This might be the most heartfelt thing I've made
Introducing a A SOCIAL LIFE, WITH FRIENDS
For more than half a decade, much of the focus of my writing has been on people's working lives—from routines and ruts, to creative processes and the various pressures to achieve, keep up, do more.
Tangential to wondering about what people’s days look like has been wondering what their social lives look like.
When do people carve out time for their friends? Do they ever feel lonely? How do they meet new people, or stay connected with those they already know? Do they ever feel like they’re not social enough, or conversely, simply overwhelmed by plans or unanswered texts?
There’s a poem by the late Kenneth Koch that captures some of these wonderings. As the opening stanza goes:
You want a social life, with friends,
A passionate love life and as well
To work hard every day. What’s true
Is of these three you may have two
And two can pay you dividends
But never may have three.
With a proliferation of advice around how to achieve work-life balance, optimise, and avoid burnout, there’s something refreshing about admitting no one has it all together.
As the poem continues:
There isn’t time enough, my friends—
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends—
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Of course, for many of us there is more to focus on than just our love life, work and friends—there’s our health, family, bank balance, global atrocities, and creative pursuits, to name a few. But specifics aside, there’s something freeing about acknowledging that we won’t get to everything, every day.
Things in our life ebb and flow. We move through different seasons. Our priorities and responsibilities shift. Our desires and interests morph. We are limited. As Sylvia Plath wrote:
“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want.
By realising we have limited time, we are able to prioritise what’s important to us during this one precious life.
Yet what I found interesting to observe—and often encountered during my conversations in my now-archived projects Extraordinary Routines and Routines & Ruts—is that our social life is often what’s first to be paired back when things get busy.
At the same time, we’re also hearing increasingly about a global loneliness epidemic, friendship recessions, a crisis of belonging.
What’s more, we can feel alone in our loneliness and disconnection.
Just as it seems like everyone has it figured out in their work or careers, it can seem like everyone has it figured out in their social lives. A study found that people tend to believe others attend more parties, dine out more, have more friends, spend more time with family, and possess larger social circles—yet it’s not often the case.
With such distorted comparison, it’s easy to feel like we’re the ones not getting it right.
And that’s why I’m now turning my curiosity from our working lives, to our social lives.
Like the title of the Kenneth Koch poem, I want to put this part of our lives at the centre with a new project, A social life, with friends.
When doing a courtesy check about using part of the title, I also learned something more about the late poet’s intentions. As his devoted wife, Karen Koch, told me:
“It's not impossible to have it all, but maybe impossible to have it all at once.”
And that’s what this labour of love of mine will explore—how we find our own way in friendships, connection and belonging.
What form will this new project take? After a substantial break, I am excited to be jumping back behind the microphone with a new podcast! I’m currently deep in the throes of production, interviewing, and researching and very close to sharing it all with you.
Set to launch next month, conversations will explore what it’s like being a person in the world with other people—all the joys, all the tensions, all the misunderstandings and the miracles.
Like all things, our social lives are a constant work in progress. We’ve all made mistakes, hurt people and been hurt, faced challenging emotions and circumstances.
A social life, with friends, will be a space to ponder these things together.
There will also be a dedicated space to delve deeper into the themes of each episode, with a Substack newsletter filled with summaries, additional links and space to discuss with other listeners.
My hope is that this project can illuminate that there are so many different ways to live a life, and help us find approaches to foster connection with other people, and ourselves.
It will be heartfelt and deep, but also feel light and bright—much like the friend we turn to both for the pep talk we need to pursue the things we want, and for solace when it doesn't happen all at once.
If you’d like to follow this new project, be sure to subscribe to the dedicated newsletter A social life, with friends.
In the lead up to the podcast launch, I’m offering a special 25% off forever for everyone who signs up to A social life with friends newsletter. Alongside supporting this new thing, you’ll receive episode summaries, additional links, and a space to connect with other listeners—and a special option for a personal thank you in the credits of the first episode!
I hope you join me at asociallifewithfriends.com ❤️