Giving a name to what I seek

jdbruewer's picture

For the last few months, I've been feeling a bit isolated amid my usual crowd.

I live in a nice suburban house where my kids have room to run and play. I have a job as a reporter that lets me meet new people on a regular basis. I live in a small town where a lot of people know me. Yet, I've found myself looking for something more in terms of connecting with people.

My neighbors are all good people. The people I report on are interesting, but I don't spend a lot of time with them before moving on to the next story. My work and family schedule doesn't leave a lot of time to hangout in my hometown.

I interact with people often, but I've felt like something is lacking. Socially, I see the same group of good friends. Professionally, my interactions are bound by unwritten rules of engagement. The people I meet generally see me as a reporter, not an individual and my job is to tell their story, not share experiences.

On my lunch/dinner breaks lately, I've found myself driving around looking for new places to eat. I'm looking for that old-fashioned diner where the waitress calls you "hon," and strangers chat around the counter. My appetite for interaction was stimulated during a rare solo trip to a convention in New Orleans in late September. Enjoying new restaurants with strangers and new friends was refreshing.

I vaguely felt I was searching for something, but couldn't put a name on it. Until today. The name is haimish, "A Yiddish word that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality." That definition comes from New York Times Columnist David Brooks. In a column he wrote in August, he described a trip to Kenya and Tanzania where he and his family stayed at a variety of camps. He enjoyed the less formal camps where he could interact with strangers more than the higher-end camps with more structure and privacy.

Brook's column was brought to my attention by a New Year's Day blog post by entrepreneur turned venture capitalist Mark Suster. Suster talks about "crossing the Haimish Line" in his professional and personal life.

Aside from a search for more meaningful connections, I have little in common with either Brooks or Suster. I've not yet accomplished as much as they have. My family vacations tend to be trips to in-laws or a long weekend at a hotel with a pool. No one is seeking me out to invest in their new ideas. The biggest investment choices I've made lately are a case of Yuengling for $10, or a six-pack of Rogue Mocha Porter for $8. (I got both.)

My hope for 2012 is not necessarily to accomplish more, but to set my family up for a better future. This past year I've taken stock of my goals, strengths and weaknesses. I've accepted that I'm not where I want to be yet, and that I'm the only one to blame. My goals are to get more done, keep my promises and interact with a wider variety of people who can expand my vision. That's where haimish comes in, and Twitter.

In 2011, I've really gotten into Twitter at a higher level than before. If I had to put a word to what I like about it, it's haimish. There aren't a lot of rules dividing people. On Twitter, I've conversed with venture capitalists, journalists and marketing experts from around the country, a robot dinosaur and Lebron's Elbow.

I've gained insight and inspiration from a variety of people I'd never get to meet. I'm joining a group-read of a philosophy book at the suggestion of a Washington Post producer.

Then again, I guess Twitter, like anything else in life, is what you make it. This year I hope to take my search for haimish into the real world. If this is the year my family breaks through to a more prosperous life, I intend to spend more on people and experiences than things.