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Illustrations by Joao Fazenda

Let’s face it: We’re not all joiners. Here is (approximately) what’s happened when I’ve attempted to create community for myself. 

Age 22: Find high school friends of your Stanford drawmates in your new city. 

Encourage two of them to start dating. Listen to both as they confide in you about their clinically dysfunctional relationship—after all, you only know, like, four people in this town. Congrats, you are the group therapist. 

Age 25: Promise to stay connected with friends and coworkers after you move away. 

But don’t. Congrats, you’re a footnote in their lives. Hope they’ll still endorse your skills on LinkedIn.

Age 26: Stand out by bringing baked goods during your first week on a new job. 

Make the critical error of arranging a dozen Toll House cookies on a nice plate. Congrats, you are now the Fun Committee. Plan the retreat.

Age 28: Go out, even when you don’t feel like it.

Agree to go to your frosh dormmate’s twin sister’s grad-school officemate’s birthday party, where you will pay for a meal you can’t afford. Whine about having to drive to the City. Spy someone across the restaurant. Congrats, it’s your future spouse. Yeah, that one surprised me, too.

Age 31: Bring your communities together by inviting old and new friends to your wedding. 

Say that kids are not allowed. Congrats, you are rude. Doesn’t matter; you won’t see most of them again after you . . .  

Age 32: Have kids and join a moms’ group. 

Realize you have nothing in common with these women except that none of you gags at the sight of feces anymore. Cry. Then invite them over for cheese puffs and peeled grapes. Provide a seasonal activity for the kids. Congrats, you are amaaaazing. No, really. They thought that was amazing. Remain friends for years.

Age 33: Join an exercise group. 

Go to half of the meet-ups. Smile awkwardly at bouncy ponytails who are already besties. Remember you hate exercise. Quit. Congrats, you’re a quitter. Spend your newfound free time lecturing your daughter on why it’s important to stick with things.

Age 35: Offer your expertise to a nonprofit.

Fill out a checklist of “areas in which you could lend your time.” Don’t correct the board president when she invites you to coffee because you have communications experience. (Did you check that box? You don’t think you checked that box.) Congrats, you now set communications strategy for a nonprofit. Someone will complain about everything you do. 

Age 38: Learn something new you can share with your family. 

Download an app to learn Spanish so you can have more conversations with your bilingual toddler niece. Learn enough to order a burrito at her over FaceTime. Felicitaciones, you can crack up small children with your ignorance.

Age 40: Go to parties. 

Wait, you got invited to an actual party? At night? Without plastic goodie bags? Find a sitter, shave, try on four different outfits, pick out a bottle of wine to bring, put that one back and pick out a better one. Arrive and realize it’s just your spouse’s colleagues talking about work all night. Congrats, you’re the one who works somewhere else. Check messages on your phone from the bathroom.

Summer Moore Batte , ’99, is the editor of stanfordmag.org.