I want to apologize.
First, I want to apologize that we’re not having this conversation face-to-face. Sometimes I get nervous. It’s much easier to say what I want to say in writing, where I can obsess over each word and carefully craft each sentence.
So I’ll start by apologizing for that. I’ll start by apologizing that I’m putting some distance between us. By now, though, I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m actually apologizing. So let’s just get to that.
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I know you sent me that Facebook invite and I clicked “going” or “interested,” or I just didn’t respond. I know last week when you brought up your event, I said something positive but noncommittal like, “Yeah, that could be fun.” I know when you sent me that message to come meet up with you last minute, I pretended like I didn’t see it or like I was already asleep.
And then, after all that, I didn’t even make an appearance at your birthday party/house warming/improv show/casual get-together/group dinner/art opening/college reunion/happy hour/bonfire/wedding/bris/______ (your event here).
I’m sorry. I really am.
I know my Meyers-Briggs type says I’m an extrovert (ENTJ). My public persona—the constant attention-seeking behaviors, the joy in meeting new people, the public speaking and performances—underscores my extroversion.
There was even a time when I actively felt like the world’s biggest extrovert. If my calendar wasn’t full seven days of the week, I felt a little depressed. I couldn’t imagine a fate worse than sitting at home eating a sad little stir-fry, watching Battlestar Galactica.
But that was two years ago.
Now, in May 2016, I don’t feel very extroverted. More and more, I find myself celebrating an empty calendar. More and more, I find myself savoring the weekends with extra “me time”—whether that’s simply reading a book, playing a video game, or even cleaning my house (that’s some real zen sh*t right there). More and more, I fear the weekends where the purple and red blocks define my schedule rather than my own whims and fancies.
More and more, I find myself celebrating an empty calendar.
The issue is, of course, on that same Saturday night, the one where I dream of organizing my desk or clicking around on the computer, you’ve also invited me to your event. Crap.
At this point, I’d like to take a minute to recognize that I am not some special snowflake. I don’t sit at home, worrying that your party isn’t complete without me. I know you’re going to have a great time whether I’m there or not. Hell, you may not have even noticed that I never showed up.
But on the other side of the city, while I listen to a podcast and walk my dog, I can’t shake the guilty feeling of having bailed on you. Knowing that my “too busy” was really just this. You’re my friend, after all. I care about you.
The problem is that every choice we make comes with a very real cost. Even if the event is free, anything we decide to do costs us time and energy. And unlike money, those investments are nonrenewable.
The Importance of Picking Two
In college, there was this chart some of my friends passed around. It was a triangle with three options, but you could only choose two — sleep, studying, or a social life.
As creative people, we all must “choose two.” We must pick between down time, social time, and creative time.
Obviously, I’d like to have it all. I’d like to work on my creative projects, go out all night, and still have enough time to sleep and relax, but it’s just not possible. Choosing all three means spreading myself too thin—rather than succeeding at any one or two, I fail at all three. And that’s not a fun place to be.
Now, to clarify, I am not a shut in. I haven’t barricaded my door, thrown out my cell phone, and closed myself off to the world. I still go out and socialize. I will still be at your really big events. I’ll still have you over for dinner or meet up and grab coffee.
But with my current “choose two,” I can’t come to every improv show, birthday party, and happy hour like I used to. I can’t cover my calendar in purple and red blocks and still have the energy to write blogs, speak at events, publish books, create courses, and record podcasts.
Some people recharge in social settings—that’s what extroverts are supposed to do. But I’ve found that that’s just not the case for me. Even when I’m having fun out on the town, I still need time at home (and lots of sleep) to keep my energy levels up.
The choice I’m making, for better or worse, is to be more creative and have more time for myself to recharge.
We all have our own choices to make. Maybe you’ve chosen social life and down time or creative time and social time, and that’s totally fine! No choice is inherently better than any other—just so long as you know that you’re actively making those choices every day.
Right now, the choice I’m making, for better or worse, is to be more creative and have more time for myself to recharge. And that means there’s only one other thing I can give up.
But maybe some time you could come over and we could play a board game? That would be fun.
This article originally appeared on Medium and was republished with the author’s permission. Ben Noble is an author, improviser, and blogger. To learn more about getting inspired, mastering time management, and building creative habits that stick, sign up for his weekly newsletter, the Monday Memo, at immakingallthisup.com. You’ll also receive a free, three-page guide that’ll help you become more creative in just 10 minutes.