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Run this inquiry though your mind every time you head home from a dinner party or a playdate or a romantic date or a day at work. When you’re doing the stuff that’s your raison d’etre, you may feel anxious about succeeding or exhausted from all the time you put in, but you don’t feel depleted. You feel the opposite: rich—in ideas, in understanding, in possibility. After brunch with friends, you leave saying to yourself, “Hey, I never thought of that before” or “Laura really called me on my b.s. about quitting my job” or “I’m going to go on a trip to the Galapagos like Ruthie.” You don’t say, “I have to go home and watch an episode of True Blood just to chill out.” Real friends give you energy, as do real hobbies and jobs and relationships. I’m not saying that everything in life has to be dipped in inspiration. Sometimes you have to do things that are boring, stupid, repetitive and annoying—but not all the time, not even most of the time. As with most things, choice does come into play.
Ideal opportunities to ask this question: before a dinner with friends who have kids the same age as your kid, a job that’s similar to yours, or any other life parallel where convenience—and not connection—could be the glue that binds you.