Last Friday I went to a writer’s meetup, and I think I found my social group. I didn’t really know what I expected coming in. The only social group that I had in D.C. were my old coworkers from my previous company (who only grew close because of the outlying horribleness of our boss), and the 2 Duke friends working a few buildings down. I had talked to one of my old coworkers / mentor, about this conundrum, which presented an emotional void leaving me unable to respond to the stresses at work (another problem in and of itself). He said while we could be willing to get beers and talk about old times, it’d be hard to get everybody together on a regular basis doing regular events. The better way would be to find a join a group of people with similar interests and find friends there.
So I went back on Meetup, removed all the superficial meetups from my signups (“DATING IN YOUR 20s/30s??”), all the meetups that didn’t work out, and browsed some more. One meetup looked interesting. It’s a writing group, with a waitlist, hosted at somebody’s house on a Friday night. Intriguing. D.C. is known as a town of people who come and go (likely because a lot of people work in government), so this is the first D.C. meetup I’ve signed up for where somebody has been so emotionally open. The waitlist helped because by limiting the size, the host cared about the quality rather than the quantity of the meetup. And it’s writing (and likely not technical writing), so I don’t have to feel inadequate about my programming abilities and I can let my guard down a little.
I went after work. It was a quiet, cool fall evening. I couldn’t help but smile. It’s Friday. I opened Google Maps and tried to find out where this person’s house was. It was at the tippy-top of this one triangular-shaped block. I head over and end up at the end of the triangle. It’s not there. I swing around one side of the block hoping it’s there. Google Maps is smart, and I find the address on the right side of the block. I go up the stairs and knock on the door, not knowing what to expect.
It’s warm. People are already gathered on the couches, and in the den. Wine and cheese plates are set about. The host comes over. Her name is Ali. She’s extremely nice and invites me to take my backpack off. I do and start mingling.
People are friendly. Super friendly. Old and young, male and female, every ethnic and socioeconomic background. Screenwriters, playwrights, authors and aspiring authors, people came from all over the D.C. metro area to come say hi. It’s amazing. Mind-boggling. In the span of one evening I met:
A doctor of Chinese medicine who is restarting his prose after 15 years of poetry
A informatics analyst at the FDA who is publishing his (third?) book (Hi Mihir!)
A Quaker schoolteacher who loves science fiction
An aspiring technical documentation writer who loves Arthur Miller
A Yale graduate who went to Iceland and is looking for her dream job
Sasha, a poetry writer who publishes on Wattpad about to work a night job with the government
A whistleblower who was stalked by the Russian government every day for years
It was crazy. What’s more crazy and unexpected is that I enjoyed talking with pretty much everybody. Just the release of the day-by-day, monotonous eat-code-sleep life I’ve otherwise known for the past two years, and the professional get-it-together life I’ve lived even longer than that, made it enjoyable. I needed this release more than I thought. I think others felt the same way! Long conversations about religion, philosophy, travel, and other topics ensued.
At the end, Sasha read some beautiful, Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul like poetry, and Ali did a comedy bit for us. It was really nice. When we all left, I tried my best to share my appreciation for what Ali had given us: a safe space to commune with strangers to have meaningful connections (for free!!) – a community worth investing time, effort, and emotion in. A friend group to tackle the future with.
Needless to say, I will definitely be coming back.