I finally met my neighbors after four years. Here's why it's important to socialize in real life, offline.
Chris and I work from home. For those of you new to the space, we are food photographers/videographers and recipe developers. We get to work together, use our strengths and create something amazing. We love working together (seriously) and we love what we do. But because of that, we work A LOT. When home is the office and when you run your own business there’s always something to do if you want there to be. Work, in part, has been our excuse for avoiding our neighbors to the point where I met the woman across the street for the first time last month. We’ve lived here for almost five years.
Here’s the thing…with phones and the bajillion apps my friends from across the country have now made me download I’m more connected on a regular basis than ever. Digitally any way. With my work, I see my friends from California, New York and even Nebraska for work trips that take us all over the world. I see them in person and connect digitally more with them in a week than I have my neighbors of several years.
My love of digital, and the community it has brought me, will never fade. Those I consider my greatest friends are people I would have never met had it not be for technology. But I’ve come to realize building a community, in our actual physical community is important too.
When we bought our home a few years ago, we didn’t receive the warmest welcome. At the time there were some people who were invasive (ie looking in the windows, watching us from their back yards) and they did not like change. As someone who did not grow up with a lot of neighbors it was extremely uncomfortable for me. At least half of my childhood was on 40 acres of woods, on a private road, where you could look across the Blue Ridge Mountains and literally not see another house. No one delivered pizza to our zip code. We had a PO box at the post office with two parking spaces because mail was also not delivered. That’s the kind of non-neighborhood it was.
So as you can imagine, it wasn’t exactly second nature for me to walk out of my house and interact on demand. I worried about bothering other people because I WAS bothered at first. In the public facing part of my job, at events, giving talks, going on tv on occasion I am primed and ready to interact constantly but at home it was a big change for me.
For a while I actively avoided running into neighbors on the street. As the block changed and younger people started moving in (and we stopped being the youngest by 30 years), we found ourselves being a bit more social. So I’ve let myself be more open. To not always be doing ‘something’ as I’m outside. Last year I stopped sneaking out to water the plants so I could get back inside and work ASAP. I now just go water the plants like a normal person. The same goes for when I wait in line somewhere. I don’t reach for my phone as much any more. I’m okay sitting, observing, semi-meditating. I’ve opened myself up to a small chat if someone happens to be there. Because it’s kind of sad to just see everyone looking down instead of up all the time.
The in-person, and perhaps more importantly, the regular impromptu person to person gathering helps to knock down your need for perfect. Knowing neighbors, having people locally who just come and knock on the door horrified me at first. What if something was a mess? What if I was on day four hair and simultaneously out of dry shampoo and perhaps wearing a sheet mask? What if I seriously needed to do a grocery run and didn’t have something up to my standards on hand for a stop by lunch or snack because people know we work in the food space and would be disappointed if I threw something mediocre together?
Here’s the deal. No one really cares except me. Whatever I have, however much time I have to pull something together for people is enough. If you’ve been reading the blog for long enough or following on Instagram, you know I love efficiency. I love hacks for making life more enjoyable and more simple. And so I already have great things on hand period (whether I think I do or not). Seasonal produce. Bread. Cheese. Spreads like Cava’s that bring flavors to household staple items. As long as the company is good, or at the very least, you’ve got wine and cocktails you have a good day ahead of you. It doesn’t take much.
So this is my challenge to you. Be open to existing in the real, off the phone, and see what happens.
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.