0414 – hypothetical dinner parties

I was having a text conversation with a friend that I sometimes talk to from time to time– one of those people that I don’t actually meet personally very much, and is more of an acquaintance or friend-of-friend, yet somebody I’m very comfortable talking to perhaps precisely because we’re not super close in ‘real life’. We were talking about what it’s like to date, or make new friends, and how sometimes we can be caught in awkward situations with people we can’t really talk to. I wondered about how often we might have been in situations where we were the ignorant person that somebody else felt awkward around. I can’t think of any cases off the top of my head, but maybe that’s how it works. If you can perceive it, you can do something to mitigate it.

Anyway, I then found myself saying– what I really want is to be able to have a dinner party at 80 years old with a group of lovely people. Smart, thoughtful compassionate people who I really care about and vice versa, people I’d have spent 50-60 years getting to know by then. The number is arbitrary, but the thought is pretty lovely to hold in my mind. It would be a reasonable indicator of a life well lived– to be surrounded by people you respect and admire, who respect and admire you in return, and to all be a part of a wonderful support network of sorts.

Now that’s a desired end-state I can get behind, and I think it’s fair to assume that that in particular won’t change very much. (I find myself thinking now of something a friend once wrote about how his dream was to live on an island with all his close friends, and just have a good time everyday. I think this is a pretty similar thing.)

So how does that happen? How does one work towards such a dinner party? There’s all the details about hosting and preparing food and drink and stuff like that, but that’s the relatively easy part. The hard part is identifying people that you’d want to spend such time with, and building relationships with them. And I guess you’d want to start small, rather than hope that someday you magically have the ability to throw great parties. It starts with small gatherings. I think it starts with 1-1 coffee dates. And I have had a few good coffee dates with a bunch of people, but I’ve never been super deliberate about it. But as I said to another person that I had such a coffee date with (actually we both went to McDonald’s for dinner, which was good enough for us)– this is it, this is life! This isn’t a rehearsal, everything is happening here and now and then we’re gone. So whatever we think needs to happen, we need to make it happen, and now. It won’t happen by itself, and it won’t happen tomorrow. If we’re not actively working on building and sustaining relationships, then they’re decaying and withering away. And it gets harder and harder the older you get. So this is something worth prioritizing.

And it’s worth prioritizing for its own sake. Too often I find myself thinking I need to have some sort of reason, some sort of agenda, some sort of plan. Like I need to construct mastermind groups and visionary plans and whatnot. But I realize now that all of that is kind of premature. As I wrote in Letter To A Young Songwriter, when we’re starting out we don’t even know what “good” is, so there’s no point trying to write a good song. Rather we should just write as many songs as we can, and evolve our idea of what “good” is over time. Along the way we’ll get new information and new perspective and context that will inform our thinking.

Applying that reasoning to dinner parties and relationships with people, you can’t plan too much in advance. As I was telling the first friend, I think the optimal solution to dating or even friendship is to meet as many people as possible in a non-commital, non-directed way, and just explore and see what happens. See what you learn. Find out what you like, what you dislike. The problem with that strategy by itself is that you may end up with a lot of frustrating outcomes, a lot of bad hands. So you have to be able to spot bad hands early and fold them early. You have to have some sort of selection criteria for deciding who you hang out with, who you befriend. And I think if I’m honest with myself, I already do have those things. And there are peopl I want to meet that I haven’t met yet. I should add those people to my Trello list and make sure that I meet one every week.

Easier said than done. Scheduling is a slow process, and I think everybody would _like_ to meet others for lunch or dinner or drinks and so on, but actually doing it requires effort and energy that a lot of people don’t always have, and sometimes find at the last minute that they don’t quite have enough of. How do we deal with that problem? We probably need some sort of motivation. A promise to discuss something of importance to both people. A desire to think through something, some sort of resolution. Of course ideally the pleasure of conversation should be its own reward, and I think that can be the case for people that you’ve had really pleasant, easygoing good times with, but for people you haven’t really met yet, you probably need some sort of incentive. At least that seems to be the case with me.

So… I guess this vomit is just another statement of intent. Which is good to have, but doesn’t go very far by itself. I’m creating tasks for myself in Trello to make sure I reach out to people for coffee. I guess I’ll write future vomits about how this plays out.

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