Humans are bizarrely paradoxical creatures. We burst with contradictions. For instance, I want my clothes to fit better yet I also apparently prefer to eat an entire bag of candy corn. I want to connect with my neighbors, yet here I am, bingeing Interior Design Masters in my pajamas. We have met the enemy, and they are us.

I think a lot about how to overcome my inertia, how to pry myself out of the house and into some kind of public life. It's so good for us! One recent study found that the closer we live to public, social spaces—libraries, parks, grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, community centers—the higher our well-being, place attachment, and willingness to help others (or perception that others are willing to help us). And yet it's as if modern life conspires to exhaust and overwhelm us so that socializing seems like just another source of exhaustion and overwhelm. 

The Civic Dinners project I helped organize in Blacksburg in October struggled with some of these human vagaries. People wanted to share civic conversation over dinner with strangers . . . and they wanted to stay home. We had to cancel a few dinners for lack of sign-ups.

Based on the meal I hosted and the meal I attended, here's what I think happened when people did come:
  1. Interesting conversations
  2. A new appreciation of points of view and problems not our own 
  3. A sense of community with other humans 
When asked what Blacksburg could use more of, one woman at my table exclaimed, "This! Civic Dinners!" The meals scratched that itch most of us have to connect. We feel so much better when we do it. How about we just do it?

If you're looking for other ways to connect, Christine at the Sown newsletter created this Google doc chock full of ideas about how to make friends in adulthood—and you can add your own! One hot tip: "It takes work and you can't make friends sitting in your apartment by yourself watching Netflix." Words of wisdom, those.
Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter: If you wanted to, you know, see my face talking and such, watch the interview I did with Jacob Moses of Strong Towns for their "Ask Strong Towns" webinar series. We had a great conversation about putting down roots, loving where you live, and identifying the low-hanging fruit of making places better. Then, if you'd like to see my face NOT talking, follow me on Instagram
7 items of interest
  1. Placemaking's new motto should be "reach one person."
  2. Moving is the only reason I don't have 5,000 books. I can't decide if that's good or bad.
  3. What happens when a town has a scarcity mindset? (Answer: The librarian doesn't get a raise. Not gonna lie, this piece was hard to read.)
  4. The American Planning Association's 2019 Great Places honorees (including spots in Arizona, New York, and Ohio) are designed to bring people together. I haven't been to any of these; have you?
  5. According to this Twitter thread, Silicon Valley doesn't have the lock on tech hubs or entrepreneurial ecosystems.
  6. Some autumnal community building in rural Virginia and Washington state proves that little bits of happiness make our towns lovable and create identity. Plus, haunted houses are $$.
  7. "Sometimes I worry New England will become overly reliant on our collective nostalgia, while retaining just enough of what we’re nostalgic for to remind us to be nostalgic for it." A beautiful piece from Yankee magazine about weathering the changing landscape of the places we love.
xoxo, Melody
P.S.—As always, random bonus material for reading this far: Maggie Smith will cut you. This is me in every single email. There's really so much (Beatles-related) goodness in the world. Home decor for children of the 80s. All the kitty feelsAn app that reminds Kindle readers what they read—and a newsletter that sums up the most salient advice from books you didn't get around to reading. I'm a fan of setting Q4 goals (mine include keeping a gratitude journal and working on my next book proposal every day). Good times = when you laugh so much you have to wipe your eyes with your shirt.
Copyright © 2019 Melody Warnick, All rights reserved.

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Melody Warnick · 1006 Kentwood Dr · Blacksburg, VA 24060 · USA

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