On being … any excuse

By Ingrid Sapona 

I don’t know about you, but to me one of the best things to come out of the pandemic has been reconnecting with folks that I hadn’t been in touch with in a long, long time. Early on in the pandemic (hard to believe we’re talking well over a year ago now) I made a point of fairly regularly checking in with friends and family. I suspect many folks did that. 

Those check-ins were pretty much to make sure that those I care about were alright on a very basic level. Many of the conversations seemed to revolve around comparing notes about new routines. For example, finding out how people were coping with transitioning to working from home and whether they were getting groceries in person or by delivery. 

About a month into the pandemic, I also started reaching out to people who were not in my immediate circle of friends. I spoke with folks I went to school with or who I knew from the sail club – that kind of thing. I know I surprised more than a few people when I dropped them an email to find out how they were getting along. But without exception, all of them responded with details about – highlights, for sure – how they were doing. However brief such interactions were, I found them sustaining, especially during the lonelier moments of the pandemic. 

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes feel self-conscious reaching out to folks I’ve not been in touch with for a long time. Part of my trepidation comes from not having anything particularly exciting to say or report. There’s also my basic insecurity about whether they’ll remember me. And of course, there’s the concern they’ll think I’m contacting them because I want something or because I have something to brag about. Cynical, perhaps… but I think those are potential reactions when you’ve not been in touch with someone for awhile. Anyway, this past year I put those thoughts aside and I used the pandemic as an excuse for reaching out to people near and far. 

Last week I kind of wondered if karma was at work when – out of the blue – I started getting emails through LinkedIn from people I’d not heard from in years. Turns out, the emails were to congratulate me for my work anniversary. (For those who aren’t familiar with it, LinkedIn is a social network for professionals and I’m one of the 750+ million people who are on it.) 

I knew that LinkedIn tracks work anniversaries because I regularly get system-generated messages about anniversaries of others in my LinkedIn network. When you get such notifications, you can simply ignore them, or you can send a message to the person to congratulate them. If you don’t feel like personalizing the message, you can just click on a button and LinkedIn will send a generic “Congratulations on your work anniversary” message on your behalf. I don’t tend to use the automated generic message, as it seems too impersonal. If I do send a note, I customize the message, though it’s often just some variation on “Wow – can’t believe you’ve been there X years! Congrats!” 

When the first congratulations message came in this week, I thought there was some mistake. When the second note came in, I checked the dates on my LinkedIn profile and realized I had, in fact, started my consulting business in May 1997. So the anniversary was a legitimate, er, professional, excuse for folks to drop a line. 

Anyway, the emails were the one-click – “Congratulations on your work anniversary” – type. But still, I was surprised by some of the folks who sent them. There was one person whose name I recognized immediately, but I couldn’t even remember whether we went to undergrad or grad school together. There was also a message from a woman I met more than 10 years ago on a fun gourmet weekend. And then there was someone I met half a dozen years ago at a culinary boot camp. My sisters and I took the two-day cooking course and we ended up chatting at length with this classmate when we discovered we were all staying at the same little inn. 

I ended up responding with personal emails to some of the congratulations messages. I’m so glad I did because a few folks responded in kind and we reconnected. For example, I had a delightful back-and-forth with the guy from the culinary course. We swapped stories about what we ended up learning on the course that we actually put to use – or try to – in our cooking. It was so nice to share a fond memory and to know that he and his family are well. 

We cross paths with so many people during our lives, it’s natural to lose touch with many. But just because you’ve lost touch doesn’t mean the connection is necessarily lost for good. Sometimes all it takes to reconnect is a bit of effort and a willingness to try. 

If you’re like me and you find it easier to reach out to others if you feel you have a reason to, that’s fine. Just remember, any excuse will do – from work anniversaries to shared experiences. Hell, I think the pandemic will be an excuse we can lean on for a long time yet. Not sure about that? Feel free to try this line: “Just wondering how you’re adjusting to life as the pandemic restrictions are being lifted.” 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


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