Terrence realized that their conversation had taken a turn for the worse when his eyes connected with Alex. There was fire and annoyance. There was also a look that chilled Terrence. Alex was thinking about the future, distant future, in a not so good way. This was not the way one relaxed. This was how people annoyed each other.
“We’ve been together several months now. Not once have I heard you discuss where you think we’ll be in a few years. Why’s that?” Alex demanded.
“Honey, why are you complicating this. I just want to chill and enjoy the summer. We’ve worked hard to get here. I just want to enjoy what I have” Terrence ventured as he braced himself for the fight that would come.
“Oh. So, now that we’re college graduates, this is it. A small apartment that can’t hold the both of us. This is life?” Alex fired at Terrence as her face started to redden.
“What’s wrong with my place?” demanded Terrence.
“I can’t move in” Alex shot back.
“Why? You’ve got to plan that out too?” Terrence said… instantly regretting his comment.
“No. But you do” Alex pushed her unfinished plate away. Her appetite was gone. There was not much future with a man with one sole ambition of relaxing his way through life.
“Why do I have to plan anything. You just have to move in. What’s so hard about that?” demanded a confused Terrence.
“You don’t get it. Maybe we just don’t want the same things out of life” Alex sighed.
“I’m going to ignore that. Answer me this. What does it take to move in?” Terrence asked wide eyed and arms spread out.
“For starters, you’ve got to ask me to move in. Then, you’ve got to have space for me to move into. And you’ve got to remember I want more than causal living as roommates…” Alex stopped before completing her thought.
“Why do women feel they have to take over a man’s… um…” Terrence knew better than to finish that thought out loud.
They both got up and cleared the table. There was no good way to end this conversation. They wanted a good life but couldn’t agree on how to get that good life.
The Problem of Competing Ambitions
Alex was very driven to create a huge life for herself. She knew where she wanted to move, she knew how expensive her lifestyle was going to be, she knew how many children she wanted and when to have them.
Terrence had other plans. He wanted to enjoy the moment and have experiences with his friends. Alex was a great push to help him finish school, but that was just one small slice of the life he wanted. The physical trappings of an expensive life did not energize him.
What energized Terrence was community. It was very important to him to be connected with those who enjoyed being connected. In fact, Terrence felt that if he had a large enough community, his needs would be easily met.
Alex on the other hand felt that community had levels to them. Some were driven to help you become self actualized. Others kept you from reaching your potentials. To Alex, Terrence was not reaching any of his potentials with the friends he had. To Terrence, Alex was elitist and was too close to snobbery.
What these two were missing was the teamwork element to their relationship. While the competing ambitions could easily derail a relationship, it didn’t have to be a guaranteed outcome.
Ways of teaming up instead of competing
The art of compromising allows for people with differing views to work together. Granted, some views are different enough to prevent long term collaboration, most aren’t that far apart.
Alex likes to plan and know where she’s going. She’s got a choice to make. She can opt to lead the relationship forward at a pace that works for the both of them. She can opt to leave the relationship entirely and find someone who is more driven. Or she can accept the fact that her man won’t be ambitiously leading the charge forward and home is her chill zone.
Clearly, there are more options than this, but for the sake of keeping this post under a large number of words, let us continue.
Terrence loves the social connections. However, without some structure around his social life, the connections are random and more circumstantial. This won’t easily work for someone who loves to be strategic about who they connect with. Alex has a social circle and a solid network. The difference between them is that Alex carefully curated hers and Terrence allows his to just be.
Alex has a circle of school friends, a circle of leaders and influencers, a circle of career connections, family connections, and a few others.
Terrence has the guys he grew up with and went to school with. They enjoy hanging out. Life comes as it does.
Nothing wrong with either approaches. The problem arise when the two circles have to mix. The ambitious crowd can appear too forward thinking for the chill crowd. The chill crowd can appear too ambivalent and incapable of growth for the ambitious crowd.
(generalizations only applied to this story, not life in general)
Worse, when it comes to hanging out, the chill crowd will chill if all the chips fall together. The ambitious crowd will be more proactive about setting up a time to ensure they do actually chill. Neither group is wrong or more right than the other. It’s just a difference in approach to life.
An outsider will easily suggest that the two alternate how they go about setting up their social time. One moment, things get set up Terrence’s way. The other, Alex’s way. This way, both get to experience their chill time on their terms instead of arguing and canceling their chill time.
As for the future, celebrating the differences to find creative ways to reach their goals is the ideal approach. However, when there is no jointly understood and agreed upon journey, things get difficult.