The Power of People Who Are “Down”

2010 February 22
by Grace Boyle

I’m down.

I say that all the time and it’s true. I’m down to do (almost) anything. My downness has created jobs, friendships, new opportunities, worldwide traveling, unique experiences and of course, perpetual dimpled smiles.

For a metaphor, I think to Sharalyn’s beautiful post on Elisa’s #AllYouNeed series comparing love to beakers (yes, like from Chemistry class). Sharalyn talks about how her beaker is always full and overflowing – the size of a 500 mL beaker. Men she has dated in the past had 250 mL beakers and although their beaker might be full and overflowing, they simply couldn’t give as much as she always was willing to give. No one’s fault, just a lesson in learning about who you are, what you need and what you can offer.

I resonated with this in my past relationships but also relating to being down and the friendships in my life.

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I’m a doer. I’m active, social and love to travel. I’m on the move. I carve out time for my passions and enjoying life because it’s part of who I am. I must. That being, I’m always down. Maybe this has to do that my interests are broad, but I also think that keeping my mind open like a parachute will not only help me grow, but learn and find new experiences.

My down beeker is overflowing. It’s way bigger than 500 mL and it’s hard for me to find friends who have their down beeker in tow. In turn, I’ve sourly turned this into mistrust, frustration or thinking friends don’t really care. When really (Grace, be rational) that’s not the case. I have to understand their beaker, understand that maybe going to bed early is something they need so they can’t attend the gallery opening or movie I’m going to or maybe they prefer to be social only one day a week and they still love me, but their beaker won’t allow more.

I’m not talking about previous engagements, when you’re sick, working, just don’t feel like attending this time, etc. All those are legitimate excuses. I say no, too. But I digress – you probably know what I’m talking about. You know those people that rarely take you up on your offer when you invite them all the time: e.g. “Hey, getting together a group of people for happy hour” or “Free movie night at our house, we’re baking, just bring your cute self” and they say, “Can’t make it,” or don’t respond, even when they might have nothing going on.

You know why I know this? Because I would bet lots of cash-money, that I’m just as busy or busier than most people. I volunteer with two organizations, I work full-time, I go to the gym and yoga at least four times a week, I maintain this blog and always regularly update it, I meet with people looking to learn about social media or Boulder regularly and average two guests a month that stay with me. Yeah, I’m busy, but I make time for my friends (and my alone time) while still allowing my beaker to be down. Of course, those with smaller beakers can be extremely busy as well, but they likely treat their social or free time differently.

Here’s the kicker: not everyone’s like me and it should be that way. Not everyone can do as much as I do (this isn’t to sound haughty, it’s the truth). We each have our own paths and needs to get by in life. Respecting that is part of the non-linear life we all lead.

Luckily, by knowing myself, I have found friends whose down beaker’s are overflowing too. We suck the risk, goodness and fun out of life and maybe we do “more” than the average person, but it works for us and makes life so damn enjoyable. On the flip side, I’m learning. I’m stubborn, I know, but I truly love my friends even if their down beaker is smaller. I appreciate them for what they offer me, what I can offer them, and who they are.

After all, being down doesn’t constitute a true friend…but it does make for a good time.

How down are you? Have you experienced this in friendships/relationships on either side of the fence (you’re down, or do less than most people)?

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  • Kat Maund

    Whoop! We get it. Our fupalicious 4 are the most “down” people I've ever been around. We just do it because it's fun and it's always an adventure. “Hey let's go to the Baja.” “Ok, cool.”

  • Rebecca

    I used to do a lot more, I think it depends a lot on the people you hang out with and surround yourself with. Also, timing. Out of college for the first few years, I did a ton. Now I've settled a bit. It's definitely to each his own. I just make sure each year is better than the last. If I've succeeded in that, I'm happy.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Kat You know I wrote this with you and the fupalicious ladies in mind. Much love and can't wait for our adventures ahead!

  • emilyjasper

    Over the years I've done a lot to find balance. Commit to things when I knew I could deliver in the way I wanted. I am a slight perfectionist, so I realized I had to stop saying yes to everything because I'd always be unhappy if I couldn't always be perfect. Now, I make better choices. I'm able to make things work now. I can actually enjoy a night out or social activity without feeling obligated to check it off a list. Thanks Grace, I really liked this post. Plus, the title makes me want to dance!

  • Ali Berman

    yes! you inspire me day after day. silent encouragement to maybe do a little more… try something new, do something spontaneous, step out of a comfort zone. the beeker analogy is awesome, I think all beekers are relative to ones own happiness and what makes an individual fulfilled and content. bringing those different types together help to learn and appreciate. keep on being full and amazing, some days I wish mine was as big as yours!

  • saralizdavidson

    This post is so SPOT ON. I was literally just having a conversation about this last night. I think we're very much alike – and I can't tell you how refreshing it is to hear that you have the same experiences with your friends and relationships. Most of my friends think I'm nuts – and to me it's crazy that they don't operate on the same wave length as I do – so this helps put things into a little different perspective. Unfortunately I haven't met many people here in Omaha who are just like you and I, so it's nice to connect with others (like you) who make me feel like it's normal. Thanks for the great post!

  • andreavlewis

    I think the power of “being down” is really reflective of an individuals willingness to want to live the life THEY love. God bless those people, they make the world go round!

  • Ashalah

    This post is awesome. Why? Because I always feel like my “down” beaker is always more full than my friends and while I love them all dearly, it's rare I find someone with the same downness. I went to Europe by myself because I couldn't find anyone who wanted to do something like that. (Granted, it was a little crazy of me but still, awesome.) I used to not be this way though but I've realized that the most fun I've had is when I go out of my comfort zone and just do something, just because someone recommended it to me. Now, I'm down for pretty much whatever but I also know my limits and when I have to say no to things.

    Doni asked me if I waned to move to Boulder and I said I was down and it has been amazing so far!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Rebecca You bring up a good point re: where you are in your life and the amount you do. I didn't bring this up (because I've always been “down”) but being single has largely allowed for more actionable to-do's in my life. Finally, making sure every year is better than the last is a great attitude. Love it!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Emily Great points about learning to say no. I definitely say no and it might make it sound like I'm an energizer bunny, but I find so much time for me, relaxing and being by myself too. Largely, I now say yes not around delivering but in social endeavors. I learn what works for me and how much I can fill my beeker with :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ali You're one of my biggest “down” beeker friends ever! We always find ourselves in fun situations, doing something different and subsequently, you and I travel together all the time. I love it. You inspire me!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Sara It really helps ME to also hear someone else like you with the “down” beeker situation :) Luckily, as I've mentioned, friends from college, home and now here are down but there are obviously many who aren't as capable. I have to learn that it's okay and to not be offended. Obviously, there is no normal πŸ˜‰ but it's definitely about finding people who can vibe with your energetic down self and love you for all the craziness that you are. So we should hang out, right? :)

  • Grace Boyle

    @Andrea Beautiful analogy. Thank you for sharing!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ashalah Yes! I'm excited to keep hearing comments because I think people will come out of the wood work, showing their “down” beeker and those that don't, will talk about why. I always know you're down πŸ˜‰ which is why it's so fun to try new things (whether we're in a new place like Boulder or not). Keep doing what you do, girl!

  • Stacy

    Oh yeah, I do my best to be open and accept invitations or try new things. You never know who your meet or the greatness opportunities can bring! Always good to try. :)

  • saralizdavidson

    Yes… immediately, please. :)

  • Elisa Doucette

    Yeah, I'm a 250mL person. I'm the exact definition of an introverted person. Not necessarily shy, but introverted. In other words I NEED lots of downtime to recharge. Throw in the fact that I have fibromyalgia, and I'm just a ball of fun. If I'm out and about with strangers one night I NEED to spend the next day doing next to nothing, or within a few days time I am sore and exhausted and cranky and sick. My friends, god love 'em, are mostly 500mL people. They are ALWAYS out doing stuff, meeting up, having get togethers, etc. And I just can't do it.

    It isn't too busy (which I just think is one of the lamest excuses ever for people who just can't say “no”,) it isn't not adoring my friends, it isn't not wanting to do it. It is knowing that I will absolutely collapse if I don't have down time. Not “down” time but down time.

    And I've lost friends over it. I've had friends get angry, or accuse me of not putting enough into the friendship. It happens more than I like to admit.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Stacy You're so right! It is always good to try new things, I can think of very few negatives things that would come of it. Thanks for stopping by, Stacy.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Elisa I really appreciate your story and this is exactly why I wrote this post. We're all different and if my friends aren't as capable of trying something new, going out (whatever it may be) on the flip side, I have learned to recognize why/how.

    I'm sorry to hear you've lost friends over this. I think that's unfair. Being on the other side, I have felt hurt (as I mentioned in the post) but the beeker analogy really helps me. I remember who they are as a friend to me and that just because they didn't take that weekend trip with me, doesn't mean they don't love or that I don't love them. I say, keep being you. You know yourself well, it's important. Thank you!

  • rubyku

    I am not sure if I'd use the word “capable”, as it sounds a little demeaning. I know that's not what you meant, as you have stated that it's really different types of personalities. What good will it do to the world if EVERYONE was like us (over-energized who are always on the go doing something)? I know it's an amazing feeling to be hanging out with people that are always down for trying new thing etc, but I think it's also really valuable to have friends who are calmer in nature and be able to offer new and different perspectives from time to time. Thanks for sharing!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ruby As you saw, I was talking about how a true friend doesn't constitute what you do, but rather who they are as person. That's why I wrote the post. We're all different, even similar people really aren't because humans are so intricate, detailed and filled with depth.

    But capable isn't meant to be demeaning and no offense was meant. I have friends, who say, “I just don't feel up to it.” That's about capability of saying yes versus saying no. There's nothing wrong with that. Furthermore, I never spoke about me being over-energized, I spoke about me being involved in many (serious) projects, taking trips, meeting new people and trying new things. I am on the go, but many nights are like tonight, where I sit at home, relax and do nothing…calmly.

    I also wanted to verbalize this because although we don't want EVERYONE to be the same I talked about inviting friends to try something new and continually, they won't.

    No matter the person's personality, each person will offer a different perspective. And you're right, of course it's valuable to have friends who are able to offer new and different perspectives…but everyone does, social or not. It can hurt when you feel like you give a lot and others in return, aren't able to give as much (the beeker analogy, Sharalyn's post).

    There really are both sides of the fence and my bottom line wasn't a right or wrong, but rather, speaking from where I am and learning to work together. It felt like a great realization that I could finally write about. I was so impressed with the comments hearing people explain both sides and their experiences.

    I just wanted to ensure the point was clarified. Thanks for sharing your ideas! :)

  • rubyku

    I wasn't expecting such long response! I wasn't really disagreeing with you – perhaps just a choice of word. But points clarified and I can relate to that hurt feeling you brought up. I used to ask myself, “what does it mean to really care about someone?” Because at times it really did feel my friends who aren't as “down” for things didn't seem to care as much. But I know that's not the case and have also been trying to, as you've put it, learning to work together. Your post definitely gave me new insight. Thanks Grace.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ruby You brought up some great points and ideas, so the response started flowing from me πŸ˜‰ Thanks for sharing and continuing the conversation, Ruby!

  • ryanstephens

    I LOVE my friends that are always “down.” It's awesome to know that no matter when you call so and so, he or she will be up for doing whatever. I'm NOT one of these people. Once upon a time I didn't want people to get upset with me so I'd be like “yeah, I'm going,” to not disappoint, but inevitably no-show. Now, I'm honest in that “I love you, but I'm not going out tonight,” is a more typical response.

    The thing is… I always have a blast when I'm “down,” but I'm also someone with a very regimented routine and it sometimes makes me uncomfortable to step outside that routine (especially if plans change). I don't like a lot of moving parts (i.e. big groups that can't decide on a restaurant or which bar to attend first). But hey, that's me — and I still love my friends that are always “down.”

  • jennyblake

    Ryan pretty much took the words right out of my mouth! I SOOO admire and appreciate my friends who are always “down”, but as a self-professed grandma, I've stayed home on more Friday nights than I care to admit. I'm also honest in the “I love you but I'm not going out” – and will at least try to suggest an alternative (“but maybe brunch tomorrow?”).

    As Elisa said, I'm someone who needs a lot of time to recharge (both mentally and physically) – but LOVE those who are down for anything. It seems like such a great way to live life and meet new people. So Grace, go on with your bad self! πŸ˜€

  • floreta

    yep! i'd like to think i'm down!

    living in a foreign yet familiar country with my family, reconnecting with my roots? experiential travel to india and volunteering at a slum school? and so much more to come!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Floreta Nice! I like ALL of it :) Isn't it fun being down? It seems people misunderstand it for doing things all the time, when I think of it as trying new thing with selectivity. Obviously, I do things that invoke risk and create new experiences!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ryan I like hearing your side of the story especially when you talk about routine and getting out of a routine that make you uncomfortable. It helps me see where some of my friends may feel the same way. Thanks for sharing!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Jenny Well, honesty, is always the best policy (in my opinion). When my friends say they don't want to do _______, at least they're honest. Sometimes people will say “Maybe,” “yes” or just not reply and all three are really difficult because you feel like they never follow through. By simply saying no, at least we know where we both stand and want to live. I really respect that.

  • benjamintwilcox

    This is a post that I can definitely relate to. I sometimes find myself coming home from doing one thing to head right back out the door to do something else. This is also why, even though I love dogs, I can't bear to adopt one because I am never home. So, I would say that I have more of a down bucket than beaker. :)

    When I was in college, I was that guy walking down the hall convincing everyone to see a midnight movie when they were studying on Friday night. I used to pride myself on my ability to pry people from their homework in order to do something fun. But kind of like you are saying in this post, I found that not everyone appreciated my 'distraction' as much as I thought. I was able to distinguish those who were always up for a random adventure and those who operated on a more rigid schedule (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    Lately, I have started doing less since I am in a new area where I don't know as many people. I suspect that will change once I get to know some more people who are 'down'.

    Great post Grace!

    P.S. Did anyone else think of the Ice Cube song “Down For Whatever” when reading this post? No? Just me?

  • adrienneh

    It can be frusterating when people don't have as ambitious a mind or character as yourself, it's just so hard to understand why they don't put in more effort or say yes when they can. I have trouble with that myself. But I also know that I have my own drawbacks, things that my friends see lacking in me that I may not even be aware of unless they point it out. Basically, I agree with you – we're all different and we have to adjust our expectations on a person-to-person basis.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Ben I love hearing about you being so 'down' :) This has been so interesting for me as people comment and my offline friends comment about this (who have known me and this whole down thing for years) because it's really about being you and being me. I think the flexibility is a great piece to learning to work with different people.

    Also, no, I didn't think of the Ice Cube song! Ha you're so funny, I'm glad you did though now!

  • Grace Boyle

    @Adreienneh Of course, we all have our drawbacks (regardless if we're 'down' or not). Learning to work with different people, understand personalities and also finding what works for you can be challenging but is an ultimate goal, for sure. Thank you for sharing!

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  • doniree

    You're inspiring, that's what you are.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Doni <3 you xoxo

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  • VictoriaPhD

    Up with people who are down.
    BTW, in the scientific world, it's “beaker.”
    Beeker is the Muppet.

  • Grace Boyle

    @Victoria Thanks for the heads up, my friend pointed this out to me and I never had a chance to go back and change it. Duly noted :)

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  • Anonymous

    Love this post! I nodded all the way through while reading it.

    I’m definitely down, and it’s caused problems with friends who aren’t. I was actually engaged to someone who was a great guy, but I decided wasn’t for me. I couldn’t put my finger exactly on why – I always wanted to try new things and DO things, while he wanted to spend every evening watching TV – but this beaker analogy is spot-on.

    I’m loving your work, Grace, and so glad I discovered you via #reverb10!

  • Grace Boyle

    Aw, thank you so much. So happy to meet via Reverb, welcome and hello!

    It’s an interesting “problem” to have and I finally realized our differences that we all have different capacities. It was a big hump I had to overcome. Thanks for sharing your story too.

    Nice to “meet” come back anytime xo

  • Angela C.

    I am a little of both and I tend to befriend people who are both. As an introvert I am not down as much as some people but I definitely love people and have a pretty large capacity to DO! :)