meal with three strangers from atlanta
I'm that age where I'm experiencing a mass exodus of some of my closest friends, leaving me feeling anxious and alone - and compelled to make more friends. I use the term "mass exodus" because that's how another friend described it when he expressed going through a similar situation. After talking to a few people, I am getting the sense that this is just a thing - a period of life that most people go through, so it seems weirdly normal to talk about.
A few conversations recently all ended up veering toward acknowledging how hard it is to make friends in real life. By real life, I mean in the post-college era. A number of us seem to be looking for more social interaction, and for different reasons - just ended a relationship, looking to start a relationship, or just not feeling connected with the people in your life as sometimes time just puts people on diverging paths.
I'm starting to learn that making friends is a lot like using Tinder. It's purely a numbers game, and it's surprisingly hard. I've heard that on Tinder, men have to just swipe right for everyone (meaning saying "yes, I like you") because the conversion rate at each funnel step is really low. Maybe there is something we can learn from this and apply it to non-Tinder social interactions.
But it was one of those situations where it felt silly that I felt lonely and in despair, and then was listening to friends (mostly in different part of the country) expressing exactly what I was feeling with the same hardships and hesitations. Looking for someone to trust. Looking for that chemistry - that spark. So it didn't make sense to me that so many of us were silently "suffering" and also individually feeling the burden of putting yourself out there, which is incredibly intimidating and vulnerable. (I see it as if I were constantly applying to a sorority auditioning for friends.)
So I wanted to try and find these people who are looking to make a connection with new people, and bring them together.
In 2017, a friend and I decided to intentionally increase our right swipes and started "Our Shared Meal" (a spin-off of someone else's "Dinner of Champs", so I cannot take credit). The idea is that we'd have a core group of people (in our case three), and every month we would each invite 1-3 new individuals for a potluck dinner. Ideally this results in a small enough setting to be able to meet friends of friends, but also be able to really engage with them and share stories.
Wanting to clean my apartment, I volunteered to host the first dinner. After confessing that I only knew how to make camping dishes, we decided that our first OUR SHARED MEAL would be "campfire cooking" themed. From the get-go, everyone was really enthusiastic about bringing something or cooking something, and more importantly extremely open to meeting new people. Comfortably sitting on my YETI cooler (we didn't have enough chairs) while eating a braised beef Luci lantern lit dinner, I was happily surrounded by delicious food, full glasses of wine, great friends, and tons of laughter. There was a point where I was laughing so hard my cheeks got stuck.
- Three were from Atlanta
- Two were obsessed with eating raw pasta out of the bag
- Five went to college on the east coast
- Two play string instruments
- Two are currently involved in non-profits
Growing up, I felt uncomfortable when my friends from one social circle met friends from another circle. For some reason I tried really hard to keep everything and everyone separate. Partly because I was worried that they would become better friends with each other than they were with me, but more importantly I was worried that together they would be able to piece together the character I really was.
I'm trying to be more intentional about the things I do, and pay more attention to the needs of those around me. Recently I've been trying to remind others that we are never as alone as we think. Whether it be the feeling of loneliness, or lost sense of purpose or direction - there is someone else out there feeling the exact same thing. Most likely someone very close to you as well. We all have our ups and our downs, and there is someone who would love to listen and support you with what you're going through. You just have to be open and willing to see it.
So I'd like to help make it easier for people to share themselves with others. Be able to rely on each other. Create a safe environment so that we can build relationships and listen amongst strangers. Help others continue to connect, and provide a "space" so that everyone to get a chance to tell his/her story.
Stay hungry. Stay open. Stay inspired.