Sometimes, I like to spend way too much time on something. In years past, I was not as skilled at directing this time and attention toward something constructive and positive. I’d spend hours scrolling through social media, trying to get my spoons perfectly clean (OCD’s a bitch), or getting everything perfect on a theaterical set I was building (instead of getting it good enough for something that was going to stay up for three weeks and then get tossed in a dumpster). Now, I’m a little better at directing my time. I direct this level of focus towards putting puzzles together, deep-cleaning my apartment, and various personal projects. Which isn’t to say that I can channel my compulsions into something useful, but that maybe I’ve gotten better at handling my mental health in a way that leads toward more positive coping mechanism than obsessing over whether or not my most-used utensil is bacteria free and not going to kill me by introducing rat posion/foreign bacteria/????DANGER???? into my system.
After a brief, jovial conversation at work, during which I politely asked a coworker to fuck off after he criticised my slap-dash wiring methods, I was asked by another coworker what was the most complicated and time-consuming way I’d told someone to fuck off. He was referencing my tendency to commit to elaborate bits and my willingness to spend a lot of time doing something right the first time, but I couldn’t think of any examples. Most of the time, I just tell people to fuck off directly. Ever since that conversation, I’ve been trying to think of any example of a time I spent a lot of time on something like that and I’ve drawn a blank.
Clearly, I don’t mind spending a lot of time on things other people don’t consider important or worth it. I spent hours turning in a paper because it was my degree capstone and I liked my professor a lot. In addition to the standard format copy I submitted just to cover all my bases, I took a cue from a discussion we’d had in in class the week prior and the peculiar way I’d written the title of this 20-page paper. I printed the whole thing out on several long pieces of paper, used my theatrical prop-building skills to turn them all into a properly parchment-looking sheet, and “nailed” (pieces of duct tape with the word “nail” written on them) the result to my professor’s office door the day the paper was due. It was not a cheap trick to pull for a broke college student, given that the only paper that would work for my purposes was some of the heavy-duty art-student paper I had to get specially printed at the print shop on campus.
I did a similar thing to ask a woman out, once. Wrote a short story based on some things we had discussed and some stuff we were learning about in a class we were both taking, and eventually delivered a hand-distressed “ancient myth” I’d discovered. It was fun, took way too long, and was 100% worth it. The relationship didn’t develop much further in that direction, but I enjoyed my time spent in the crafting. I’ve also spent hours wrapping presents in ways that disguised not only what the present was, but what part of the strange result was actually the present (if you twist a shirt tightly enough and then wrap the result in plastic wrap, it actually becomes a rather firm object you can use as the haft of an axe you’ve made out of tape, cardboard, and way too much wrapping paper). I’ve made various weapons, done one of the largely annoying but still fun “box in a box in a box in a box in a box….” style wraps, and even took the time to elaborately write out a certificate as a present, the first letter of each work spelling out where the recipient could actually find their gift.
The through-line of all of this is that I am willing to spend a lot of time doing things I find interesting, that I enjoy, or that I think other people will enjoy. My love of repititive and exacting tasks means I can zone out and never get bored doing something like that, so there’s generally very little reason for me not to do that kind of thing. But I’ve never spent more than a couple minutes on something that might upset someone. I’ve spent time crafting letters to establish boundaries and working out how to express myself in a situation that is emotionally frought, but I’ve never spent more than a couple minutes on something meant as an elaborate form of “fuck off.” I just don’t have the time or the energy for that kind of negativity. I was going to say “bullshit” instead of “negativity,” but I have plenty of time and energy for largely uninteresting stuff others might consider bullshit.
One of the upsides of my childhood is that I quickly learned that being mean to people isn’t worth my time. The more time you spend on telling someone you hate them, the happier they are. Bullies, trolls, and abusers are always happy to see you spend your time on them, regardless of the reason. There’s an old saying that the best revenge is a life well-lived, and while I like the sentiment, I’m not sure I entirely agree. Some people need to be punched, some people need to be told off, and some people need to be chewed out, but I’m not going to spend any more time than I feel is absolutely necessary for my own health and satisfaction (or the health or satisfaction of someone I’m supporting) on someone I don’t care about. Generally speaking, they’re not worth it.
I hope this doesn’t come off as smugly superior. I just think it’s worth thinking about that if you want to spend hours planning an elaborate revenge prank or whatever, it might be a better use of your time to just punch them in the face and move on with your life as best you can. Or just tell them to get fucked and walk away. Or offer to show up as a call-in guest to a small multi-person therapy session to tell them they fucking suck and can go fuck themselves before promptly hanging up. Lots of ways to just do it and be done, you know? Spend your time and energy one something better, life filing your taxes or picking gum out of carpet. At least you’ll have accomplished something lasting when those are tasks are done.