When I moved to the Boston area in June, I joined an Asian American book club, entered a gay men’s tennis league, and scheduled hangouts with old and new friends in the area. I liked getting to know people right away and felt a sense of community early on. “I’m not gonna move there to make friends,” I told one of my best friends a few months prior to my move, anticipating a tight schedule due to residency and job applications. But I prioritized connection anyway, choosing to hang out with people instead of grinding out more research and grants.
Several weeks ago, I met an Asian man in Cambridge who I felt the potential for friendship with. I liked this guy because of his sense of humor and how he came across as a decent active listener. I felt tentative excitement about developing a connection with this person, given that we lived pretty close to one another. One day, though, he made a super homophobic comment. When I told him about how his comment made me feel a few days later, he refused to take accountability for what he said.
This situation reminded me of a guy I felt a romantic attraction to many years ago. When I first met this guy, I grew quickly and intensely enamored by his experience in social justice organizing and his passion for reading and writing. I wrote many blog posts about him which slightly embarrass me to even think about. Without a doubt, I idealized him, and I made a lot of assumptions about this person based on a limited pool of information. When he turned out to suck at interpersonal relationships, I felt distraught and devastated, at least in part because I had built him up so much in my head.
I feel proud of how I handled this new friend situation compared to how I approached this guy situation from many years ago. With this new potential friend, I think I did a better job of not idealizing him or assuming more about him than what I actually knew. Thus, when he disappointed me, I felt sad and hurt, though not to the point it buckled my knees. I talked with some of my friends about his comment and lack of apology, laughed at their witty roasts of him, and moved on and invested my time in my hobbies and other relationships.
When I reflect on my past pattern of sometimes idealizing people, I can view this behavior from a perspective of self-reflection and self-compassion. The tendency to idealize makes sense because one, when you idealize people, it helps minimize some of your anxiety about how they will treat you, at least in the short term – it takes more cognitive effort to recognize people’s strengths and their imperfections. Also, I’m generally a decisive person; I like to collect data about people and situations fast and make choices promptly and efficiently. As I get older, though, I’m leaning into how depending on the circumstance, I may just need more time to sit and observe an emotion, relationship, or event before I make a decision about it.
Thinking back to when I first met my two best friends and my other close friends, I don’t think I met any of them and immediately thought to myself, this person is gonna be one of my best or closest friends. I recall feeling that way after certain conversations or interactions with them, though that feeling emerged after having hung out several times in a non-urgent way. This recollection reminds me that my friendships, which help make my life worth living, developed at a more relaxed, less rushed pace. Unlike my abusive childhood home environment, where one “wrong” word could bring on what felt like a near death experience, I can now let situations unfold at a chiller pace and from a space of safety and security. On a random note, I’m currently into this new guy right now and I have no idea how it’ll turn out or if I’ll stop liking him or if he’ll say something undeservingly cruel about Twice or Blackpink and then I’ll have to excommunicate him from the list of men who could [REDACTED] my [REDACTED] you know what? Time will tell. Time will tell.
Are you someone who likes to make decisions quickly or do you luxuriate in your time? What has influenced your relationship with time, urgency, fastness and slowness, etc.? General reactions to this post? I am still doing residency while applying for jobs/waiting to hear back from jobs (can’t believe I’m attracted to men and I have to work) so plz send warm thoughts and until next post!