Our new column ‘Gather’ explores our path to camaraderie, acceptance, belonging — and the realization that we’re not really as alone as we might think.

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Editor’s note: Welcome to the debut of our new column Gather, a look at how, where and with whom we connect and build community. It will alternate in Pacific NW magazine every other week with another fun new feature, Cheers!, a spirited exploration of drinks, drinking and drinking culture, which first appeared Jan. 13.

 

AT A RECENT pub-trivia competition, so many of my friends showed up to play that we had to split into two teams. We called ourselves Thing 1 and Thing 2. Thing 2 — the team without me on it — won.

I didn’t care, because I was so excited to meet a friend of a friend I’d long known of through the trivia grapevine.

That kind of camaraderie was unthinkable to me when I first moved to Seattle about 10 years ago, not knowing a single person here.

The Backstory: Our new ‘Gather’ column explores how, why and where we get together

I moved for my husband’s job (I feel compelled for some reason to add “not at Microsoft or Amazon”) and, as a freelancer, had no built-in colleagues of my own. Plus it was October, and we were living in a perpetually dark and damp rental my husband nicknamed “The Doom Box.”

Working alone all day, I fell into a deep depression. Finally, I realized something had to change. I had to find my people.

But how? I wasn’t much of a churchgoer, and I didn’t have the automatic socializers of work or school.

To start, I joined the local Romance Writers of America chapter. I make part of my living editing books, and romance authors are my favorite clients. Having met some in my previous location, Salt Lake City, I knew them to be an all-around fun — and, perhaps even more important, accepting — bunch.

I found other writers at conferences. I scanned Meetup.com for groups to join. I became friends with almost everyone in one small freelancer group, and they’re still some of my best friends.

At dance classes, I discovered that dancing to loud music, however poorly I did it, lifted my spirits.

When I learned there was such a thing as pub trivia, I was immediately interested. It combined three of my favorite things: trivia, booze and friends.

Now, I frequently join different groups of trivia-lovers to test wits against similarly nerdy Seattleites. It turns out that, perhaps not surprisingly, Seattle is a nerd-rich environment. And these are definitely my people.

I’m just one of many, newcomers and old-timers alike, facing the same question: How do you make friends in a city renowned for its standoffishness, and in a world that encourages division and isolation?

When I began writing for The Seattle Times, I covered what my then-editor called “the offbeat beat”— things that didn’t fall under any other reporter’s purview. Things like tattoo conventions, amateur zombie movies and motorcycle clubs. I realized this is how it works here: We gather around our passions: hobbies, sports teams, food, activism — you name it. When we get into something, we really get into it — and that passion holds us together better than weaker ties would in this always-moving world.

I’m thrilled to continue my “offbeat” work, but in a new way. With this new column, we’re exploring this question: How have you found your people? Whether you play music, meet to share meals or dress up in elaborate costumes to re-enact history; whether you joined a hip-hop troupe or a “Star Trek” group, we want to hear from you.

I’m hoping this column will remind us all that we’re not as alone as we might think.