I have a tendency to collect specialists. Not formally educated PHD’s, necessarily, but people who have experience and knowledge in a topic I’m pursuing or experiencing. I have a gay friend I can talk queer issues with, a fem friend I can talk relationships with, and a best friend I can lament our health problems with (but also mutually gush about each other’s amazing lives).
When something comes up personally, professionally, in health, sex, love, or games, writing or business, there are an array of people I can call on for advice and guidance. This isn’t by accident.
Our parents are supposed to be our first line of defense. I know many people don’t have that luxury, but I’m lucky enough to have both a mom that knows the ins and outs of taxes and a dad who has run his own business for years. They’re both happily married, an example of how to love (and how to fight) over the course of years.
But if you don’t have a good family example, or if your parents are gone, it can be really isolating to try navigating life on your own. Building your own network of advisers, mentors, and friends makes a world of difference.
These people don’t need to be in person, either. My writing mentor lives in the UK, while I’m on the US west coast, half way around the world. I’ve met her a few times, but 99% of our relationship is digital. In addition, my weekly writing accountability partner is also a digital relationship. We used to live in the same town, but when I moved away we started meeting over google hangouts and now that’s our main phone call each week.
It can be hard for introverts to find in-person people to admire. I started going to a journaling/planning meetup, but only because a friend of mine took me along, so I had someone familiar with me. Now I consider the organizer of that group among my friends, and she’s been a great resource for health discussions. She introduced me to my acupuncturist… and now she’s playing DnD with Mr. V and I on the weekends!
I have learned to be ruthless with my time and attention. If I only have two spoons, Mr. V is getting one of them. But even if I have plenty of spoons, I allocate them to people and things that I want to see continue in my life ten years from now. I’d love to be friends with all people, and have an eternal well of emotional support for those folks who need it, but the reality is both my time and ability are limited.
I curate my friend groups in the same way a museum might curate their collections. People that I admire, have a different or more advanced skill than I do, and people that just make me happy to be around, will receive more of my time and attention. People who drain me, love to engage in drama, and don’t have ambition for their lives get less of it. I have limited spoons, so I prioritize the people that make my life better. In this way, relationships that aren’t cultivated naturally fade away.
It’s not a system that works for everyone, but I’ve found it works for me. It keeps me engaged with people who are meaningful in my life, and I’m able to access a range of expertise when I need advice. I’ve been leaning on my support network heavily this month as I navigate my health, so their contributions to my day-to-day are prominent in my mind.