Laundry-folding, for me, largely consists of making neat cloth parcels emblazoned with the logo of a project (often FOSS, these days) and shuffling them into my drawer. I have shirts from Fedora, Sugar Labs, Red Hat, OLPC... amusing shirts given to me by friends, in-joke shirts from college, even one with a typical junior-year schedule week printed on it. In a drawer in my parents' house are older ones; high school plays, middle school ASL lunch group. (And before that I was still-growing enough that no shirts from that era would fit me now.)
And as I fold them up, still slightly warm from the dryer, something hits me: Projects go. People stay.
But that's not really how I spend my time, is it?
I spend most of my waking hours being functional on projects. All the things I sink so much time, sweat, work, tears, and soul into... they're things. 6 months later, I'm working on other things. I squint at the class schedule printed on my shirt and go oh yeah, I did that, and the memory is foggy and distant. But the friends I've made are still there, and we hang out and chat about things completely unrelated to the newspaper we used to write for, the labs we pulled allnighters on together, the marathon drives to strange cities for unconferences we'd heard about. These relationships are the real things I gain from all my projects, all my work. These people keep me going.
And yet I need the work to make and keep the friendships. I'm shy. Cool people intimidate me, because... why would they want to talk with me? (I know my brain isn't always rational.) I make my friends through school, through work, though projects. Work gives me a reason to be there, a reason (functional!) to talk with those around me, a purpose for existing that I know isn't wasting anyone's time. (I constantly feel like I need to make up, in some way, for my presence - as if tolerating me imposed a burden onto others.) It's how I reconnect, instinctively - hey, want to work on something? Even if the "something" is cooking a dinner together, shared making is the way I most comfortably connect with people. It's only after many, many months of shared labor that I can get together and sit down just for the purpose of having a quiet conversation. And by that time, we've shared many quiet conversations in the pauses between spurts of work, so I know what to talk about, what to expect.
And so I spend my time on work, so that I can have these connections. And I know the connections have higher priority. Still, I struggle to clear time to actually prioritize my friends and family, to be proactive about writing letters, making phone calls, taking the onus of getting in touch with them without any events, emergencies, or asking on their part. I'm still a reactive friend. I've been trying to change that lately. If you're reading this and we haven't chatted for a while, drop me a ping and we'll figure something out.