These people were a social good for me
The summer spent with DSSG has exceeded all my expectations by a large margin. Chicago was amazing, but it was the people whom made this experience truly special. I met people who have different outlooks on life, yet share similar passion and drive as mine. I met people who are years younger than me, but exhibit maturity way beyond their age. I met people who are brilliant in what they do, and yet so willing to teach and share their knowledge. I also met people who ease between different identities, programming in the day and making music in the night.
I reckon it is difficult to make new friends — friends whom you can call up and talk about your sadness, and friends whom you would travel miles to visit — at a ripe age of 31; It takes a lot of effort to impress another person, then to find common ground. From there, it is an another hurdle to overcome if you want to connect on a deeper level. Yet I have found friends in the last 3 months. And I recall vividly the exact moments when I realized that some of these people will stick around in my life beyond the summer:
1. unDSSG was a day when stations were set up across the office and all DSSGers have to teach others something unrelated to DSSG in their own booth. I taught people how to make sushi in the morning, and the day ended with copious amount of alcohol consumption like many other events in the summer. So I was finishing up my drink near the ping pong table, and then I realized the beers might soon be out. I texted Y, my teammate, and asked her to save me a beer in the kitchen. I then went on playing ping pong. A few moments later, Y brought me a cider and then she went about doing her own thing. I texted her again, and protested that a cider is not the same as a beer. Another few moments later, somebody put an arm around my shoulder from behind when I was completely unaware and jokingly said “are you complaining??” in my ears. It was Y, of course. I said, “How dare I?”. There we were, head to head, laughing. I knew I found a friend.
2. It would be impossible talk about Y without K. K is always bubbly, and she has a remarkable ability to strike conversations and make friends with strangers. The “connected” moment between us didn’t come until much later in the summer, though. It was the last week of the fellowship. 6pm-ish. I was walking out of the office planning to go back to dorm to cook some food and get ready before going to see the movie “Sausage Party” while K was sitting on the couch alone, still working on the technical plan. It was rare to see K without Y. I stopped and was about to exchange a few words. K somehow convinced me to change my plan (as she always did) to go grab drinks with her. We ended up at the bar area in Girl and the Goat, sipping cocktails. We talked about what girls talk about. At one point, she decided that she would illustrate to me what she was talking about with a hand gesture. I was bewildered, looked around the bar table to check if anyone was looking at us, and immediately trying to stop her. We looked at each others and laughed hysterically, and that sealed the deal.
3. E is a hipster. Everything E does spells ‘cool’. I knew early on I wanted to be friends with E. But being a hopeless introvert, I didn’t actively pursue the friendship. One weekend in the summer, I planned to go hiking and invited a few people to come along; only E came in the end. So the two of us spent a few hours in the car, and in the woods, just talking about music, start-ups, random topics on education and culture. We also shared our traveling horror stories, which turned out to be quite funny in retrospect. It struck me how much similarities we shared (though I am not as cool) and somehow, I was sure that our paths would cross again.
4. 426 is a unit number at the University Center. The ladies in 426 came from different countries, and have very different personalities but their singlesness unite them. One day in the early summer a movie night was planned, and it was then decided that the 3 ladies living in 426 shall be collectively referred as the “single ladies”. The movie was “the Danish Girl” and it was the perfect choice. For the next few days, the morning greetings in 426 went like this: “Am I pretty enough?”, “Of course you are” “But I’ll never be as pretty as you.” Single lady L subsequently started a tumblr account called “singleladieswatchingthings”, recording the pathetic lives of the ladies over the summer. New member was admitted later in the summer and it has aroused some jealousy of the old members due to his prettiness, but it was an invaluable addition regardless.