At the start of 2020 I reached out to a friend and former coworker to ask about getting lunch sometime soon. The idea was borne simply out of a desire to talk to him in person after so much time apart. We’d had an ill-fated Fall where we’d each scheduled and then cancelled on numerous attempts, so a new year provided a perfect re-starting point.
I’m not even close to the first person to use January as a reminder to reach back out to old friends, but this person and this time jumped into my head almost unbidden.
I shouldn’t have been surprised then that the answer came back emphatically and almost instantly: yes, let’s have lunch next week.
It also shouldn’t be a surprise that the instant we actually saw one another at the restaurant (Mexican, naturally, as we could both eat it every day) my friend launched into almost twenty uninterrupted minutes of monologue. He had so much news to impart, so many wild, wonderful adventures and perilous accidents, that I think I ate an entire basket of chips before I even attempted to get a word in edgewise.
Now I should clarify that this is a person I respect immensely both personally and professionally. I follow their social media, I stalk their LinkedIn, I somewhat frequently text them about how things are going. And I knew none of what he shared. Not a single word.
My first contribution to our conversation was to ask more about his family and I learned even more that was unseen in all his blog posts, tweets, texts, and status updates. Here was someone like myself whose 2019 had seen tons of upheaval and change and pain. Someone who was being strong because he had to be strong. There was no other choice. Is there ever?
I gave him some headlines about my folks, my dad, my in-laws, and Owen, most of which I’ve shared here, but some of which I haven’t. I think it was all news to him, but I could see his demeanor change. It wasn’t exactly misery loving company, because I’m far from miserable, but my wounds are still somewhat fresh and healing. Maybe it was warriors telling battle stories and comparing scars. Or maybe I’m being dramatic and it was just two men bonding over lunch about their lives.
Aside from a very eager waitstaff it was the nicest lunch I’ve had in some time. Real conversation with a real person about real life. Nothing staged for a camera or audience; nothing performative for a response. Just the full three dimensions of 2019 reflected in the hopeful haze of 2020.
We talked for more than an hour and ate our burritos. We left with a handshake and a promise for future lunches, but I can’t help feeling like the natural outcome should’ve been a hug. Not that he needed one, but I needed to give one. To tell him everything would be ok, but also to tell myself. To remind myself that here in the real world real connections matter and that I should spend 2020 pulling myself out of my phone and into the real world. To engage fully and directly with my life by living it; by doing.
I hope he reads this notes and knows that I love him as a friend and I’m pulling for him in all facets of his life. And even if he doesn’t read this, I’m glad I wrote it. I’m pulling for me too. I want to be this person who has more lunches and talks more truth.
I want to hug and be hugged. I want 2020 to be a great year.
I’d love to have lunch with you, too. You know where to message me.