Transactional Relationships

It recently occurred to me when taking my language classes that I probably spend more time with my tutors than any other person, on a given week. Excluding work, of course. Which leads me to my next point: I spend more time with my coworkers than anyone else in my life. I’d wager many average Americans’ lives work out in a similar fashion. It’s weird to consider, because we have a certain set of things we value or prioritize, like spending time with loved ones and friends, but most of our time is actually spent with people we wouldn’t ever bother to meet outside of a work context. Of course, that’s because we all need to make a living. If you’re a wage slave, then a large part of your life is dedicated to just sustaining your life. If you’re a 9-5er, you can say approximately half of your waking hours are dedicated to work. Other than that, you have precious little recreational time with which to spend with friends and family.

Assume you half about 8 hours time to spend outside of work and sleep. Maybe half of that gets eaten up by other obligations – commute, getting ready for work, hygiene, maintenance. So in a given day, at best, you have roughly 4 hours to freely spend. What does that mean? In an ideal scenario, you’d be spending that time in a manner that goes along with how you truly want to live your life. Meaning, those hours should theoretically reflect the goals/desires that you have in life. If you use this time to hang out with friends or family, then they’re probably a big priority in your life. If you spend this time picking up chicks, that probably reflects your desires in life in that general time frame. When I reflect on this past year, most of that free time has been soaked up by language lessons. I guess that’d indicate that language learning is a priority in my life. However, what I find weird is how much more time I spend with these tutors compared to my friends and family, but the bond between my tutors and the bond between my friends is incomparable, despite the time difference. Why is that?

Ultimately, I think it reflects on the shared goals between the two parties. The shared goal between me and my friends/loved ones is to strengthen the relationship between us, to grow the relationship, in a sense. However, with my language tutors, the explicit goal is to focus on me and my language improvement – this relationship is inherently one sided. Moreover, it’s a lot easier to compartmentalize this relationship from the rest of my life, because the relationship is also explicitly dictated by money. I pay money in exchange for goods and services. When I stop paying my tutors, our relationship comes to an end. This is not the case with my friend and family. So despite talking with my tutors approximately 10 times as much as I do with my friends and family, I’m still not super tight with them. Having said that, it’s not like we’re robots who act in a wooden manner for the sake of knowledge transfer – we get along like normal acquaintances. I guess the real difference here is the explicit boundaries in the relationship and how strongly they are delineated. We talk back and forth for an hour. After time is up, we cease all communications, besides general inquiries. I transfer money to their bank account. We explicitly carve out time in our schedules to talk. This time period will, of course, be compensated. The relationship is much more transactional in nature. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with that, since we both know upfront the purpose of these relationships. It’s just a bit jarring to think of in retrospect how my imagined priorities differ from my priorities as seen in my day to day actions.

Another interesting niggle: time ultimately is the biggest factor. Having said all the above about transactional relationships, it would be weird to expect these tutoring relationships to stay the same if I’d kept them for a period of, let’s say, 10 years. If I were talking about these tutors in the same manner after 10 years, even I’d think it’d be strange for us not to have become pretty close friends in that time frame. Time is ultimately the largest factor in relationships because that’s the magic of scale. Even if you’re inefficient in your processes, if your overall outcome is a net positive, doing it over a long enough span will still net you a large amount of gains.

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