My gift is time. My time. It’s always a balancing act. I want to give you my time, but how much will it cost? What will the toll be? How will I know?
I’m not antisocial, I love to talk and discuss and put the world to rights. I would like a person, not any specific type of person, they can be short or tall, fat or thin, any race, any age, any sex, any neurotype, but they will be someone who I can talk to over a cup of coffee. Maybe once a week. Maybe once a fortnight.
The cost of my time will be half an hour’s preparation (low if I’m going to a familiar place with a familiar person), two hours at the meeting and a couple of hours to process everything that happened afterwards. Four and a half hours for two hours’ pleasure.
But that relies on that person appearing in my life fully formed, and they don’t do that. There’s a friendship tax that I don’t see other people paying.
Let’s say we meet at a hobby, I go to a new place for the first time, many hours of planning in the lead up to it, maybe two hours on the first day, then an hour at the hobby, then a while day to process and decompress. Not including the planning and processing before the day, that means twenty-seven hours for one hour’s pleasure (with no guarantee that I will enjoy it).
The next week it may be less, perhaps twenty hours for one hour. The week after, maybe it’s better again. Once I’m completely happy with it I may manage to optimise at around six hours for one hour of good.
That’s a lot of my time.
Time passes and I start to build a relationship with someone. I am wary, I don’t want to be overeager. Am I being too cold? Am I being too warm? Do they like me or are they just being polite? Can I ask them if they like me?
People assume I am self-contained and don’t need more than I have. Many people my age have well established networks, they don’t need a new person, it’s not necessary. Their casual involvement in so many activities, means they meet so many people regularly that connections are straightforward and without pressure. If it doesn’t work out, what does it matter, they’re not the only ship on the horizon.
The more friends you have the easier it is to make friends. You are more likely to meet people with similar outlooks through existing relationships.
Just as you need money to make money, you need friends to make friends.
Maybe enough weeks have passed and I’m almost certain this person is for me, the day of asking them if they want to grab a coffee comes – I’m back up to more that twenty-four hours of effort for an hour of joy.
Maybe they don’t want to – make that forty-eight hours to process what went wrong and adjust to the rejection. Maybe they do want to – another first, back to high planning and processing times, back to time and time and more time.
Maybe we hit it off, maybe we don’t. I have to put all my eggs in one basket, I can’t carry more than one, it’s too much time to invest. Where would I find the time to eat and dress and exist? I cannot casually connect here and there and everywhere. I cannot dance through the dandelions scattering seeds as I go.
I would love it if a person could drop into my world. Geographically convenient, conversationally witty, they would smell right and be kind and love to laugh. I could start off with the basic time-commitment: Just five hours a week or so for two hours’ happiness.
One day I hope to have the time to spend looking for you, before all the tocks have ticked away.
A lifetime ago I had more time to spend; I needed less sleep, I didn’t need to spend it on anyone else’s needs. These days everything is budgeting and penny-pinching. How can I best spend the time I have? Where can I make savings? Will I have something to spare for an unexpected bill?
The friendships I build seem different to those around me. I have few casual friendships. The friends I consider closest have all been in my life for more than ten years. I consider them solid and unchanging. None live nearby, I see some every few months, some yearly, some every few years. None of these friendships need watering. We pick up where we left off. They are my quality over quantity, but most were built at university or work, where I had no choice but to interact over a long period of time, and they built slowly and solidly.
I gave them my time and they paid it back with interest. I gambled and won.
Now it’s time for me to gamble again, to find that one person who is both compatible and nearby. There must be many, but where are they? Where are you? How much time will you cost? Will I be able to afford you?