Be a follower
learning that people > places is a core tenet in my decision making
In my office, we had 3 people running the NYC marathon. Not only did a member of the team create a link to track those running, but another coworker also created signs for them and waited along the route to show his support. He showed up for them and it was a simple act of kindness, to take a few hours out of his day to support people he cared about. Concurrently, I’ve spent the last few months preparing for my first half-marathon. I’ve woken up at sunrise to run 13k before work, meticulously planned how I’ll pace myself as I go, and experimented with shoes/gels/clothes to optimize my completion of the run. With a few days left to the race day, I began to think about who I’ll be with at the finish line and came to the realization that I’ll have to celebrate this win on my own.
The race is in New York City - a city that is somehow so full of life and with millions of people yet those that I hold closest are a plane ride away. They’ll be waiting for a text message at the end and the inaugural picture holding the medal between my teeth, but I won’t get to hug them drenched in sweat as I cross the finish line.
This is a short essay on finding your people and following them wherever that may be.
At the end of our last semester (only a few months ago), one of my friends asked me: Would you base the city you move to based on which of your friends live there? Or would you want to move somewhere completely on your own?
I told him that I would make my decisions based on what was best for my career/school and that the independence would merely be a catalyst for personal growth. I used to think it was a sign of weakness to depend on others, a habit I’m slowly unlearning, and this is what fueled the response to that question.
My best friends from university have scattered across the continent, all having moved to the west coast for their internships. These are the friendships that I’ve cultivated over the past few years, the people I’ve lived with over and over again because the one thing we consistently do for each other - is to love one another in ways that make the other feel seen. I’m finding that to me, this means consistently making time for me. It makes me feel valued, appreciated and cared for when my friends go out of their way to not only support me through the journey but be there to celebrate my successes. We are the friends who shared a cake the day we all signed internships during the peak of COVID, and we are the friends who constantly read each other’s drafts and journal entries to get a small glimpse into their minds, and we are the friends who call “Girl Talk” in our group chat and know it means time to burrito on a bed that barely fits one. These are the friends that I would follow anywhere, even to a shack in Dublin.
It took me a long time to learn that while you can surround yourself with kind and inspiring people, those that show up and freely share their time are the type of friendships I want to surround myself with. Creating a space to be together and scheduling time in the calendar isn’t a way of optimizing your life, it is simply a way of keeping time for those around you.
Growing up, it wasn’t cool to admit that you would follow your boyfriend or best friend across the country. People say: “you should always make the decision based on what’s best for you.” I used to think this meant - don’t give up your career for someone else, not realizing that what’s best for you means not only your career but includes the way you spend each minute outside of work and the people you spend it with. I used to prioritize places over people but I’m learning that to me - a place without the people that make me feel seen is really quite empty. When you find the people that make you feel this way - you need to keep them close and to me, that means sometimes being a follower.
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Aside: I know this is a privileged take as someone who works in tech. Following someone to a new city has limited impacts on the trajectory of my career which is why I can say with conviction that I would pick a place based on where the people I love are. Do what’s best for you, remembering that ‘best’ does not mean one particular thing and that life is not just about optimizing for career, optimize for powerful relationships and enjoyment!
Thanks for writing this. Wonderful read.