A question of identity

Hey - you're awesome, I really like you.

Akshay, a reader, sent me his ideas on honest appreciation, and it's close to my own philosophy. I believe in active kindness. Words come easily to me, so my active kindness often manifests in words.

I make a habit of telling great people just how great they are. I recognize this friendship tactic can be off-putting, and I'm constantly trying to be more mindful and less invasive with my words. It can come off as forceful affection, like you will be my friend now, dammit. 

Some people don't like hugs. Others are taken aback by random compliments.

But I think you can't know a person's friendship tastes until you test out a means of kindness. If I weird someone out, I try to notice and switch it up.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post.

So many of my Remote Year friends are truly exceptional people. I admire them and genuinely love spending time with them. And so, of course, I tell them that I like them.

Sometimes my you're awesome, I really like you is met with an aww, thanks, I like you guys too!

You guys.

Not you.

A subtle change in phrasing, but one that sometimes makes me scowl.

I'm in a stage of life where independence is crucial to me. I want my relationship to consist of two independent people who choose partnership.

And I think that's what it is. Jeff and I aren't two halves of a whole. I don't complete him and he doesn't complete me. We are two whole people who choose to intertwine our respective lives with the other because of love and loyalty and companionship.

I think love is an action, a choice, not just a feeling. The feeling waxes and wanes, but the action is constant. The action does not come from a desperate need to feel complete. It comes from choice, which comes from an independent soul. I don't think bonding and dependence are synonymous.

That independence translates to friendships, too. I don't want my RY friends to think I'm friends with TaylorandJeff. I want to have a unique friendship with someone, and I want the same for Jeff. I'm friends with Jeff. I'm also friends with Taylor. Sometimes we all hang out. We have a strong bond, which is very apparent to those who spend time with us, but I don't want that to be the starting point for every new friendship.

I know I can't control what people think of me. I know it shouldn't matter. And frankly, if I'm going to be viewed as one half of a whole, I'm glad the other half is Jeffers.

But I also feel independent. I want to project that outwardly, too. I want to show that friendship with me or with Jeff is not a package deal. It does not mean being a constant third wheel, a second class citizen to romance.

I want to invite new friendships, independent of (but also in tangent with) our romantic relationship. 

I want friendships that exist as their own entity, not dependent on (or a result of) my love life.... but friendships that also flow into a happy group dynamic. I want to actively support people primarily as Taylor, not primarily as TaylorandJeff.

Honestly? That's easy to communicate at home. At home, we have beautiful friendships that exist separately from our relationship (but still make sense in the context of our partnership). 

So I have a humble request for advice. 

How do I make that clear in a context where Jeff and I live, work, and play in the same place, with a group of 75? In a context where he's near me more often than not? Is it a constant road block that I'll need to address? How do I address it gracefully?

Advice wholeheartedly welcome, particularly if you've been in a similar situation. "Let it go" is good advice - tips on how you've found ways to let it go is even more welcome ;-) 


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.