I don’t love January. It’s a dreary month for me. The glow of Christmas is long gone and normal people (not me) have taken down their Christmas trees leaving a noticeable hole in their living rooms.
The excitement and freshness of the new year has worn off and so has the resolve to live a new way, exercising or smiling more or whatever was lacking in the last year that you’ve vowed to make different.
January, for me, is a ‘nothing month,’ a necessary evil between one joyful season and another. And that was never more obvious than last Wednesday.
I was sitting at a table with my friend Stephanie, wearing matching leggings (which everyone knows is the slightly more respectable older sister to sweatpants), and wiping sleep from our eyes.
We talked about snoozed alarms and dragging ourselves out of bed until finally we both arrived at the same conclusion.
Something needed to change.
We needed something warm and glowy to fill the cold tundra of January, something to fill in the chilly gaps like comfort food or an oversized sweater.
So we decided to throw a Nothing Party, no special occasion necessary, just an excuse to bring people together, for warmth, inside and out.
Unsure if anyone would actually come, we invited our coworkers to my apartment on Friday night, requesting that they come with a food that makes them happy and maybe a craft or a board game.
By seven o’clock everything was ready. We flopped down on the couch, exhausted and ready, waiting for the others to arrive.
And then slowly but surely the room started to fill. Knocks were heard from the other side of the door and friends spilled in, arms laden with random food items bought on sale from the local supermarket.
We popped open beers and poured glasses of wine. We stuck frozen pizzas and jalapeño poppers in the oven and poured salsa into small bowls. We gathered around Stephanie’s bright purple cupcakes and listened to her laugh with a hint of embarrassment as she explained that she needed more color in her life.
Three separate games were going on around the small apartment. Whoops and laughter could be heard from down the street as a hand was won or a round came to an end.
The fire alarm went off as my oven burned the pizza, Carl whipping it out of the oven with remarkable speed and scraping off most of the black. Everyone laughed and covered their ears as I swung a towel like a mad woman underneath the smoke detector, willing it to stop.
Several girls brought over baskets of art supplies, hunkering down on my bedroom floor with journals and scrapbooks and paints.
At the end of the night we sat around the living room telling stories and laughing- stretching in the space and relationships that were able to exist outside of the office.
When the night was over, and the kitchen cleaned and dark, my boy and I laid on the couch, my head on his stomach, watching the candles flicker and reflecting on the night.
“I want us to always do things like this,” he said quietly, and my overflowing soul nodded in agreement.
There’s something that happens in Gainesville, a place that people normally come for community. There’s a feeling that everyone has a place to go, a group of friends, a booming social life. There’s a feeling of missing out if you’re sitting at home on a Friday night, as you assume that everyone else is somewhere that they forgot to invite you to.
The winter had gotten long and the days had begun to creak under the pressure of the day-to-day. We all had spent time feeling disconnected and isolated, neck deep in our work, not taking the time to talk or catch up. We all thought that we were the only ones feeling alone.
What we needed was time together, time to laugh and play and joke- time to be away from our work and to remember why we do this in the first place.
We needed a mix of jalapeño poppers and slightly burnt frozen pizza- needed to have our tongues stained purple with Stephanie’s colorful cupcakes. We needed to be reminded that we aren’t alone in the world and that there are people surrounding us willing and wanting to love us.
I forgot how much I needed people- needed to be surrounded and known and loved. I forgot how much it meant to me to be snuggled in, stepping over each other’s tangled legs to reach the kitchen, hearing the familiar laughs and voices of people that I’m really growing to love.
It’s tempting to not invest in a place when you’re not sure how long you’ll be there. It’s tempting, especially in a place that’s as transient as Gainesville, to feel like it’s almost not worth it. But it is. We need each other. We need to be nourished and fed by good food and by each other’s presence.
And there’s no better time to be fed with the things that warm your soul than a Friday night, mid-January, Nothing Party.