been overwhelmed by lately.

Goal for the week: Wake up early and be active before leaving for work. Stay in the present as work gets busy.

 

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