A Worthy Investment
Updated: Jun 17, 2019
That was our philosophy when we decided to move to San Francisco. There was so much to digest, moving across the country. We were perpetually confused by people giving highways titles, like "The 5" instead of just Route 5. We followed the crowds into restaurants and donut shops assuming they must know what is tasty. We overspent on everything because we had yet to find the stores we preferred or the better dry cleaners. We started jobs and school and moved into a home - and we knew not a soul. So we decided from the get-go to just say YES. If we were approached about doing something, if an activity was happening in town, if someone wanted to have a play date, we would just say yes. And that is hard to do when you really don't feel like doing anything except unpack your kitchen. And it was even harder when the invitation came from someone we were fairly certain we just wouldn't be friends with for whatever reason - lifestyle, priorities, eating habits....there are lots of things that interfere with making new connections, so of course we were expecting all of that and more. But we just said yes.
Rosh Hashana arrived only a day after our moving truck. We forced ourselves to go to the local synagogue for services, being true to our word from the beginning, tentative about our attire and our newness. We don't usually attend services but we "said yes" and went anyway. The rabbi spoke eloquently about reflecting on the last year and what lay ahead for those willing to try. And so it began.
Yes to Rosh Hashana services. I was tearful, uncomfortable and so broken.
Yes to volunteering at the school library. The librarian was a little salty to me.
Yes to the annual Pet Parade. We don't even have a pet and my son is allergic.
Yes to a play date. Our kids ignored each other in uncomfortable silence at the park.
Yes to a family dinner. We were welcomed but on the fringe of most conversations.
It was not easy. Aside from being exhausted from always being on the go, I was not thrilled about having to show up. And talk. And smile. And pretend that I was happy. And basically attempt to prove that I was a pretty cool person who was desperately searching for my people and my place and just a few good friends.
And then a funny thing happened. Our initial investments into getting ourselves out there started to pay off, and multiply. That silly pet parade? A couple we met there invited us out for drinks in the city. We enjoyed their friendship and company for years until they moved back east. The family dinner opened up a network of close and kind parents that I perpetually encountered at the elementary school. We shared babysitters and parenting tips. I even found out that people don't really use dry cleaners out here - just wear your leggings and hoodies and call it a day. I never ended up volunteering in the library, but the friendly lady who was also there with her young son invited me for a walk, and then playtime, and now 5 years later, she stands as one of my dearest friends in the world.
I cried through that Rosh Hashana service. I remember feeling so displaced and so angry that I had made a deal to say "yes" when I just wanted to go back to Virginia. During the service, the lady in front of me surely saw my teary eyes. After services she chatted to me about what a lovely parish I was standing in, and noticing my toddler, encouraged me to check out the associated preschool. The very next day I did. My daughter attended that preschool for 3 wonderful years. I volunteered for the book fair, and made latkes for the class parties, and served on the board, and made friends that I still enjoy the company of today. One thing led to another. One "yes" led to a myriad of opportunities and success, for myself and for my family.
That is not to say that every interaction or experience resulted in something awesome. We have had many play dates and dinners, volunteer events and work parties, many of which we agreed were "not our jam" and we have walked away without feeling enriched. But we never walked away feeling like we lost anything, because hands down, we have gained more over time than we have lost. Each "yes" from us was really a "yes" to ourselves - a confirmation that we get to control what is going to happen to us here in a new place. We are going to make the decisions that will lead us to friends and places that we love. We are going to be the catalyst for turning our lonely new residence into a place that we can call home. Saying "yes" was our investment. And everything we love and experience now is the return.
It seems like saying yes is a much safer bet than the stock market. Ups and downs are less dramatic and the end result is always more than what you started with. It is really an investment in yourself. It challenges you to show up and to be seen. It allows you the opportunity to be heard. It gives you the doors to open and choose to go through. And walking through those doors that we found, slowly but surely, is an investment I'll be taking with me to the bank, every single day.