Neighborhoods

February 28, 2018

As I packed my bags to leave Denver, I came across a notebook I had started on my flight to Thailand, back in early December. The first passage I'd written began with the phrase "where did I go wrong moving to Denver, and how can I avoid making the same mistakes going forwards?"

I'm sitting in the airport as I write this, ready to leave forever, and I don't feel like moving to Denver was a mistake anymore. The obvious question is what's changed in the last three months? It's hard to say, but if I had to guess, it's probably my attitude.

One of my bigger complaints about Denver was the lack of a social support system. I hadn't managed to put one together, and despite having a couple of fantastic friends, I was generally on my own if they were feeling low-energy.

But the dangedest thing happened. In the style of my friend Sam, I decided to start talking to people. The goal has been to meet two people a day, which turns out to add up pretty quickly in terms of getting to know people in the neighborhood. It sounds dumb in retrospect, but wow -- that shit is good. During my last few hours in town, I ran into five people I knew, all of whom appeared genuinely sad to hear I was leaving.

It's remarkable how drastically this has changed my quality of life. Seemingly overnight, Denver transformed from an isolated, desolate town into a vibrant, friendly place. And the only change was that I was making an explicit effort to get to know the people around me.

I have a friend who came to a similar realization a few years back. He struck up a conversation with the guy on the bus beside him: "isn't it weird how nobody talks on buses? I'm looking for new friends, and this seemed like a good way to get started with it." And it worked; to this day, the two of them are still the best of friends.

The reason I'm writing this is really as a reminder to myself. I'm determined to not make the same mistakes twice, so this is especially pertinent given that tomorrow I'll be starting a new life in a new country.

In Denver, a particularly fruitful place to meet people was the cool coffee shop down the street from my apartment. It stopped being a coffee shop and instead became my neighborhood cafe. Not only was it awesome to get to know the baristas, but I also began meeting dope people from my apartment who were also hanging out there. I've often wondered what coffee houses must have been like before laptops existed, and I think this might be the answer.

I want to end this on a call to action. If you've felt lonely even once in the last week, I want you to go out and meet someone in your neighborhood. Maybe it's a neighbor, maybe it's someone who works nearby, maybe who cares. Go out and get someone's name and talk to them for a few minutes.

Tell you what -- we can do it together. I'm going to make it a habit to do this every time I feel lonely, and I'll bet you those feelings aren't going to persist for very long.


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