Advice from Space: Who Moved My Cheese
Dear Writers and Readers,
Please do me a favor. When you are reading this today, please be eating cheese. Any kind will do (even vegan!). If the good, conflicted people I am reaching through this column are eating cheese, then maybe in a way I am also eating cheese?
Most of my food is in the form of nutritional goo-packs. They’re flavored like gummy fruit snacks and, like gummy fruit snacks, in my first days in Space I sorted them by flavor and am saving the best (raspberry, strawberry, and grape) for last. This means I have about 4 more months of lemon-lime and orange.
I have great faith in your imaginations, and I’m sure you can empathize: a diet of all-citrus nutritional goo-packs. This is how I live.
As a trade-off, from out my window I can see things like the moon, stars, Jupiter, and (with the aid of binoculars) the greenhouses of Almería. But I do miss cheese.
Let us go onward, through the expanse of space-time, to this week’s letter.
Dear Advice from Space,
How do I politely decline social outings with people from work?
Dear Jimmy Tulip,
I am living several lives.There is the life I actually live—my Space mission, my nutritional goo-packs, my languishing handle on current events. Simultaneously in my imagination exist the other lives I might have, if I were a slightly different version of myself. In one of those lives, I’m productive and accomplished and tidy. In another, I get paid to watch television. In yet another, I doggedly fulfill everyone else’s demands.
As humans, we are balancing a lot of things—what we want versus what others think we should want, our massively optimistic to-do lists for the weekend versus the actual constraints of time and enthusiasm, our personal agendas versus the social contract.
When things align just so, we get to be and do exactly what we want. But these are exceptional moments. The majority of the time, our days are dented and grimy with reality (much like my Earth-facing porthole!). For example, I am happy to be alive (exactly what I want) but I would really like some cheese (difficult reality I must face, in exchange for previously mentioned gift of life).
I suspect your experience is similar. Let’s assume you are happy with your job, but as a trade-off, you have to spend time with people who are perfectly fine to work with but not so fine as to become good friends. This is a delicate dance. As much as you would like to be left in peace, gosh darn it, part of work is maintaining workable relationships.
Jimmy Tulip, you should be careful not to hurt your colleague’s feelings, but you should also be careful to consider your own.
Of course, not all social invitations are sincere. Vague requests to hang out “when you get back from your open-ended mission to Space” are quite different from frequent, heartfelt appeals to dine tonight at Chez Albert.
The solution here is not to say no all the time, nor is it to say yes all the time. You need to find the right ratio for yeses to nos.
The next time your colleague asks to spend time with you, let them know about your active interest in the local shape-note singing community. This establishes an alibi for future unwanted outings, and will also warn your colleague that you are a Person Who Sings, which itself may swiftly end the requests. If it doesn’t, though, go ahead and meet that coworker at an Au Bon Pain near your office. Your colleague gets a little quality time with you, and you get a chocolate croissant.
Over the subsequent months or years, the adequate ratio of yeses to nos will fluctuate, but unless you think this colleague could be an actual friend, there’s no reason your outings need to go beyond the occasional trip to a coffee shop.
But if you do decide to elevate it to the Chez Albert level, please think of me and order the cheese plate.
Advice from Space
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