Balancing Life on a Mountaintop

Four friends on a sailboat

I’ve been thinking about life balance lately.  Today I decided to put hard numbers on the amount of time I spend with some of the people I care about, and compare them to how well connected I’ve felt to each person during the last 3 months.  My hope was to identify any large imbalances, and start thinking about how to close the gaps (speaking of imbalance… that’s work talk right there and I’m at home).

I wanted to stay away from the muddy waters surrounding whether or not we’re having meaningful conversations over iMessage, and focus on face time (not FaceTime).  Maybe our texting isn’t as high quality as a phone call, or maybe it is, but a real face to face conversation beats both.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Chose the people
    • Longtime Friend
    • Work Friend
    • Adventure Friend
  2. For each, I totaled up the number of hours I spent with them since October
  3. Looked at the depth of conversation in those instances, and compared it to the length of each talk
    • Green = deepest
    • Orange = deep
    • Red = not so deep

Here’s what I found:

Figuring out the numbers was fun, and now that they’re in a graph, they’re important and must be carefully considered.

Forgetting about people for a moment –  I see I spent almost every weekend in the mountains… I need to think about that.  Not necessarily about going to the mountains less, but I should pay more attention to well roundedness – to get out of my apartment more during the week after work and catch up with people.

A few things to note before we get into specifics:

  • Longtime Friend (one of my oldest, best friends) is busy – he has an infant right now
  • Up until the end of summer, breaks with Work Friend were longer – and will likely lengthen again as our peak season passes
  • Fall of 2015 has been exceptionally high in terms of days spent in the mountains – most with Adventure Friend

A more normal 3 months might look like this…  double the visits and hours with Normal Friend.  Bump the Work Friend hours up just a little.  Cut Adventure Friend visits and hours in half.

With those adjustments, we still see pretty much the same picture.

Since October, I’ve seen Longtime Friend twice.  Once was at Friendsgiving, where all conversation involved at least a handful of people.  Not a bad thing, but I didn’t hear too much about what’s going on in his life.  The other time we rocked a beer at my place while his little girl slept (and pooped) in her carrier-thingy.  Those were good times with good talks.

Work Friend and I catch up on breaks.  I talk with him about our lives most frequently, but for just a few minutes at a time.  A lot of it is dominated by goings-on at work before we get into anything else – and just as that happens, we’re often walking back inside.

It’s between a 2 and 3 hour drive to the mountains I usually visit with Adventure Friend.  Then there’s a hike – 4 hours was the shortest one in this dataset –  followed by the same drive home.  This is all time largely uninterrupted.  It might not always be deep conversation (lots of it is quotes from the Trailer Park Boys), but much of it is.  How could it not be?  A full day would be a long time to hang out in silence (unless you’re on a boat for a week), and the dumb talk can only last so long.

All 3 of these guys are some of my best friends, and I wouldn’t say I’m closer to any one than another.  But I currently know more about Adventure Friend than I do about Longtime and Work.

In my case, it’s clear cut.  Duration wins out over frequency in the quality conversation department.  Longer talks get deeper than short talks.  Going to the mountains is one way to get that time.  So is staying in and having a beer – apparently 2 beers would be better.

For very good (the best) reasons, it’ll be a while before I can get Longtime and Work back out on my type of adventures.  They’re on their own adventures right now, way more intense than anything I’m doing in the woods.  Like the mountains, I need to go and see.

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