A few days before February 14th, I broke up with my boyfriend. I planned on being alone for the impending couples’ holiday, like so many years prior. Instead, I was seated with five wonderful women for dinner at Quartino Bottega Organica. It was the start to the best Valentine’s Day I had in the past decade because Varin Wu had generously invited me to share in her birthday celebrations (before she knew that I had chosen the single life *again* It was not a pity invite.). The party got even better as more friends joined our group later in the night to wish Varin a happy birthday with a green tea Lady M cake.
There is something different about this group. A sense of genuine kindness radiates from Varin that gets mirrored back to her in the form of deep affection.
Varin lives her life by the advice from the story of Cinderella:
“Have courage and be kind… When there is kindness, there is goodness. When there is goodness, there is magic.”
As someone who has suffered from great loneliness over the past ten years, this was quite an experience for me to behold — Like being in the presence of a true Disney princess!
Varin told me, “If you don’t forget about me, I won’t forget about you. Community gives you a sense of belonging that fills a human need.”
Meaningful friendships are invaluable to emotional well-being. I instinctively knew this as a child, and it’s only become more apparent to me over time. In fact, increasing numbers of studies show the importance of community in mental health.
Luckily, magic touched my life at least twice last year. Several months after I met Varin at a pool party, I met BarBHouse Founder and movie producer Joe Barbagallo at an entrepreneur’s breakfast hosted by Bonnie Halper. CEO and founding partner of Human Ventures Heather Hartnett told the audience that culture is important. The future of work is about how you work with others & how you fit within a team.
Joe and I were sitting next to each other by chance, and became fast friends who work well together. We happily support one another because we’re collaborative, ambitious, and like-minded. His previous company was named Planet Nerd Rage, after all!
Joe and I make a point of meeting at least once a month in Tribeca to discuss various film projects we’re working on together, as well as events to attend. He says, “Successful relationships are often founded on repeated meetings with people we want to keep in our lives. It’s not just about compatibility, it’s about building trust.” Joe is a huge fan of Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone.
On Chinese New Year, I was invited to eat with the ladies of FYLI NY along with the executive mastermind group’s co-founders Summer Y.L. (Yanyi Li in red) and Jaclynn Brennan (to Summer’s left). After a delicious breakfast provided by Junzi Kitchen, we took seats in a Grow with Google classroom for a workshop which began, “Everyone sitting in this room is a high performer…” We equate energy with the ability to do work; with the ability to get through the day. Unsurprisingly, many or all of the goal-oriented guests were seeking strategies to avoid burn-out.
Despite my smiles and constant jokes (coping mechanism), my energy audit revealed that I am in a full-out energy crisis, exacerbated by packed schedules. I never feel like I’m doing enough, personally or professionally.
Summer explained, “As an Asian female entrepreneur, I always know the importance of having a community because of the challenges and pressures I constantly undertake. A community that serves as a peer-to-peer accountability group can help females overcome three challenges women face in business: inadequate support system, gender inequality, and limited knowledge.”
Last year, Summer and I worked together to honor the outstanding accomplishments of female entrepreneurs, VCs, and angel investors during the GC4W Entrepreneurship Ball hosted at the Harvard Club:
Successful people know the power of community to uplift the trajectory of their lives. I have known Sean Padgett since our days as students at Dartmouth College, and I was so proud to read his post today, “at the New England Independent School Wrestling Championships, I was presented with the NEISWA Assistant Coach of the Year award.
I am deeply honored to have been recognized by my peers for this award, but it is really as much about the people I am surrounded by as anything I have done. I count myself amazingly fortunate to be in the room with such incredible coaches as Greg Hawes and Al Reiff. Their commitment to excellence, attention to detail, and VAST sea of wrestling knowledge provide both inspiration and opportunity to keep learning and, above all else, to just keep DOING as much as I can. Because they provide so much for me, I want to give back in any way I can. I’m amazingly grateful to both of them.”
I cannot emphasize enough how important a strong and supportive community is to your mental health. It touches every aspect of your life, every day. You are your community.
If you only do one thing after reading this, please genuinely thank at least one person who has helped you though a difficult time or shown you unexpected kindness.