Rethinking work, life and meaning for the contemporary age
The pre-order countdown is on for The Family Outing, which comes out October 4. And it really helps an author when readers pre-order. These purchases help determine how many books my favorite bookstores (like Books Are Magic, in the picture above!) will elect to carry, and whether an author will be invited to discuss the work. So if you’ve been meaning to, please consider doing it now!
👩🏼💻 Did we really learn anything?
This week marks two years and one month since our family settled into its pandemic quaranteam. I’m harboring a sense of nostalgia that I cannot shake for that period that, at the time, felt boring and restless and unchosen.
I know, so predictable.
Every summer, Hello Monday runs a six-week series. In this year’s series, Navigating the New Office, we’re looking at how our lives are different two years on—and what we’ve actually learned about how work should happen. And the short answer is: on balance, we’ve learned (or chosen to apply) less than we thought we were learning at the time.
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This has me thinking about the quaranteam. In 2020, to survive the intense isolation in very close quarters in Brooklyn, we joined together with two other families. This pairing was born more of convenience than perceived closeness: our son was 18 months. Friends down the street had a son the same age. The family in the apartment next door had twins just a few months older. I didn’t know them well. They were the ones who suggested the arrangement at the time, and I remember thinking it was bold of them, like moving in before a first date. Their apartment was perhaps 750 square feet, but they had a huge back yard, an asset when even NYC’s playgrounds were closed. We lived in a duplex with no outdoor space. So we turned our apartment into a We Work, and used theirs as daycare. Four little boys and six beleaguered adults.
We put aside all petty grievances because life with each other was better than life without each other, and there were no other discernible choices.
To make this arrangement work, we did a lot of communicating, checking in, and sharing long dinners. We told each other our stories, and then told them again and again until everyone knew everyone else’s stories. We stretched baby monitors so that we could have game nights, and we barbecued in the one back yard on Fridays. We knew each others’ struggles intimately—phone fights with friends, job ups and downs. We loved the hell out of each other’s kids, and wiped all of their bums as they potty-trained. We dispensed with worrying if anyone’s house was tidy. When our daughter was born, the quaranteam took over care of our son, throwing him in the bath or taking him along to dinner. Childcare with six adults is, in some ways, infinitely easier than childcare with two of them.
When things began to open up, I understood that things would be different. But I thought that somehow I could maintain the best elements of this intimacy, that I could return to the office and work trips and drinks with friends and also know the rhythms of the people I’d grown to think of as family. But you know where this story is going. One family left the city. We moved to a larger home across town. Coworking and coliving shifted to intentional visits. Sharing life’s rhythms shifted to catching up on news and events.
We’ve just returned from our semi-annual trip to Mississippi, and so we called them. We made plans to grab dinner with the family still in town. They came by Saturday and I felt warm, even relieved, the mother started poking through the cabinets in the kitchen in search of something. Seeing them felt, as it always does, like falling back into more whole versions of ourselves. And then the visit was over. In a few days, we’ll start texting to make plans again.
🎙Things I’ve made
We’re right in the middle of the summer series, Navigating the New Office. This summer, we’re taking stock of all we’ve learned (and applied) two years after the start of the pandemic. We’ll look at everything from the perceived desire to put less hours in at work to the move to disclose salary. The series starts with specific instructions on how we take care of our interpersonal relationships. Our guest is both warm and effective. If you attended Stanford Business School, or worked in Silicon Valley, you may know her: Carole Robin. For many years, she helped teach a class affectionately known as the “touchy feely” class at Stanford.
Things you’ve made
We live in a time-pressed culture; there is never enough time, says Dorie Clark in this TEDxBoston talk that is worth seven minutes of your time.
Anchor cofounder Michael Mignano on the Standards Innovation Paradox. This is the answer to the question: why isn’t FILL-IN-THE-BLANK getting better? Email. SMS. RSS. Standards are very helpful…up until the moment they are not.
***So maybe you’re asking, what’s this about again? You're my brain trust. I don't write for thousands. I write to exchange ideas with the small group of people I've met and who matter to me, in hopes that together we can figure out something more about where humanity is going and how it gets there. This is a team sport. Please let me know what to think about, where to train my attention, where you are training yours.