The Cloak of Invisibility

There have been times in life when I felt like an outsider, most of my life actually. Instead of dredging up stories from my deep past, let me tell you what the last few years have been like.

I’ve lived in my current community for 14 years and worked at my employer for over eight now, and only now am I finally starting to feel a connection of some sort. It’s like I’ve been wearing the Harry Potter invisibility cloak. Some of that is self-imposed, running around as the working mom of three young kids in a new community. But some of that is inflicted on me. Of course in the latter case, that says a lot more about other people than it does me, but it doesn’t make me feel any better!

All of this sets up a pretty good case for therapy, to talk through why that is, and what that does to me mentally not to mention the very real physical health implications a lack of connection does to a body, but honestly I don’t have the time and don’t want to spend the money dissecting that because it is a never-ending quest.

adam-solomon-472458-unsplashI desperately miss those precious few times when I was warmly welcomed and felt totally loved and included, one of the gang.  I don’t have a posse…a group of friends to hang out with. My friendships are all one on one, spread out all over the US, and believe me, I value those, but frankly, I’m a little bit jealous of Taylor Swift and her squad.

And as a mother, I feel it even more acutely whenever invisibility affects one of my kids. You can imagine, then, how much this article a mother wrote about feeling invisible spoke to me. Take a moment to read it now. She’s got a great attitude and idea about how to manage the pain.

Sometimes the social anxiety, fear of rejection, and actual rejection was so bad, I had to stay at home. For example, there was a time when I sent my husband to dance rehearsals because he had thicker skin than I did. I told him about two young, affluent mothers at the dance studio. One woman had twins who played soccer with our daughter, so we had met her before from those activities. However she refused to acknowledge my greeting whenever I saw her, and she did the same with him. A wall had gone up, and she simply couldn’t be bothered with “others”.

My husband, being the guy he is, let’s most things roll off his back. He thought it was funny how she refused to acknowledge him, so he decided to turn it into a game. This woman and her friend always sat together and talked while our girls rehearsed.

He made it a point to greet them and gently engage them in conversation. They flatly ignored him, every time. This went on, week after week, for the nine months of dance season.

Never once did they crack. Never once did they show an ounce of friendliness.

Now my husband is a personable guy. He can carry on a conversation with anyone and he is well received the vast majority of the time by the people he encounters. But these women specialized in making others invisible. This isn’t a case of one-time preoccupation. This was a mission on their part.

I am reminded of a board meeting I attended. At the start of the meeting, one of my coworkers – someone senior to me – made it a point to go down the line to greet each of the outside directors one by one with a handshake but skipped me sitting in the middle of the line of them. Granted, he hadn’t seen the other people in a few months, but it’s not like I run into him all the time at work. It was remarkable. All he had to do was nod and say hello, but he literally ignored me while he said hello to every other human around me.

That was not an accident. That was deliberate. Believe me, I know to listen to my gut, and that guy is not the warm people person he pretends, or perhaps aspires, to be. How hard could it have been to say hello to me?


It makes me wonder what I have done to make people feel included, welcomed, in my social circle over these many years. Maybe I’m not that good at it. Maybe it’s been so long since I felt “at home”, I don’t know how to reciprocate.

It makes me wonder if our home is literally a safe haven for our kids. Do I cultivate that feeling of inclusion, full visibility, for them?

This brings to mind a funny episode. My coworker Doug was excellent at brokering introductions and making people feel welcome. He and our boss most certainly did that for me when I moved to Pittsburgh…he immediately made me feel at home there, and made it clear I was a welcomed addition to the team.

Doug knew of a coworker, Madison, who was moving back to Pittsburgh and would be working out of our office from that point on. He could not be there to take her to lunch her first day in the Pittsburgh office, but he knew I would be, and he asked me to welcome her. I was happy to do so.

Madison and I went to lunch that day and we invited another coworker, Joyce, to join us. Madison and I really hit it off, laughing and joking about a number of things, talking a mile a minute, such that the much quieter Joyce exclaimed, “How long have you two known each other?” We both looked at our watches and replied, “About 15 minutes!”

Just one. All it takes is just one person to help bridge the gap between unseen and seen, visible and invisible, stranger to acquaintance and maybe even friend.


My husband and I talk about where we want to live when we retire, and our current sentiment is “not here”. However, we don’t want to wait until retirement to make that move. We want to do it when we can perhaps influence where our kids will end up when they are old enough to be on their own, which means we may pack up and go while they are still young. And if we do this, we may voluntarily force all of us into a situation where we feel invisible all over again. Except with the next move, we will deliberately choose a place that feels like home before we go, more so than Ohio has ever done for me despite growing up in this state. It’s a risk, but we’re willing to take it.

You see, the risk of feeling invisible may not impact me as much since I feel this way all the time as it is, but as a mother, I worry about what this would do to our kids. Do I have the mental fortitude to help our kids through this sort of transition? Why is loneliness and invisibility such an issue?


Anderson Cooper said something poignant on CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast earlier this month. The clock had struck midnight, all the songs had been played, and he and Andy Cohen were signing off for the night. Anderson acknowledged that New Year’s Eve can be an incredibly tough inflection point for a lot of lonely people, who no doubt reflect with melancholy on the year that had passed and maybe with some dread for the one ahead.

I was so touched that he said something to acknowledge these people who were no doubt alone, watching him on TV just then. For a moment, Anderson acknowledged those people…he saw them. In a way, I felt like he was talking to me. He spoke from a place of knowing, talking about one particularly difficult new year’s eve where his father had been very ill and ended up passing away a few days into January. He knew what it was like to stop for a moment and realize that the year ahead promised moments of pain and it would be tough to get through. One has to breathe deeply to muster up the strength to plow through what’s ahead.

It made me think of the years worth of new years, when my husband and I would crawl into bed after midnight, and I’d just cry in his arms over the feeling of invisibility and loneliness I felt living here. I can’t tell if that’s just the fate of a someone like me, a nomad who has moved around a lot, if that’s the small town where I live, or if that’s just society today. What does it take to belong?

Are there people in your life right now who need to be seen, to feel included? What can you do to help them in the coming days? What stories do you have to share on this topic?

 

Photo by Adam Solomon on Unsplash

 

 

 

I Get That

A friend of mine and I make it our thing to visit a local vineyard a few times over the summer and dish about life. I look forward to these leisurely afternoons, outside on the piazza overlooking a serene lake circled with weeping willows and dotted with white swans. I feel like I’ve been transported to another world.

One day this past summer, I opened up to her like I rarely do with people anymore.

It was the week that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain took their own lives and it seemed like all of America was reeling from the news. How did these two people, with so much going for them in life, do such a thing? Were they in pain? Why, oh why, did they do it?

But as I told my friend Amy, I get it.

Her face fell. She was floored. Wholly disturbed by my answer. Made me promise on the spot that I was ok and not feeling suicidal.

I’m ok. I was then and I am now.

But I get it. Of course, I’m assuming a lot here about what led these two wildly successful, talented, and beloved people to take such drastic measures. Maybe it was a moment of insanity, but maybe it was loneliness or despair.

I get that.

I understand feeling so utterly alone you fully believe that your life really doesn’t make an impact on anyone. I know exactly what it’s like to dismiss how other people might feel if I was gone.

It’s times like that when Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote isn’t very helpful:

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.

On a broader scale, it’s not like I’ve made any major contributions to the world. I haven’t cured cancer. I’m not an entertainer. I haven’t run for office or served my community in any meaningful way. My career was a very big part of my life at the time but the reality is I was expendable. I traveled extensively for work. For years my best friend lived in New York while I lived in Ohio, so close, local, sustainable friendships were not my forte.

So, I get it.

I spent 34 years trying to find someone I loved who could love me in return, someone willing to spend their life with me. No one was interested, including a guy I dated for three years. He broke up with me mid-way through the relationship, then wanted me back. I grilled him on his intentions before I considered rekindling the relationship, and he made it clear that marriage and kids was something he wanted. It gradually became clearer, to him and me after 18 more months, that he didn’t want that with ME.

Everyone I knew was getting married. There were a couple of years there where I had six, then seven, then eight, then nine (!) weddings to attend, until they started to wind back down in subsequent years the same way they ramped up.

None of them were mine.

The lowest point was being asked to sing at the wedding of a family friend five years younger than me. I watched as my family’s anticipation and excitement grew over this wedding; the bride and groom were, and still are, adored. I didn’t even have a date for the reception so needless to say, I wasn’t in a great frame of mind leading up to this event. I wanted to be happy for the newlyweds. I really did. But what I saw was life passing me by in the most visible of ways.

It stung. No one noticed.

As I sang the last note of the final piece after the ceremony ended, I closed the music binder, walked out of the church past the crowd eagerly awaiting the bride and groom, got in my car, and drove straight home while the throng left for the reception to celebrate. I could not bear to witness people’s lives move on, toward togetherness, love, belonging, community. All the things I didn’t have.

dennis-kummer-171041-unsplash

It reminded me of the hundreds of times I flew for work, often at night. I’d look down at the landscape, thousands of little streetlights and houses as far as the eye could see, thinking about how each light represented a family, or at least a couple of heartbeats inside each structure. And yet my heart was not among them. It was the perfect metaphor, in a way. There I was, separated from all of that by quite a distance, that vast, beautiful, twinkling, interconnected web moving past me in slow motion, punctuating how far removed I was from all of it.

I felt like a freak. To celebrate this wedding took an inner strength and grace I just didn’t have. They say you should call upon family or friends to guide you through times like that, but I didn’t want to complain. What was the point? I was living through a chronic condition and complaining wouldn’t change the situation.

Besides, not one family member noticed I was missing from the reception. No one checked on me, not that night, not at any point. I fell asleep full of despair that night, convinced that something was inherently wrong with me. I honestly didn’t want to wake up the next day.

Yet I awoke to a gorgeous, sunny morning while the world learned the news that Princess Diana had died in Paris the night before. I wondered why it had to be her and not me that night. The world misses her, and still does, while I have yet to make an impact of any meaningful kind.

It’s been over 20 years since that day but I remember well those feelings of loneliness and despair. I didn’t marry for another four years or date my husband all that long before we married. I have children now. I love them and they love me. They are my world. While I may not cure cancer or leave any kind of significant mark on this world, maybe I make an impact of some kind on them. I do know I am utterly devoted to them, and God willing, I’m not going anywhere.

But make no mistake: when it comes to feelings of loneliness and despair? I get that. I wish that sort of loneliness and invisibility on no one. If I ever made anyone feel that way, I’m sorry. And if I ever failed to reach out to someone who feels loneliness and despair, for that too, I deeply apologize.

And if it’s you feeling this way, please keep going. It gets better. I would give you a virtual hug of belonging if I could. One day, you will wake to a gorgeous sunny day when life gets better. I can’t promise when. It may take longer than you want. But it will get better.

May we all find a way in the coming days to connect with someone who is lonely and hurting. Check on them, even if you have never given a second thought to whether they’re ok. Let people know they matter.

Photo by Dennis Kummer on Unsplash

#10 – Socialize More

Part of a series of ten segments, checking the progress of my 2017 New Year Resolutions.

The last of my 2017 resolutions begs for a back story, and one that I may get to over time, because it runs as long, as wide, and as deep as the Mississippi. And no, the story I’m telling here is not that story. There’s a lot to today’s story but it is not the whole story.

To start with yet another confession, I’ve been excruciatingly lonely for the last 16 years. I have no idea if this fact surfaces as an underlying current in my Facebook posts or not. I can’t care about that anymore. Time to just spill the truth.

16 years happens to coincide with the year my husband and I met, married, and moved away from Pittsburgh, a city where I met the most wonderful group of people, a large group of friends I had made by choice and whose interests mirrored my own. They came from all sorts of different backgrounds which thrilled me to no end, and many of them rawpixel-com-250087had moved to Pittsburgh from elsewhere same as me…but we all fell in love with its charms. I had come into my own during those young, single adult years in the city of three rivers, and never felt as much at home, in every sense of the word, as I did there.

As newlyweds, we left the Burgh to start a new adventure: my husband’s new job in Omaha and my own business which I could operate from anywhere. We planned to  return, and I always assumed we would, to those friends and that rich, multi-faceted life. It never happened.

Now being married is wonderful and along with it came my precious family and a whole new dimension to my life that I cherish greatly. So every time I talk about my aching loneliness, it sounds like a criticism of my husband, marriage, and kids, and that’s not the case at all. It’s just that a HUGE number of things about my life changed simultaneously when we left Pittsburgh, and it was undeniably life-altering how unsettling it all proved to be.

But my husband? He’s been a rock in my life, and stood by my side no matter what. I’m not going to cheapen our marriage by talking about it and defending it on a blog. I don’t need to and he knows how much I love and value him. Plus he knows what’s in my heart and prompting me to write this. I’ve discussed every single bit of this with him over this year and over these many years.

levi-guzman-268866I just miss having girlfriends, a squad. And for that matter, I miss having guy friends. I had a lot of both at one time, and I treasured the sense of belonging, perspective, and pure fun those friendships gave me. Moving away loosens those bonds pretty significantly. Getting married loosens them some more. Doing both, you damn near destroy what friendships you had. I don’t even have someone who is “my person” in Grey’s Anatomy parlance.

I can’t tell you how many new years’ days in a row I have cried in my husband’s arms, reflecting on the year passed and the year ahead, about my loneliness. I swore this was the year I’d do something different about it. I swore I would really stick my neck out there and socialize. It’s so incredibly hard, discouraging, and downright intimidating, for a couple of reasons.

  1. It feels like every last minute of my day is caught up in laundry, making doctor appointments and other plans, helping with homework (ok, truth be told, that’s eased up a bit and my husband does most of it), chauffeuring for soccer or dance (and oh, let’s throw writing into the mix now!) and while I may get offers to social outings, I often need to shortchange the time I spend out or I’m just too tired to even go. However, it’s gotten better. When the kids were really young, it was far easier on everyone for all of us to stay home. Now that I can leave the house to run some errands and the oldest can watch the younger two, it’s amazing! I tell people I am emerging from an early childhood-raising coma. They understand what I’m saying…
  2. My energy levels are plummeting. Call it diet and lifestyle, call it age, call it making a living, call it overwork/over-scheduling…I don’t know what to call it but it is really difficult for me to summon the energy to socialize, relax, and do nothing because even if I’m physically doing nothing, mentally, I’m thinking about #1. I’m thinking about #1 because there is no backup. It’s me and my husband and that’s pretty much it. No extended family I can call upon for 100+ miles. Nobody to rely upon. No babysitters we can hire every single night of the week because that just feels wrong and I won’t throw money out the window like that or outsource raising our kids to a teenager. It’s just us, always. Nobody else. To rely on someone else, we’d have to know them well enough (which requires socialization) and trust them, not abuse the help (which is so easy to do), and be in a position to reciprocate. So we don’t have a backup. I can’t mentally handle the math of “who can I call on this time?” and everything else I juggle in #1.
  3. I’m a cross between an introvert and an ambivert. When I’m overwhelmed with #1 and #2, I’m definitely introverted…small talk (the weather, “how are you” exchanges) drains me. I’d rather talk about something unusual, funny, or substantive, however you just don’t make acquaintances and turn them quickly into friendships over a deep conversation. Now there are days when I can easily be the center of attention and “hold court” telling stories and yukking it up with those around me. I have a spunky, zany side, and I will bust a gut laughing every chance I can get…it doesn’t get to come out to play too often anymore. There’s just a heavy, wet blanket on that side of my personality most of the time. So crazy enough, there are people who are convinced I’m an extrovert and astonished to hear otherwise. They don’t see the downtime I need. Then there are others who only know me as an introvert and have zero interest getting to know me better because they think I’m boring, quiet, uptight, and maybe even aloof. It’s extremely hard to break out of that kind of first impression, but that’s what a lot of people see. Sometimes I just wish I could be a normal person but most of these days, I just use my energy to stay upright.
  4. It feels like I’ve spent the last 15 years introducing myself to people. No matter that I spent the 15 years before that doing the very same thing, going off to college and working as a consultant and it didn’t drain me. Now it does. And the amount of life change I’ve had in the last 15 years was enormous: I’ve moved three times to two different states, had four jobs, and birthed three kids. I know a huge number of samuel-zeller-362021people superficially. It’s exhausting to introverts like me. And I scare people away, over and over again with my intensity, my constant striving to grow and be better than I was yesterday, so I don’t really try to get to know people any deeper. Besides, many of the people I know in this town have been here a long time and have their long-term friends…they aren’t really looking to make new ones.
  5. Everyone told me that it would get much better: I’d make friends with the parents of my children’s friends once my kids started school. Yes and no. I’m a working mom with no time for school volunteering or the PTO so that avenue was kinda cut off. I mean, if you’re finding it difficult to read through your child’s papers every evening, do math facts and reading, then sign and return what is supposed to go back the next day, you don’t really have the bandwidth for volunteering and the PTO too. You just don’t. Which means, I don’t have the inside scoop on the teachers, administration, or other moms, so I didn’t have anything to contribute to the conversations anyway. I couldn’t even reciprocate on the play dates that other moms were able to do. During pickup and drop off they were always able to stay and chat for 10-20 minutes but I felt I always needed to go go go….run home for another load of laundry or to go get someone else from their activity, etc.
  6. And let me share this: some of the early moms I met were 10+ years younger than me with bodies and energy levels to boot. I’d see them wear tight mini-dresses and four inch heels to go clubbing once every week or two. Clubbing? Not that I was asked to go, but I hadn’t been clubbing in well over 10 years. Drinking all night? See #2 above. I can’t function properly as it is; I don’t want to revisit what a hangover would feel like under these circumstances. I just cannot do it. Besides, I just come across like a prude because I know I can’t drink like that. I love wine but two glasses tops, and Mama Louie’s gotta call it a night. And then there was the lovely family we met somewhat early on where the one parent became a felon, I believe. And I’m a working professional who adheres to a code of ethics… so…..it just makes it a bit awkward because you can’t just come out and say, “um…we understand you were arrested for theft, and well….we just….can’t be friends. We wish you well, we really do, but no. For our own peace of mind, and my professional reputation, we can’t invite that kind of drama into our lives, thank you very much.” So yeah, socializing in my town became this increasingly impossible, insurmountable obstacle. I can’t tell you how many nights I just slumped in a puddle and cried because I just didn’t have a wellspring of strength to draw from, to overcome the intense loneliness I felt.  How do you crawl out of that hole? One freaking day at a time, and I’m still crawling. And Facebook was a lifeline when I had no other.
  7. I had all three of my kids pretty late in life, and was bracing myself for the day we sent the youngest to kindergarten. I was waiting, just waiting, for the perky fellow kindergartener mom I could have given birth to. Thank God my youngest loves me, loves me, loves me, and doesn’t blink an eye at how much older I am than the other moms. And THANK GOD, these moms are mostly only 10-15 years younger than me, not 20, and they’re pretty awesome. Nevertheless, it’s really hard being the oldest one in the room at all times. Especially when I never used to be the oldest one. Honestly I was always the youngest one, so I truly don’t even know how to relate to everyone. I feel like the odd man out every where I go, in everything I say and do. It just pulls the introverted covers tighter over my whole being.
  8. For 10 of the 12 years we’ve lived in our town, I was convinced we would move back to Pittsburgh at any moment. Why make friends when the moment you move away you’ll never hear from them again? Been there, done that…don’t need to do it again. I had always been one of people who cherished friendships for life, and it crushes me when it isn’t reciprocated, especially if the friendship had been pretty strong at one time. But there came to a point, 10 years after moving into our house, when I had to give my family some sense of stability, and commit to staying put: agreeing I would permanently abandon a move back to Pittsburgh. My long-held dream was gone. I can’t just dangle that out there and disrupt my family’s sense of home and need to feel rooted themselves. So tell me, how do you make friends when your opening line is, “I’ve lived here for 10 years and I don’t know who I’d call at 3 am if I needed to. Other than our sitter, I don’t know whose ‘local contact’ name to put on the emergency papers at school.” I don’t who is close enough friends to call “family”. Because the truth is, I need friends to be my family because I just don’t have that here, and my sisters are over a hundred miles away and consumed with obligations toward their own children. My parents have been gone for 30 and 20 years respectively as are all of my aunts and uncles. My mother in law lives 2000 miles away and rarely visits. I need that “village”, but I am so afraid to ask for it, or open up and receive it. I’m so afraid to be rejected. I’m so afraid the people we’ll end up knowing are people we don’t want to know: addicts, liars, snobs, bigots….  Oy….  Believe me, we’ve encountered some characters over the years. I am not going to deliberately bring those kind of people into the orbit of our family.  I’d rather be alone, so I am, but I worry about the impact it has on our immediate family. The five of us spend a significant amount of time alone. Now don’t get me wrong, we have tons of acquaintances and dare I say it – friends – who are absolutely lovely, but I can’t and won’t demand the intimacy of deep friendship with them. It comes over time….over a long time…and it must be mutual. I’ve danced that tango and I’ve stepped on toes. I’ve been dipped and dropped.  So no, I no longer know how to broker those kinds of friendships…not when a husband and kids need to jive with the relationship too. I just don’t. I know I can’t force it. Suffice it to say, it’s incredibly hard to make new close friends at this point in my life. I wish I hadn’t moved away. I really wish I hadn’t. And frankly, I ought to just shut up about that because that’s old news. Really old news.

So…….I had a new year’s resolution to socialize more. Was I successful? Eh…

I deliberately connected with more acquaintances in the neighborhood and such on Facebook. Believe it or not, that’s a struggle for me to do. Since I can’t get out much, so I thought maybe I’d get to know people and vice versa online. It has worked in some cases. In others, people didn’t accept my friend request. I know not to take that too personally.  For example, I don’t have 1000 “friends”. I have a few hundred…and that’s a lot for me. There are people from high school I refuse to connect with because my family is sacred, and my thoughts are deep and personal, I don’t just share them with anyone. [Ignore for a moment that I now have a blog that’s open for anyone to read. This is different, uncharted territory….]

One of my high school friends, Barb, reached out and wanted a girls’ weekend with me this year. I hadn’t seen her in 30 years but it was touching to be asked, and wonderful to plan it and go. It was balm for the soul to talk to someone who knew me back then, where I didn’t have to hold back on anything I said or try so incredibly hard to be likable. To Barb, I want to say: thank you from the bottom of my heart. You thought our weekend was healing for you. Little did you know what you did for me. And as icing on the cake, our weekend away allowed me to have breakfast with my childhood friend Stephanie, who I don’t get to see often. You have no idea how huge these gifts are to someone like me, because I know that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.

Another friend also named Barb reached out to me out of the blue this year. She and I had both moved away from Pittsburgh and lost touch. I chalked it up to one of the many friendships that just died due to distance. She has no idea how heartwarming it was to be remembered and for her to resurrect the friendship. She said she missed me. She has no idea how much I have missed her over these many years…she was so much fun to hang out with. I am so grateful for the gift of hearing from her, even if it turns out to be just that one time.

Another friend Vonda made a point to come visit this year with her husband and daughter. We sat and talked and talked.  Sitting so much couldn’t have been that much fun for these incredibly active people but again: this was a friendship that I deeply cherished and had all but lost as we both moved from Pittsburgh and our lives took wildly different turns but turns toward motherhood nevertheless. She will never know what a positive influence she has been on my life, and how much I admire her drive, intelligence, humor, beauty, style, and initiative. She is a force for so much good.

I had the good fortune to travel to Arizona for work, and shortly before the trip, another dear friend from the past serendipitously reconnected with me. Madison happens to live in Scottsdale, and we got to see each other. We met up, hung by the pool, had dinner together another evening, and dear God, we picked up like we last saw one another yesterday, not 15 years later. I felt normal again, totally myself. She herself had been going through so much in her own life but she has no idea how comforting it was to snap me back into my old self, telling stories and jokes like I used to do, and feeling like I was on par, like an equal.

I had a couple of other weekend visits, one with two long-term Pittsburgh friends Stephanie and Angela (a few true friends who have stayed in an orbit of friendship no matter what time or distance passes between us), and two I met since I returned to Ohio, Carol and Kristin. These were so healing for me…and yet the people involved have no idea.

We hosted a single picnic and a brunch, which isn’t much but it’s more than we’ve done before. Baby steps… And I’m trying hard to be fully present when I’m around other hannah-rodrigo-320734people, and to engage in small talk just to make a connection of any kind.  I try to accept invitations out but if you see my struggle, you’ll know why.

Is there more I could do? Sure….there are a couple of people where we swore we’d go out for a glass of wine or coffee this year…and we never did. I have hope that one day I’ll have a squad where I laugh like crazy, talk deep, and feel like I fit in. It would include guy friends like I once had, and absolutely no one would feel weirded out by it because the guy friends would become good friends of my husband too.

So there you have it: #10 socialize more. It’s gotten a little bit better. And here, maybe you thought I wanted to hit up a few more happy hours this year. Baby steps, and more to come in the new year.

Photo credits in order of appearance: rawpixel.com, Levi Guzman, Samuel Zeller, and Hannah Rodrigo on unsplash.com