Maintaining a healthy and fulfilling social life in the age of “I’ll text you!” is difficult to say the least. You might meet up with a friend now and then and go to group dinners every once in a while, but, if you’re like me, you don't have a close-knit friend group. If you can say you have such a group, you probably don’t convene with them as often as you would like.
Placing a relentless focus on career advancement, personal improvement, and money (as folks in my age group are wont to do) makes it easy to lose sight of friendships. Constant relocation (which I am guilty of in spades) doesn’t help. It can make consistent visits with a friend group all but impossible. But once you have a career that’s buzzing along and your habits pretty well established, you realize they're not enough. If there’s one thing I learned while I was in Denmark, it’s that a truly fulfilling life calls for strong social ties.
As I write this, I am back in Palo Alto eavesdropping on a group of roughly 10 senior citizens discussing the Kavanaugh hearings. Each is brining a piece of the story to the table along with an opinion or two, and the power of their shared knowledge is infectious. You can almost see the endorphins flowing between them.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this group convene, and every weekend I catch them I wish I had a similar group with which to process the week’s events. Yet I don’t do anything to realize that wish even though I desperately want to identify as someone who has a regular group of friends with whom I gather a la the “Sex in the City”, “Big Bang Theory”, or “Friends” crews (except with racial diversity). Also, my friends are badasses. I mean, they’re really, really neat. Any logical person would gather them together daily, not to mention for weekend brunches.
So, why don’t I do this? First, I assume my friends have better things to do with their time (being a badass takes up a lot of time). Second, many of my friends live quite far away up in San Francisco, and I don’t like going to the city because it smells like human waste, it’s cold in the summer, and the train takes an hour one way. #innovation
Finally, I worry that I am not a strong enough draw — that my friends will always have something better to do than hold a regular kaffeklatch with l’il old me. I also love my routine, which I’ve written about before.
You are probably thinking what I am thinking right now: “All of these are excuses, and they are simultaneously ridiculous and pathetic.”
This is where the delta between who we are and who we want to be rests. It sits firmly in the excuses and day-to-day choices we make, such as the choice not to ask my friends out for a regular group brunch on the weekend to discuss the week’s events (and maybe stir up a bit of good, world-improving trouble). Every weekend I choose not to do this is a weekend I am falling short of being the woman I want to be -- one who is richly-informed, socially active, and able to dive quickly into enriching, creative collaborations.
A while ago, I made a schedule of dates to go to the city. I quickly abandoned the plan, since I’d get invites on days I didn’t plan to go, making a trip on dates I planned overly burdensome. So, I ended up spending more weekends at home alone pounding through my routine and feeling remarkably productive and proud of myself.
But I’ve been keenly aware that I was missing something, and lately -- so deep has been my hunger for more robust and regular social interaction -- I have been dreaming (yes, literally dreaming) about hosting convenings and gatherings with friends.
The best way to start any new project is to start small. So, I’m going to invite three people to brunch next weekend at my local spot. I’ll throw out some topics and then ask the next person to invite the same people and a few of their friends to the next one. And so on until, if all goes according to plan, there’s a regular convening going up and down Silicon Valley.
This is an experiment, and I am perfectly prepared for it to join the trash heap of my past attempts to host regular gatherings. But failure is learning, so I’ll be applying these lessons from those failures:
- Start small. I tend to go big and try to get everyone involved in a convening at once. I really only need two or three people. So, I’ll start there.
- Stay on top of it. I tend to think acts of convening are “set it and forget it” affairs. They are not.
- Don’t lean into digital. Use it only as much as you need to convey the basics: where you’ll meet, when you’ll meet, and who else is invited. Don’t pretend a group chat will substitute for time spent face-to-face
- Let people take it where they want it to go. Your convening is not about you. It’s about who you invite and what you can all collectively learn together.
- Go where the people are. As much as I hate San Francisco, it’s where my friends live, so I need to make my peace with going there more often. Besides, there are plenty of lovely brunch places near the Fourth and King Caltrain stop. Also, I need to do a better job of communicating to my friends that it’s so warm and lovely down South. :)
- Make it a priority. It’s easy to find other things to do, but it’s important to remember they’re not as critical or nearly as creative as what you can do with friends.
So, wish me luck, and I hope this inspires you to launch your own convenings if you haven’t already.