Happy Sunday!

This may be one of my favorite Q&As since Sown began, you guys. I read the book "This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live" in the fall during one of my many moves for internships last year, and it became my Bible for, well, loving where you live. It's easier than it sounds, thanks to expert community-appreciator Melody Warnick who spent much of her adult life moving around and then decided to actually put down roots in Blacksburg, VA. And lots of times, it's worth it.

Here's her theory: "Cities don’t make us happy. We make ourselves happy in our cities.... Contentment comes from being passionate about where you live, no matter what." A few weeks ago, I was talking with my boyfriend's roommate about the effort it takes to get to know a place when you know you're probably moving on in a few years anyway. (Long distance relationships, grad school, closer to family, etc.) Don't get me wrong, it's hard! But the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. You're HERE, NOW. Why not embrace the time that you have in the place where you live? And now, that roommate and I just celebrated St. Patrick's Day at a local brewery — without the boyfriend even in town!

On the flip side, if you're planning on being around forever (a loyal stayer, in Melody's words), why not get to know your home better? One of my previous roommates owned the house we lived in and had grown up in the area. But when I mentioned I was going to volunteer at a neighborhood parade a few blocks away (spoiler alert, it didn't happen because I slept in 😬), she had no idea it existed. Melody's book, which I highly recommend, and her Q&A here can help with that.

Thanks for your patience without a newsletter last week as I was on a work trip, and I hope you all have been feeling lucky with the friendships this weekend. 🍀 If not — why? Let's brainstorm this together!

How to love where you live

How did you prepare for making friends in all your moves? There are obviously a lot of logistics in moving, but was building social relationships something that you considered?

I thought a TON about social relationships before each move. It’s the scariest part of landing somewhere new. But fretting in advance doesn’t help, because it’s always a little bit of a crapshoot, right? Will my next-door neighbor happen to be a kindred spirit? Or not? I’m pathologically introverted, so I find that my baseline need for friendship is met if I’m in a book club. That was always my goal. If I could find a good book club, I’d pretty much be set. My other secret weapon that I didn’t really talk about in the book is belonging to a church. For me, it’s this insta-home where people immediately ask you to dinner and have to be nice. LOL. Even if you’re not religious, the idea is to find yourself a community within the larger city—which can come from work, school, hobbies (like knitting circles), sports (like rugby teams), common friends, volunteer work, even technology (thank you, Meetups). I actually think the hardest part is not meeting people but getting the second and third date. I still struggle with that. 

Did you overcome the mindset of temporariness — "I'll only be here for this long, so why bother"? 
I’ve done it both ways, so I can testify that writing off a place because it’s temporary is like saying, “Eh, it doesn’t matter if I’m happy for the next 6 months,” or year or whatever. That’s a really long time to be miserable! Depending on your circumstances, you might *always* feel like you’re temporary. Imagine if you’re in the military and you have zero control over where you live or for how long.

I think knowing you’re temporary in a place is actually a good argument for throwing yourself into it even harder and faster. I had friends in Iowa who were on an internship and knew they’d only be there nine months, but they invited people over, found places to volunteer, and really invested emotionally in our town. And the funny thing is they loved it so much that a few years later, they moved back.

Can you explain the concept of the "third place" (beyond work and home)?

The idea of a “third place” is that it’s sort of your non-work, non-home hangout spot. They’re probably way more common on TV shows then they are in real life, like the bar on Cheers where everyone shouts your name when you walk in the door, or Central Perk on Friends. One restaurant I wrote about in “This Is Where You Belong” had such a loyal clientele of old people who came absolutely every day that when someone didn’t show up, the owners or waiters would call to find out why. Probably the more common version is, “There's a coffee shop where I take my laptop most days, and now the barista knows my order and I’m starting to say hi to the other people who are always there when I am.” Third places are neutral gathering places, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re tight friends with the other people there. More like you have loose ties that help you feel less lonely and more known, even if you don’t talk to anyone. 

As you grew more familiar with your new hometown, how did your relationships with the people around you change?

Building social relationships where you live, even with the people who are sort of on the periphery of your life, is a huge part of place attachment. Once I realized how much evidence there was to show that it mattered, I did stuff like take treats to neighbors or have a conversation with the person at the local store. I’m not naturally good at it the way some people are, but I try to remember how we’re all creating the experience of our community everyday. I’ve become one of those people who smile and say hi on the walking trail.

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 🏠

"Relationships with people are what make you feel most at home." - Melody Warnick

In writing her book, Melody experimented with different ways of growing closer to her new home: becoming a regular at a restaurant, volunteering at a community staple, participating in local traditions, even just saying hi to passerby. 

What's your third place? What would you write in a love letter to your community? How can you love where you live?
Write back and let me know how it goes! And add these to your friendship toolkit:

Grow the Sow.

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