One of my favorite and most successful Operations of all time (and my favorite post) was Operation Enjoy the Crap Out of Sydney. I spent the last six months of my time in that part of the world making plans to do something every single day and stumbled over the secret to making friends. Ask people to do things with you!
Whenever I remind myself of that nugget of wisdom, it sounds so profound in my brain and I’m humbled and awed that I’ve figured out the solution to such an important problem. Then I read it or say it to people in real life and it just sounds so obvious and I feel so ridiculous. But I also think the nuggets about personal finance are obvious, so maybe my obvious is different from your obvious. That’s probably obvious too. I’ve used up my allocation of that word for this article.
Anyway, here is an example of how I met Rhea* during Operation Enjoy.
Clothing swaps are so unbelievably awesome
I went to a clothes-swap meetup, an event that actually deserves its own post, but we don’t always get what we deserve, now do we? The basic gist of the event: bring some clothes that you’re sick of, but that still have some life in them to the organizers, who make sure the garment is appealing. For every item that passes muster, you receive a button. The buttons are your currency. When the doors open, you’ll see that the organizers have transformed the empty community center space into a “store” with clothes grouped together by item and size, hung up on hangars or folded neatly on tables. Shiny and appealing. Remember, the only difference between junk and stuff is the destination and the packaging.
I am so giddy about this event because it combines my love of decluttering and my hatred of shopping. I can get rid of a dozen or so items, postponing their landfill home just a tiny bit longer, and walk out after a few minutes with a scarf I’ll use to decorate a piece of furniture and a new friend.
Yes, the new friend! The subject matter of this post. After I dropped off my dozen items to the organizers and before I walked out with my scarf, I sat in the lounge area to wait and on the couch next to me was a woman in her 70’s reading the paper. When she folded it up and put it on the table, I stared at it longingly. I had finished my book on the bus ride over and had 45 minutes to kill. She saw me eyeing the paper and warned me there was nothing interesting in there to read and a conversation ensued. We clicked and confided. She lived close by. We discussed getting together and exchanged phone numbers. No text messaging, she warned, as it was a landline.
So, two of the three criteria for friendship were met right away; (1) Close proximity and (2) a setting that encourages you to let your guard down and confide in people. There’s something about the magic of a clothes-swap event. There are no negatives. It only brings joy to the world and apparently it’s a setting that encourages you to let your guard down and confide in people. Who knew?
Okay, so here’s where Operation Enjoy comes in. As soon as I got home that day, I whipped out my calendar, saw I had nothing scheduled for Thursday and called and left her a message asking if she wanted to get dinner with me. Long story short, this is me driving her yacht a few weeks later.
Ask people to do things with you. That’s the secret. I made a lot of new friends during Operation Enjoy just talking to people, swapping information and then asking them to do things with me. I love this new life skill. Recently, I rented an apartment on Airbnb in Uruguay for a few weeks. I clicked instantly with the woman renting out her apartment to me, told her I would love to get cena or almuerzo or desayuno and, long story short, here is a picture of us on day three of our road trip to beautiful Punta del Estes.
So yes, I love this new life skill, but Operation Enjoy’s bigger success lay in how it deepened every other friendship I had made up to that point. The final “scientific” criteria for making friends is (3) repeated, unplanned interactions. That’s how you get the close friends; the ones who text you to get together impromptu. I’m still amazed by how big of a difference that made to the quality of my life. I was busy and constantly had something to look forward to. I felt like Sydney was home. I felt like I had a lot of close friends because I had a lot of close friends. I felt…cómo se dice…happy.
And that’s the hardest part, to me, about the type of retirement I’m currently enjoying. I love my life more than I can say, but I miss having close friends who I saw often. Research has shown that good relationships are one of the most important aspects of personal happiness. I know this is just anecdotal, but for me, I absolutely believe that. Sorry for the self-therapy, but maybe it helps you too. Plus, I talked about clothing swaps a few paragraphs up, which are personal finance-y.
I’m happy to share more specific examples if you didn’t think this article was too boring and obvious. Dammit, it’s really hard to find a good synonym for that word. Clear? Self-evident? Conspicuous?
*Not her real name. Or is it?