I want to take pictures of sexy naked people and birds (usually also naked, probably not quite so sexy). Some art stuff sometimes. That’s it. But there’s a lot of other stuff that has to get done to do those things. Most of it not nearly as fun, but still necessary.
I’d rather do just about anything other than business, especially marketing. I hate writing the copy, I hate making the graphics, I hate posting ads to my social media, I hate everything about marketing myself. And when I finally force myself to do it, I feel like I need a shower afterwards. I feel **slimy**. But I’ve never really nailed down exactly why I feel that way. I mean, we all gotta survive, we all gotta make a buck. We all gotta market our goods and services, right? Why should I feel bad about that?
I got an email a few weeks ago from someone I like, someone I’ve considered a friend. Nothing special, just asking for a favor. I’m happy to do favors for my friends, and I’ll bend over backwards for them if they need me to. Of course I replied that I’d get right on it, as soon as I could. Then I got a follow-up email. It was lovely. It was complimentary. It praised my work, and it was downright effusive. You’d think it would have made me really happy.
I got to thinking about the last time I’d heard from this friend, and the last time they’d checked on me. It had been months before, and they didn’t actually check on me. I don’t think they’ve ever actually asked me how I’m doing. They ask for a favor, they compliment me profusely and tell me they love me, I do the favor, they thank me briefly, I don’t hear from them again until they need another favor. And that’s why this particular email really hurt me. I’m not this person’s friend, I’m just their personal Bank Of Free Business Favors.
That’s how my friend, someone I like, made me feel. And I don’t like how that feels. I don’t want to make anyone else feel like that.
I closed my email app and went on with my life. I didn’t do the favor.
I got a text from a dear friend a few days ago. Usually they’re someone I love to hear from, usually I’m delighted to talk with them. But this text struck me particularly badly. I read the text, then I read it again. I felt bad. I was hurt.
I have a dozen or so friends plus my kids I text with regularly. A few of them I talk with every day, nearly without fail. Sure, this friend has historically been one of those people, for years even, until a few months ago. We didn’t have a fight or anything. I’d sort of sunk into a depression hole, and just didn’t have the spoons to keep sending out my daily “good morning” texts. Most of those friends texted me within a day or three, some of them even asked if I were ok, knowing how unusual it is to not wake up to a text from me, let alone for several days.
A few of those friends did not.
It wasn’t any sort of pre-thought-out test of friendship or anything, but I noticed.
After not hearing from this friend for weeks and weeks, the text out of the blue wasn’t “Hey, how are you?” or “Hey, I miss hearing from you.” It was more like, “Hey, look at this thing I’m selling.” The text wasn’t even personal. It could have been mass texted or copied and pasted verbatim to ten thousand people. I didn’t like how that text made me feel.
I closed my messaging app and went on with my life. I didn’t look at the thing.
It’s taken me a couple of years to learn to not chase people all the time. I’m naturally the sort of person to pursue relationships with people I like, be it friendships, romantic relationships, or artistic relationships. But over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize that while all relationships have their pushes and pulls, their periodic inequities, I’m simply not capable of solely supporting multiple relationships indefinitely. I just can’t. I’m not sure anyone can. So slowly but surely, I’ve started letting go of people in my life that can’t be arsed to make any sort of reciprocal effort. And that’s why this particular text really hurt me. I’m not this person’s friend. I’m a potential customer. I’m a sale.
That’s how my friend, someone I care deeply about, made me feel. And I don’t like how that feels. I don’t want to make anyone else feel like that.
Yeah, we all gotta survive, we all gotta make a buck. We all gotta market our goods and services. But this is why I hate business, this is why I hate marketing. It turns people into sales figures. People I like. People I don’t want to make feel like shit.
Like I felt when I got that email.
Like I felt when I got that text.