Tag Archives: making friends

For The Swing Set Souls

If you shoved me in the DeLorean and Scrooge’d me into my ten-year-old self, I’m not so sure my side of the playground would be buzzing with activity.

Or swimming with sticky fingers from flavor ice pops. Crackling with sneakers scrubbing pavement.

I’m not so sure you’d run up to me with a jump rope and ask if I could hold one end.

“Please, oh please,” you wouldn’t have said. “We absolutely need your help. Come with me.”

More likely, you’d find me scraping my shoes against a pile of woodchips as I swung back and forth, back and forth, so close to those smiling faces and churning backward all the same.

That go-to interview question pops into my head: “What’s your biggest weakness.”

“Well, sir, you see it’s, um, kind of a funny story. Have you been to Home Depot lately?”


“Home Depot, sir. You know those swing sets with striped overhangs and monkey bars? I’m kind of like a swing.”

“You are,” he might say.

Because I am sure that if it were a woman, she would already be pulling her wallet out of her purse and unfolding a photo gallery longer than my forearm. Pictures of her own children pushing each other at the neighborhood playground in her hands.

“A swing,” I’d say. “Yes. I’ve been waiting for too long now like one of those rusty swings cracking and weathered, hoping the store employee might brush his forehead with his orange apron pocket and drag me inside. Out of somebody else’s rainstorm. Away from the back of the pile. Into somebody’s backyard.”

He might not follow, but maybe he will. Maybe he had some swing days of his own, back on the playground, hands tucked inside overall pockets.

I am sort of hoping his childhood years weren’t categorized by foursquare games and knockout championships and getting presidential on the mile run in gym class. I am sort of hoping he got an X for that portion.

Because just like I learned to lace up my sneakers and round a 400-meter track four times, I am ready to stop sitting and pausing and shuffling and waiting and hoping and praying some swing set lover comes over to sit on me. Learning how to take Rooted In Place less metaphorically.

I hope the rest of you Swing Set Souls are, too.

We’re working toward meeting all the selfless souls stringing the streets of Manhattan with dreams.

Next time you tell me how to change the world, I’m going to stop you mid-sentence and ask you to go on a smoothie date.

Don’t get all frazzled by that invitation. Don’t dip your fingers into the sweet blended berries and smear it down my shirt like a reinvented version of Ann Hathaway’s “Princess Diaries” soft serve stunt.

Just hear me out, you wild world shaker. Because I am making friends in all kinds of places.

In Starbucks in downtown D.C. and in circled chairs in city churches. In front of Papa Johns pizza boxes and through computer screens in lonely hotel rooms.

And that is just this week, my friends. That is just the last six days of squeezing my smile into new conversations and shaking hands and learning names.

So when I propose a smoothie date mid-sentence, don’t you get offended. I’m just learning from the best and brightest.

On Tuesday night, amongst my pillows labeled with satin sashes for soft and firm, I hugged my Macbook Pro and livestreamed something spectacular – the Voice Your Verse poetry fundraising night.

I watched poets and world-shakers and change-makers and word-huggers all over New York City and beyond come together to honor She’s The First’s anthology to sponsor girls’ education in the developing world.

Mostly, though, I learned that there ain’t nothing wrong with meeting for smoothies and getting brain freezes amidst small wooden tables not nearly large enough to put our Big Ideas into perspective.

I learned that people you’ve never met in person can make you laugh so loud you worry your neighbors, the ones you’ll never share sugar with, are going to complain to the front desk.

I learned that when you’re freefalling toward failure, the first thing you need is a cold drink with someone who knows that side of the sidewalk so well from dwelling there long before you even knew what it meant. Long before you even knew to be scared.

And I am thanking this world for a woman I hope to someday shake hands with in front of a strawberry banana or a triple berry concoction. Someday swap stories of almosts and good enoughs and not have to count how many times we face-planted on pavement on the way to Something More. Someone Bigger. Someone Better.

I learned that we’re working toward meeting all the beautiful, selfless souls stringing the streets of Manhattan with dreams.

We’re holing up inside our houses clacking on keyboards to make connections that might last. Connections that might turn into smoothies and Starbucks and sweets baked together, shared in front of our own ovens. Late nights around a dimly lit kitchen table.

We are looking for someone who will not punch us in the face for asking for something as small as a smoothie date. Or a Starbucks run. Or a slice of pizza.

I hope we find each other. Somewhere out there. I hope we do.

We only get friend requests on Facebook, but what about real life?

Letter 22 – someone you want to give a second chance

Dear Juan,

The hardest thing in the world, for me, is being honest with myself. If this challenge has taught me anything, it’s the power a couple of honest sentences strung together has. It’s the fear the spawns from not backing down, from being the person you really are, that freaks me out.

And if I’m being honest, I think we deserve to be friends. Maybe not the friends who call each other up every week and talk for an hour on the phone, but the kind that you can come back to in five, ten years and know that they’re still the same. That they’re still grounded.

There was just this small moment, insignificant at best, but it stuck with me. We were standing in Kohl’s, you staring at a display of moccasin slippers on sale, unable to make a decision about which pair to buy.

“If only those shoes came in that color,” I said, pointing at a combination that didn’t actually exist.

“See, she knows me well,” you told the rest of our friends.

And I think it was something about those four words strung together that made me realize, almost subconsciously, that it feels pretty crappy to throw away knowing someone. To have to pretend you don’t know them anymore.

She. Knows. Me. Well.

I don’t know a lot of people well. I don’t know a lot of people even “okay”. I know what I see and that’s where it stops. And for some reason, I’m okay with that most of the time. But then, the other part of the time, I’m not.

My favorite part of being friends with someone is knowing them better than just the limited knowledge gained from a chance encounter at a bus stop or in a classroom. Maybe that’s why I hate making friends. And the idea of first dates. And the idea of putting myself out there.

Because small talk sucks. And when you’re already friends with someone, or you’ve already dated them, there shouldn’t have to be small talk. No more catching up on little stuff. No more beating around the bush.

I already know what you want to do for the rest of your life. And your favorite channel on TV. And the reason you hate buying t-shirts from American Eagle. I know that you’re not great at making homemade pretzels, but you make killer Kraft Mac & Cheese. And that you’ve always been the older brother my little sister never had.

For some unknown reason, I worry too much that people will see you as some guy who’s good at breaking girls hearts. Some guy who’s good looking and knows it. That’s how I saw you, that first night in Vanessa’s kitchen. But you deserve more than that.