… where you can be with friends. At bars. With free waffles.
I’m a creature of habit and comfort. I go back to the things I know and am familiar with more often than exploring what’s new. I will rewatch shows such as 30 Rock or Parks and Recreation (or most recently, How I Met Your Mother) over a new show. The familiar backdrop of offices, apartments, coffee shops, or bars combined with characters I’ve come to know far too well allow me to focus on the deeper themes and tiny nuances of the stories upon subsequent repeat viewings. I start to look beyond the face value jokes and conversation to the deeper meanings and messages of what’s being said.
Part of what makes relationships form, grow, and strengthen is presence, particularly when it’s consistent and in person. One common thread in the shows mentioned above is the high volume of time together these characters spend in each others’ lives. Often, the writers use these familiar, quiet, even mundane locations to allow the conversation and the people to be the main focal point of every scene. Frequently, the topics aren’t about their surroundings nor is there any particular purpose in the gathering.
Personal details and inner dialogue about struggles, love interests, and other issues take center stage.
Showing up is 80% of life, so some quote says. Over the holidays, I had more “people time” on my schedule than I’ve recently been accustomed to. I very much enjoyed the time I spent with friends and family who I haven’t seen much recently. Activities like lunches, walking around markets, lingering at a table over a glass of bourbon or sangria, or aimlessly perusing a bookstore finding many books you want to buy and discussing the deeper meanings of why certain titles appeal to you are all fun.
But those two weeks reminded me of a couple of things:
1) Too many back to back to back hangouts still wear me down
2) I miss the “unstructured hang.”
No Agenda Here
There is this appeal and freedom in the scenes in sitcoms and other shows where everyone comes together at this unsustainable frequency at coffee shops and bars to meet up and just hang out, often with no obvious agenda. Nothing is rushed. Topics ebb and flow at the whim of the participants. There isn’t any anxiousness to stuff that hour or two with “catch up” conversation you inevitably have with friends and family you don’t see in person often.
As necessary and enjoyable as catch up time is when you don’t see people for extended periods of time, to me it can feel scripted or like we’re always pulling from the same deck of conversation topic cards. The “choose your topic” card never shows up because you don’t have enough time to finish the game at hand. It’s usually because time has become more limited and we only have limited chunks of time together. Mostly gone are the days of “I have nothing else going on, want to sit on a couch together like slugs?”
Making A Regular Space
When you’re single, live alone, are an introvert, and me, it is easy to go for long stretches of time without seeing people outside of regularly scheduled activities. Simultaneously my very “P” personality trait (of the INFP) strongly resonates with the idea of not keeping a tight schedule for everything, including hangout time. It’s part of why I thrive in the after party and the low-pressure environment it provides.
I am longing again for this space in my life where I can be with friends, but without any particular reason for being together. The important thing is simply to be in the same place at the same time. Everyone can do their own thing: read a book, write a blog or reply to an email, edit photos, catch up on work, or just waste time on social media. The opportunity for real life interaction is right there for the taking as soon as you’re ready and wanting it. The silent presence of others provides comfort and connection. Conversations can spark in real time about your book or an article your friend finds online. Maybe you want to bounce an idea off others in the moment about what you’re writing or simply thinking about.
This sort of regular venue to run into people has been missing from my life for quite some time. Many of us will nostalgically think about college or a regular Thursday night meet up or seeing your friends having lunch in the cafeteria on Wednesdays while they study. A few friends and I found something like this a few years ago over a cheap drink night on Thursdays. The locale was low key, the food was good, and the drinks were cheap. But most importantly, it became our default place to be Thursday nights. During those months, we had fun and laughed often. Sometimes more real life conversations over a “whiginger” (whiskey & ginger ale) would dominate our time. We even became good friends with the owner who would sit with us once in a while.
I need and want to be more intentional about doing something like that again. It’s become far too easy to be reclusive and shut off from the world while simultaneously feel too connected or “too busy” to ever see people in person. I want to be more present.
What I’m proposing is setting aside a regular time and place, say 1st Monday of the month, to be for whatever. Come, hang, read that book, write that blog, catch up on email, but do it together in person. Sometimes conversations will flow; sometimes it will be a quiet night of reading books together. But nothing has to be forced. Simply being together in one place provides that backdrop for relationships to grow and life to happen unscripted.
If you read this and are interested in participating (and by that, I mean literally just showing up and being you), shoot me a message, and we’ll talk.