It’s not uncommon for people to pick a theme or a word for the new year. I’ve been seeing a few over the past few days as we enter 2023.
It’s not something I’ve ever done. I tend not to do the New Year’s resolution thing. To quote a friend: “I long ago realized I didn’t have to wait for an arbitrary date to make changes in my life”.
However, this year a few things have come together in a moment of serendipity that’s making me think a theme might be in order.
I realized the last few years of pandemic-induced isolation have been wearing on me.
This is no surprise.
It’s manifested in several ways, but one of the most surprising is that I realize I miss seeing people. I’ve not been seeing people in person or interacting with people nearly as much as before. I suspect it’s negatively affecting my mental health.
I know some will react by saying, “well, of course, that’s obvious!”
It wasn’t for me.
Remember, at the beginning of the pandemic introverts such as myself joked that we’d been preparing for the inevitable isolation all our lives. Being alone (or at least alone more often) was our natural, more comfortable state. Now, after close to three years of off again on again isolation, acknowledging that as being a loss is both surprising and noteworthy.
At the same time, some of the online social groups I participate in haven’t been as helpful as I’d hoped.
Some have been outright languishing, others simply not living up to their promise for reasons unknown. While online community isn’t the same as in-person, it can still be surprisingly powerful when it works.
I was reminded of this by two things. The first was listening to the audiobook of Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, where community, not technology, was described as one of the most significant aspects of the growth of the internet we know it today.
The second was picking up Steven Pressfield’s latest book, Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be, the first section of which talks specifically about physical proximity, human interaction, and serendipity being crucial to success. While he points out that Zoom doesn’t cut it (the first part is literally about moving yourself to the city/country/location most appropriate for your desired endeavor), but to me that doesn’t mean the other aspects aren’t valuable if you can make them happen, even online. Heck, I’ve experienced it myself.
So, what to do?
I guess my word this year is “connection“.
Online, and off, connecting in person, in email, in forums, in … whatever … with others.
For community. For support. For entertainment. For ideas. For serendipity.
It means making more of an effort — pandemic willing — to get out and be with people physically.
It means making more of an effort to connect, share, and interact at a deeper level with people online — both the communities in which I already participate, as well as looking for new opportunities that match my style, my goals, and my needs.
I miss people.
Now there’s something I would never have predicted myself saying.