Until about six months ago, I never needed a big circle of friends to be content. But, like most people, I had never lived through a pandemic.
In January 2020, I moved to a town 50 miles from where I had lived the previous 23 years—not far enough to leave the comfort of my job, but far enough to be unfamiliar with my new surroundings. My husband and I bought a home in a subdivision that has since grown to several hundred houses.
I joined a Facebook page dedicated to our subdivision and began to recognize a few names. Still, we didn’t meet anyone other than our immediate next-door neighbors in person.
By mid-March 2020, I was working from home full time. Most days, I saw only my husband and dogs, but I was fine with the solitude—until I wasn’t. After working from home for more than a year, I posted the equivalent of a dating ad on the neighborhood Facebook page.
“Hello, women of the neighborhood!” I wrote. “I need some friends. I am a magazine editor and work from home. I love the zero commute, but I am going a little stir crazy.”
Within minutes, a handful of women replied. Within days, my post had 64 comments. Everyone was positive and uplifting, and the number of women who thanked me for reaching out was heartening. I wasn’t the only lonely one.
There is now a subgroup on Facebook for just the women of the neighborhood. It has 112 members with a wonderful diversity of personalities and circumstances.
The day of my post, a new friend and I walked through the neighborhood, and she gave me a tour of her garden. A few days later, another woman expressed nervousness in meeting others. I invited myself to her porch so we could both say we had met someone new.
Within a few weeks, a neighbor hosted a
small backyard gathering. One of the connections I made was with a woman who has lived just two houses away from me for nearly two years.
Although the number of in-person gatherings has not been as frequent as I imagine they would be outside of a pandemic, the connections are visible and tangible. Last month, 24 women participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange. I learned so much about these women through online group conversations and photos of gifts received.
The pandemic has changed many things for many people. In my little world, it has changed the definition of what it means to be a friend and neighbor, and I could not be more grateful.
I wish you the joy of meaningful connection in 2022.