Marching on...

My attempted motto for the year (so far) has been connections, not content. I will frequently find myself popping in a podcast, zoning out with Netflix and knitting, or scrolling through Instagram but not really absorbing anything to just have some kind of content in my head. Some Netflix or podcast binges are informative, but mostly this habit fills up time but not much else — not exactly fulfilling.

And as I'm now in the fifth long-distance round of a 4.5-year relationship, I'm trying to convince myself to not zone out with content. Instead, I'm making an effort to lean on the other connections that I have in this new place I've lived in for the past year and a half. So I embraced my full millennial and bought an $18 plant.
Okay, this is not Planty, but its very distant from the Missouri Botanical Gardens earlier this winter. Planty will be my new co-byliner on future editions of this newsletter.

When we knew the day that Boyfriend was getting on the 5:45 a.m. flight and moving for his new job, I decided I was going to treat myself by getting a plant that afternoon to have something to look forward to. (This is the first plant I'm going to keep alive for a decent period of time — I hope.) In case you can't tell, I'm a planner and planning for the unexpected soothes me. So I also decided to prepare by making a list of things I can do with other people, and also a list of people I can do them with. It's a different kind of content — one that centralizes the connections, away from my phone and my laptop and my Internet life. 

A month or so after I officially moved to Boston, my new roommates were planning a party and asked who I wanted to add to their 20+ person invitation list. I thought and thought and thought and came up with .... my boyfriend. Thrilling. About six months after that, I hosted a (tiny) dinner party with the five random people I had gotten to know in Boston at that point, including my boyfriend's roommate, someone I met in a rock climbing class, and the person who I had replaced in the apartment. About six months after that, I decided to host a holiday cookie party and invited my own list of 20 people I've actually been able to get to know in that first year. And that guest list, surprise, transferred well to my list of people I could hang out with.

The cookie party may have had an ulterior motive once we knew Boyfriend was moving, and once I knew I would have a lot more free time in the next few years (Boyfriend is also going to grad school, likely not in Boston). The move was expected, but I tried to plan for the unexpected of who I'd hang out with and how I'd handle a couple of years of long distance — but also I got to eat a lot of cookies.

in a past issue here, Hanna talked about how she approached the problem of making friends in adulthood by getting comfortable with being alone. I think that's definitely part of it — we can't expect people to have endless time to spend with us, just like we don't have to spend with them — but it shouldn't necessarily become our norm, even if millennial loneliness feels standard. Relationships with friends are scientifically proven to be central to our happiness. As someone who looks at a computer screen in a quiet office all today, Spotify is not my friend all evening long too. I'm trying to take steps to make sure connections exist — and that I know how to use them — and Planty, and my list of friends to hang out with (and the answer to the inevitable "So what do you want to do?") are two steps.

Here's the corny segment for this issue: Somehow I found myself reading a Elle profile on Jennifer Aniston yesterday morning discussing why people keep using marriage and parenthood as metrics for a woman's success, especially hers. But she measures success through all her relationships — especially, vitally, her friendships. 

Hahn describes Aniston as their friend group’s “social glue.” “When she’s not in town, we almost don’t know what to do with ourselves,” she says. When I tell Aniston about this later, she laughs. “They don’t know what to do. They don’t know where to go. They don’t know how to eat. They don’t know how to socialize,” Aniston says. It’s been this way since they were in their twenties. “My house was always like the clubhouse. I love entertaining. I always have food. I think I probably got that from my mom, who always had her girlfriends over. I picked it up from my childhood—just always hearing girls in the house and learning how to make a good cheese board.”

Aniston says of her friends, “We always joke that we raised each other, we mothered each other, we sistered each other, we’ve been kids to each other.” She made her own family her own way. 

... We go out on the terrace, and she shows me the pool below. “This is where, every Sunday, we do ‘Sunday Fundays,’ as we call it, where [my friends’] kids come and we huddle around down there and they jump around in the pool.”

Not everyone has a terrace overlooking a pool or even a cheeseboard (I know I don't), but the growth and simultaneous deepening of her connections is a priority. We plan and overplan and underplan and try to fill our time with everything and nothing, but in the end it's pretty simple. Scrolling on a phone or staring through Netflix does not make us as happy as a walk or lunch with a friend. Content =/= connections (and that's coming from me who used Aniston + her Friends buddies as a content pacifier for most of junior year of high school). 

P.S. In case you're wondering, this attempted step back from content also translates to a monthly newsletter, instead of biweekly, while I try to spin up some things that emphasize our connections. (Thank you, volunteer guinea pigs! I will be in touch with you soon!)
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🧠 Brain juice:

  • Here's a fun tool to find hobbies (and thus friends) that encourage stepping away from the screen.
  • 💯I LOVE THIS ACCOUNTABILITY PLAN: Self-care circles are the new book clubs
  • The Atlantic started a lovely series all about connections, called The Friendship Files, and it is exactly my kind of content (not to be a hypocrite but it is relevant!): 
    • "Friendship’s strength—and its weakness—is that friends choose one another. And with no shared cultural script for how a friendship should progress, like the one that exists for romantic relationships, friends have to figure it out for themselves."
    • "Friendships are rarely considered to be people’s primary relationships—that honor falls to family, or romantic partners. Those are the relationships that get the most research, and most of the epic storytelling. The Friendship Files is a corrective to that, an invitation to read about the internal dynamics of a wide range of friendships, and a reminder that these relationships, while not defined by blood or law, shape and anchor our lives too."
  • Professional success/ambition =/= happiness, via The New York Times.
  • This stayed in my to-listen queue for too long: Taylor Lorenz, the Gen Z media whisperer who exhausts and delights me with her coverage of how teens are using social media and what it means to their lives, explained some of her work in this podcast. What stuck out to me is how teens are actually making friends through Instagram comments and other social media interactions. Using Instagram for not just content, you say? Hmm...

Go sow: Challenge for the week. 

We just missed National Unplugging Day on Friday, but its site has resources that you can use all year long to opt for life away from the screen. Inspiration: The New York Times' tech reporter (so he is job is basically to be on Twitter all day, oof) used rubber bands and pottery classes to break up with his smartphone over-reliance.

See if you can spend an hour, an afternoon, a day doing something you love (with someone you like) that doesn't involve a screen!

Grow the Sow.

Zoom into the full map here.

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