“Let’s catch up!”
It’s a phrase I’ve used over and over in the past couple of weeks, as I’ve slowly eased my way into contact with the same beautiful mix of friends and acquaintances I catch up with whenever I spend time in NYC.
One of the reasons for this summer’s extended trip to New York was to observe the ways in which living in this city is different to visiting it. And it is different, in obvious ways.
When you’re a visitor, life is a steady blur of social activity, as you bounce from bed to breakfast to brunch to lunch to coffee to drinks to dinner and back to sleep again. In everyday life, there are other things to do. Like work. And exercise. And not eat six meals a day. And yes, a still elevated level of social activity. In week two, at least.
Anyway, “catching up.” Love the act, hate the phrase. I love the act because it means spending time with people I like, feeling connected, growing my experience world into something a little larger and more loving. I hate the phrase because it fails to capture what I (or anyone, I think) ever really wants out of a social interaction: which is not simply to exchange stories about what has transpired since we last met, but to find people to play with, to learn from, and in the best case, to share a piece of life with. Not just verbally, but actually. In the living of it.
Reducing our social interactions to “catching up” implies that real life is something that happens elsewhere – which, to be fair, I suppose may be true when you spend most of your life somewhere else. It implies that the important experiences, the ones that really matter, are not the ones that are happening in the here and now, but the ones that you are reporting to each other, over whatever beverage or plate of food you’re really using as an excuse to spend time in one another’s company.
One more thing I’d add. Sharing life in that way, in the actual living of it, doesn’t always need to mean literally living in the same place.
I think of my friend Anna. Last year, we both got married, within a week of each other. We also both sold our first books, and while she wrote hers at such breakneck pace that I was only able to read about forty percent of the chapters before they made it to the publisher (she was on a tight deadline), I feel like those are experiences I shared alongside her.
And I feel like as years go, it was one that was as important in cementing our friendship as any we spent actually living in the same city.