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Make Your Own Scene

Andy Warhol Museum: A bike in front of a wall covered in flowers

I snapped this at the Warhol Museum when we were in Pittsburgh last month.

I’ve really been thinking about Austin Kleon’s post, Find a New City, which I also included in the last Lunchtime Reads link roundup. In it, he references Patti Smith saying that New York has priced itself out of being an option for young, creative people who want to do something weird and potentially not lucrative. His and Patti’s advice? Find a new city. One where the rents are low, and you can afford to live while still having time to work on whatever it is that gives you life. “Stay out of debt, live somewhere cheap, make something happen.”

I recognize that I’m privileged enough, especially working in tech, to know that I could move to New York or Austin or Portland or Nashville or Seattle if I wanted to, but we chose this. We chose owning property for a fraction of what it would have cost even in Philly. We chose to be near farmland, and a little nearer to family. We chose this sweet little city that often feels more like a neighborhood to us, post-Philly. We chose this as home for now.

It’s got me wondering what it would look like if I made my own scene here in my new little city. I think it seems like a worthy goal, but I am a little hesitant as the new kid in town to roll up and declare myself a scene maker. It’s more my nature to lay low for a bit, meet interesting people doing interesting things, and see how I can be a complement to what already exists. And, since Lancaster has officially been declared the new Brooklyn (in the New York Post, so take that for what it’s worth), maybe the scene has already been made, and I just need to find it and find my place in it.

Of course, there are some things that aren’t here that I wish were here, and I could help shape. There are generally no more than two women at any given tech meetup, for example. While I do think we’ve done a good job of making lots of loose connections and casual friendships in the past five months, I still want to meet some more people and spend time with the people we know already. Finding besties is hard as an adult. Maybe impossible?

I think part of it is that people outside of major cities don’t tend to live on the internet as much. For example, there are People to Follow on Twitter and People to Follow on Instagram in Philly. I haven’t figured out who those people are here, and the scant research I’ve done on this so far has yielded the fact that it might not be so much of a thing in Lancaster.

P.S. New York friends, I don’t think I’d say Lancaster is the new Brooklyn. It’s its own thing, for sure. But the quality of food and life are incredibly high, and the level of pretention is still incredibly low. Please come visit. We can walk to all the best restaurants in 15 minutes or less. There is no sweating in the subway stops. I only smell that eau de metropolis on the very hottest of days. It’s pretty charming, really.


An Invitation Is Not an Imposition

mini pumpkinThe other night I was chatting with friends over soft pretzels and beer at Frankford Hall about some of my anxieties around socializing. “I have this weird thing,” I told them, “where I won’t invite people to do things or initiate making plans because I feel like I’m imposing. It’s so weird. I don’t know how to get over it.” Totally unsurprised by my confession, Jenn nodded and said, “It’s an introvert thing,” like it was the most natural thing in the world. I instantly felt better.

A couple weekends ago I did something I’m not sure I’ve ever done before, at least not at any remarkable scale. I threw a party. Chad and I had been meaning to throw a low key housewarming party since we moved to the new place — in July.

I ran around all day getting ready: cleaning the apartment, digging out large platters that we hardly ever use, stocking up on wine, shoving cheese into my shopping basket, wild-eyed, and doing some last-minute decluttering before our friends starting arriving. Thankfully, I had a dear, dear friend who helped out a ton. I don’t know what we would have done without her.

I was nervous as the first people started showing up with really delicious things in tow. Crap! I have to entertain them now! What will I do when they get bored? But soon the apartment was full and warm and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves! I somehow feel more settled now that our friends have helped us christen the new place, and I hope next time I’ll be less nervous about the whole thing.

Here’s what I have to remember: An invitation is not an imposition. It’s an offering. It’s a gift. Next time, I hope to feel a lot less apologetic and scared when I send out the invites.



A Confession & The Real Magic of Alt Summit

Photo by Brooke Dennis

Credit: Brooke Dennis

I have a confession. My biggest concern and source of anxiety about going to Alt Summit last week was that the people I’d meet there would be super self-promoting, superficial, and disinterested in sincere conversation and friendship.

Boy was I wrong.

Alt Summit

Credit: Brooke Dennis | I really don’t mean to be glaring at the panelists.

I’d just read so much about the time and effort that goes into the outward displays of creativity and style. I was worried that this intense focus on how people look and what they wore and how beautiful their business cards are would discourage people from forging quality friendships that grow deep beneath the surface.

But behind the cute outfits and beyond the beautiful business cards and even inside the very grand Grand America (there’s a chandelier in every toilet stall), I met people who were willing to share their insecurities and struggles, accomplishments and joys. These were people whose beauty and spark emanated from the inside.

Alt Summit Umba

Credit: Chad Braithwaite

It’s inevitable that there’ll be quite a bit of self-promotion going on at an event like Alt. After all, that’s how a lot of people approach networking. But I went into the conference with the mindset that I was going to make friends. I was determined to be myself, and if that meant hanging out at the lobby bar alone every night because I needed a break from the hustle and intense social interaction, then so be it.

Alt Summit Green Party

Credit: Justin Hackworth

And you know what? I never had to hang out at the lobby bar by myself. Not once. I ended up spending time there with Paige, Megan, Allison, and Mere at different points throughout the week. I didn’t walk through a hallway once without recognizing a new friend like Joy, MJ, Ashley, Bobbie, or Amy, who said hello. I’ll be eternally grateful to Megan for saying hi and introducing herself when I’m sure I looked shell-shocked in the green lounge while way too many people were squeezing in to either listen to Christy Turlington’s interview or look at a fox, skunk, or parrot (Unbeknownst to me. It is safe to say I am a more than a little distressed that I missed out on a chance to cuddle a fox. Had I known, I might’ve tried to foxnap the creature & bring it home to Pennsylvania. I mean, LOOK AT IT.).

Fox at Alt Summit

Credit: Brooke Dennis

The point is, I started to feel like I really did belong in this space, and that felt pretty revolutionary for me. I met real people who I hope become real friends. To me, that’s the real magic of Alt.


How to Go Home

Nashville RosesDrive twelve hours with one of your very favorite people. You will not need music. You will not need podcasts. There will not be silence. When there is, it will mean something.

Make countless coffee stops.

Count six deer welcoming you back into Pennsylvania. You count in case your father asks if you’ve seen any. The road will turn, and the deer will look at you unafraid.

Stop in the town, on the farm, where you grew up. Smell home. Breathe deep. Be glad to share this with a friend.

Drive three more hours alone. Don’t be afraid. You will be too tired to think.

Drink more coffee.

Stare at countless stars over the turnpike to stay awake. They will keep you company. They will make you miss the sky you grew up with. There are no stars in Philadelphia.

Park your car and balance your belongings the block and a half to your apartment.

Drop your things on the floor. Crawl into bed, kiss the man beside you.

Nestle your feet between the warm cats on the edge of the bed. They’ve left a space for you.

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New Year’s week always feels a bit more significant to me, I think, because my birthday is on January 5. So I’m truly beginning a new year, not just of the calendar, but of life.

From Friday:
It feels like a new decade to me. I turn 26 tomorrow, and it’s like crossing some threshold into adulthood and real life. Arbitrary, I know, but it rounds up to 30. [25 does too, but this feels different.] The second half of my 20s means seriously working to find direction and then busting ass to work at what I love. It means putting everything I have into crafting a solid & deep foundation with Chad in preparation for expanding our baby family. It means letting go of adolescent fears and jealousies to make room for uninhibited & brave creativity and collaboration…

I spent Saturday wandering through The Reading Terminal Market and taking in views from the PSFS building (ideas that Chad got from Philly Love Notes) and hanging out with some of my favorite people. Chad made macaroni and cheese for supper (because no matter how old I get, my taste buds will always be stuck at 5 years old), and I stayed up til 5 am talking with a dear friend. 
It was perfect.
*Photos taken with iPhones by my friends & me throughout the weekend. Posted with their permission, of course!