A follow up to yesterday's epiphany post...
I'm still kind of wrapping my head around this issue of discernment with friends and people in my life, I admit.
Related to that, I also found myself remembering today, a talk I heard Ray Bradbury give once about the importance of making sure that the people in your life are truly supportive of you and of what you want to accomplish. Basically, he openly advocated "kicking out" anyone who wasn't part of your cheering squad and/or fan club. From everything he said in that talk, he was a lifelong, firm believer in surrounding yourself with the kind of people who help you stay on the happy path...and basically kicking to the curb anyone who tried to inject self-doubt or cynicism into your viewpoint.
Of course, he figured this out when he was something like eight or nine years old.
He told this really charming story, I remember, about how he brought all of his Buck Rogers toys to school and was excitedly telling anyone about them and the comics who would listen. He also described to us how he got teased mercilessly for that fact.
He said he went home that day and broke all of his toys...and then had a kind of epiphany, and realized he wasn't going to let anyone take that away from him. From that day forward, he refused to hang out with anyone who acted as a buzzkill, and further, that he saved up his money and went and re-bought all of that Buck Rogers stuff all over again so he could enjoy it.
Again...he was eight.
I am forty-three.
But the lesson is still a good one.
Anyway, just because I'm still wrapping my head around this and trying to look at my own decisions more carefully in terms of who I choose to surround myself with, I made a strange series of lists...lists that developed more or less organically as I started thinking about the people in my life. Interestingly, those lists, while they started off somewhat vague, solidified pretty quickly into more or less clearly-delineated buckets where most people in my life more or less fit.
And yeah, it's a shorthand kind of thing, more played from the gut and pure emotion than anything "empirical," but I still found it immensely illuminating. Those categories themselves ended up playing out differently than I might have done them if I hadn't had actual names to attach to the broad brushstrokes I attempted to paint.
So yeah, I'll start there...the categories.
Here are the basic categories I ended up with:
- People who seem to genuinely want me to succeed
- People who don’t seem to want me to succeed
- People who seem to have mixed feelings about me succeeding
- I have no idea what these people think and/or if they much care at all
- People who just seem to want stuff off of me most of the time
- Crazy, but not-really-aimed-at-me crazy
- People who might want me to succeed in a more general way, but who don’t really seem to believe in me (and/or talk down to me excessively)
Because this is more about learning about myself and my own patterns, and less about condemning the people in my life, I included as many significant people in my life, past and present, as I could think of. I didn't limit myself to any time period or any location or any group of individuals that I happen to be dealing with now.
Really, I just put down the names of anyone I could think of who had been significant to me at one point, including a fair few who are no longer in my life.
In terms of the present day, I probably got more detailed (mostly because I'm sure there are tons of people I simply forgot to include from my past). Basically, in terms of the present-day folks, I left anyone on that I interact with enough that I would even have an opinion.
A few things came out of this little exercise...
The good news ~ the vast majority of the people in my life currently fit in the first bucket. My family, most of my close friends, my close confidantes...most of them were solidly "#1's." Further, the people who fell into bucket #1 are people I am much more likely to still have a relationship with now, even if I met them many years ago. I would say over 2/3rds are people I still talk to on a regular or semi-regular basis, with another good chunk being people I'm still friendly with, but who live far away and/or are so busy that I don't speak to them very often anymore.
The less good news ~ the next two largest categories were #2s and #5s, although yeah, even together, this category didn't come close to the first category in terms of numbers. Moreover, while a chunk of those people still suck up a fair portion of my time now, the vast majority are no longer in my life for whatever reason. Most didn't leave in a tempest or anything (although some did!), but they're the ones I was least likely to stay in touch with for more than a few years at most. They're also the ones I generally didn't keep in touch with when I moved away from a particular city or country, too.
Other random stuff:
Strangely, all but one of the #5s were men (although only a few were ex-boyfriends). A number of those #5 men are people I never even knew that well, but who always seemed to show up when they wanted something from me. A few have tried to scam me outright, either for money, free services, possessions of mine, etc. And no, by "wanting something" I'm not referring to sex. I actually didn't include that element at all, since, well, that's kind of a normal thing to want from someone, especially if you are dating and/or interested in the person in a romantic way.
The 2s, 3s and 4s were pretty evenly mixed in terms of gender, but there were a lot of women in bucket #2, which I guess makes sense, because a lot of that "not wanting me to succeed" came from rivalries of whatever kinds that were done in that passive-aggressive way that women can use with extreme precision and skill against one another at times.
I also realized that I have more friends in the "has mixed feelings" bucket than I would have guessed if someone asked me prior to doing this little exercise. I actually find that bucket much more benign though, since a lot of the people on that list were other writers, and I strongly suspect that explains the feeling I get when they seem to see-saw on whether they want to see me succeed or not. Professional jealousies and insecurities of whatever kinds are totally normal from my perspective, and I suffer from that kind of thing fairly frequently, too, so it's certainly not a dealbreaker type of offense.
Most of the people on that list are still friends of mine, too, just like list #1. They are also mostly people that I genuinely like and would like to keep in my life, so I don't see this category as being a part of that pattern that was concerning me.
So yeah, nothing earth-shattering there from the outside, but for me, there were a lot of ah-ha moments, and realizations about individual people I know.
Some of those realizations caused me a fair amount of guilt, too. Like, a number of the people in the more "negative" categories are people that I like, and who I probably wouldn't have tagged as "negative people" if someone asked me outside of this context. But in trying to look at this objectively, it unearthed some patterns in my interactions with these people. Like the "always wants something" bucket...there are 2 male friends who ended up on that list, and their inclusion there kind of caught me off guard. But when I really looked at it objectively, (or tried to, anyway), I couldn't help seeing the pattern in terms of our interactions. Again, they are good people overall, so I can't really see myself kicking them out of my life or anything, but still, yeah, it was illuminating.
It also occurred to me that maybe the next exercise needs to be me flipping these categories back on myself...in other words, trying to assess how good of a friend I've been to the people in my life, as well as the other writers I know.
Anyway, maybe this is over-sharing, and if so, I apologize. This probably is a bit of a strange venue to be thinking aloud about all of this stuff...
On totally unrelated news, I'm still going strong working on Prophet: Allie's War, Book Eight, and will probably post an excerpt from that book on here very soon. I'm well over the halfway point in terms of the rough draft, and hope to have it finished by about midway through December.
I actually spent most of this morning taking virtual flying lessons, so that I could attempt to write one of the scenes towards the beginning of the book.
I'll probably be shooting that same scene to my brother and father here pretty soon, to see if they can tell me how badly I choked in writing it (they are both pilots, my father for over 35 years as a commercial and air force pilot). I'll be really curious to hear from them what I missed, and how I did overall.
And yes, now I would love to get pilot's lessons, too...but anything like that's a ways off, I'm afraid. For now I just have to live vicariously through Allie, I guess, and learning some of the basics for when that day comes. :)
In any case, I won't wax philosophical on here forever, promise. I'm fairly certain there's much more interesting writing and living to be done in my world...
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!