Hanging On By A Thread

Back in the year 2000, I was a senior in high school. The year consisted mostly of college applications, goofing around in class, and playing sports. Any pressure of doing well in school was alleviated; the work, or damage, was already done, so it was left up to the college gods to determine my fate, as it were. I had a good time.

A big reason for why my senior year was enjoyable was my friends. There was about seven of us that did pretty much everything together. We’d play basketball, go bowling, go to the movies, and hang out on the weekends, and during school we would be in the same classes and have lunch and breaks together. There was a real sense of camaraderie and brotherhood, and though college was on the horizon where our paths would diverge, we felt like the bonds that we created during our formative adolescent years would carry our friendships through a lifetime of different experiences.

Today, I am still friends with only one of those high school guys.

It’s an all too familiar story that for the most part all of us can relate to – losing touch with high school friends. But it’s not just friends from back in high school. The truth is, no matter what stage of life we’re talking about, the friends we make and have can and will likely fall by the wayside. But why is that? Are having our lives go in different directions the reason for this? Is it because people change and are no longer the same version of themselves as they were at a particular time?

I think those are all valid explanations, but the one I believe in the most is this: friendships are fragile, and oftentimes a single instance can break them beyond repair.

It’s not as if I had a huge falling out with my high school friends. That was a case of time growing people apart. But let’s look at the friends that we have amassed in our lifetimes, and more specifically, within the last five to ten years. It could be a comment someone said, or what someone did or didn’t do in a certain situation, but little moments in time can have damaging effects on friendships. Maybe a one-time friend made an offensive comment or perhaps someone left us high and dry in a time of need; whatever the case may be, people are quick to bail on friendships.

It’s a combination of things, I suppose. As we get older, our personal thresholds for bullshit decrease. We become more set in our ways and oftentimes less compromising on certain principles. Our time becomes more valuable and in turn we become more selective on whom we choose to spend our time with. Whatever the reason may be, all of our friendships, no matter how close or strong they may seem at the moment, are all hanging by a thread. And the thread can break at any time.

I don’t write all this to paint a grim picture of humanity (even though I tend to be a misanthrope). I write this to point out that we should appreciate the people we call friends today. It’s human nature to take people for granted, so while we are in the good graces of those we call friends and vice versa, let’s do all we can to stay friends.



Time Is the New Currency

Treat people as human beings, give them that flexibility and I don’t think they’ll abuse it.

Those are the words of billionaire businessman Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. Last September, Branson implemented a new policy in his company, granting Virgin employees unlimited vacation.

We live in a society that is driven by money. The majority of the population works to put food on the table, pay their bills, and save for their children’s college fund. Vacation is viewed as a perk, and to the more capitalistic, money-hungry individuals like Ben Affleck in The Boiler Room, it is a concept that is ridiculed and brushed off. In the cutthroat world of dollars, personal time off is insignificant; work-life balance is an afterthought.

Work-life balance – it’s a term that maintains its relevance in this country as long as Corporate America continues to push its workforce into excessive hours, all for the mighty dollar. Let’s analyze this term a bit further: “Work” refers to employment, career, and making money; “Life” refers to health, relationships, and pleasure.

The term “Work-Life balance” itself implies that the two are mutually exclusive, but are they?

There’s no doubt that people need to work, and those of us that are currently employed should feel a bit of gratitude that someone is willing to pay us, period. The value of hard work shouldn’t be discounted; Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all. Furthermore, the backbone of our civilization is built on the workforce of less glamorous professions: farmers, dishwashers, garbage men, janitors, etc.

As individuals, however, what do we want our lives to be? Will work always be “work”? Are we content to be weekend warriors? Will every week start off with a case of the Mondays?

It has been a few months shy of ten years that I have worked a full-time, 40-hour work-week office job. In my world, work-life balance meant not thinking about my job when I’m not in the office and earning money so that I can do what I want on the weekends. It’s as if I’ve been living two lives: the cubicle-saddled white collar life during the week and the leisurely social life during the weekends. I’m realizing more and more that having one life is more than enough to handle.

It comes back to time. How are we spending our days? What are we striving for? Someone from an older generation may view a person like me as soft and weak, just a complainer about having an unfulfilling profession.  We need to earn money to provide for our families, and a man who doesn’t have his own family is not a real man, they may say. But should that be the goal?

Earn a paycheck, have a retirement plan, buy a house – this is money, this is value. Now in my thirties, I’m beginning to see something else that has value: time. We may usually feel like we’re running out of money, but there is no question that we are slowly running out of time, eventually having none left.

Work-life balance – it’s a horrible term. I’d rather find a way to blend the two together instead of balancing them as separate entities.

– Chris.