Emotional Availability is a Scarce Resource

In short, I find the most meaningful friendships are ones that result in you taking on their emotional baggage. This doesn’t stem from values or obligations held by everyone – I can only attest to this for myself.

By the sheer number of people I’ve met these past two months, it was inevitable that a handful of these would end up being deep connections. Drunken talks until 5am on someone’s patio/balcony; Brunch sessions that were cut short after four and a half hours only because the cafe needed to close; Two and a half hour frisbee-tossing one-on-one sessions in the sun*. Being suddenly entrusted with mental health baggage by someone you’ve known for a long time. And so on.

* This happened today. I wanted to embrace my inner introvert and avoid all humans, but she was hinting at really wanting to get together, despite the others being unable to join. The great thing about tossing one-on-one is we’re far enough to play, but close enough to talk. And so we did. She’s a few years younger, but had been seeing an older woman for a few weeks. I found it easy to relate to her in that not only was she a babydyke (came out in July), but she also primed herself on her career – whereas most queer women we’ve met were louder about their sexuality than their careers. I’m taking her to a queer women’s networking event on Tuesday. 

I’m delighted that my connections have all been with queer women, although I’m not sure if there’s a correlation to the experience being richer. I’ve never been able to make such connections before and that in itself may have a wealth of possible explanations, including not being a good storyteller and/or having a new sense of confidence that allows me to be vulnerable. I have found that I’m more comfortable showing people my vulnerabilities because I don’t believe them to be weaknesses – if anything, they make me stronger and the stories accompanying are often gems.

An externality of showing your vulnerability and presenting yourself as a safe space is other people feel comfortable opening up. This is great, but brings me back to my opening point – I empathize and feel inclined to take on everyone’s baggage as my own.

I’m feeling burnt out.

It’s my own fault for letting myself be emotionally invested in someone else’s problems. I simply feel inclined to help them – sometimes when I don’t need to.

I was telling the person I had brunch with something along these lines, prior to feeling this. I told her we have limited time (and energy) to have too vast a social network. Specifically, we were talking about “best friends” and why we can’t be “best friends” with everyone – we simply don’t have the time to spread ourselves out so richly. Think peanut butter on toast out of a one-time-use-sized packet. Peanut butter is your time; Toast is your social network.

You simply cannot grow your social network at the same depth as you’ve had your existing network; you’d do so at the expense of your existing connections. Using myself as an example, since meeting and connecting with these great folks, I’ve spent less time with my original confidantes. I’m not even talking about time spent in-person; I’ve just been texting them less because I’m using this time to bond with my new friends. And once I’ve let out whatever’s on my mind, it occupies a smaller space in my mind, and the urge to tell someone (i.e. from my original network) dwindles.

There’s nothing intentional about it – it’s simply that maintaining a plethora of deep connections is not feasible. There’s only so much baggage you can take. It’s simply the anatomy of human socialization.

And I’m feeling burnt out.

I feel like this may be contradicting my men vs women post. Perhaps I should revisit this another day, when it’s a.) not 3am and b.) I’m not starting to drift into unconsciousness.


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