Six weeks ago, I was sitting at the rooftop bar of a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, among 14 women I’d never before met, nor they, each other.
“I’ve just learned to say this: I’m looking for more women friends,” ventured an attendee across from me, lifting her glass and smiling broadly. Libby worked for a nearby retirement community and had recently left a long marriage in Texas to make a fresh start in Asheville.
Coral went next. “I’ve lived in this city for several years,” she said. “But I’m at a stage in my life — kids leaving for college, menopause — where I need people I can talk to about what’s going on for me right now. And to be honest, I haven’t had that.”
We all pulled our chairs in a little closer, tightening our circle.
Now it was Val’s turn. “I was a prison guard for 30 years,” she said, “and retired right before the pandemic hit. The isolation imposed by the double-whammy of retirement and COVID really did a number on my self-esteem, and I had to push myself to come here tonight.”
Looking around at the rest of us, Val added: “I’m very glad I did.”
As a group, it may not have seemed like we instantly belonged together on that Asheville rooftop. We ranged in age from 40 to 75, and were variously shy, outgoing, married, single, tattooed, buttoned up, gay, straight, with children and without them, living large and living scrappily.
And yet there we were, never having met before and absolutely belonging together.
What brought us together that night was Revel — a robust events and social platform for women in midlife and beyond — designed to help women reimagine the possibilities as we age, and for which I serve as Director of Host Experience. I provide support for our 22,000+ members as they offer wisdom, humor, illumination, and comfort via some 20 daily gatherings on any topic you can imagine (both virtual and “in real life”), nationwide and, increasingly, in cities around the world.
The South African philosophy of Ubuntu holds that “the only way I can be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.” I’ve come to understand that this is what Revelers do for each other: we reflect our humanity back at each other. We don’t rescue one another; we’ve gained enough wisdom in the ripeness of our middle years to know that we have to (indeed, we get to!) rescue ourselves. But the bearing witness is critical, and can be transformative.
So it’s no surprise that the magic I experienced in Asheville was no one-off. Eight weeks earlier I was in Washington, D.C., on a similar trip, and witnessed the same phenomenon of instant connection. My first night there found me at a table with a scientist, an artist, financial planner, forensic psychologist, and a horse-loving non-profit executive. As with Asheville, there was a good 30-year span between the youngest and oldest among us. And over the course of the evening, through the sharing of stories and the unleashing of vulnerability, we all experienced being seen in a way that felt courageous, enlivening, and true.
You lose things: youth, certainly! And also health, money, parents, jobs, relationships, and assurances. If you’re lucky, new and unexpected seedlings grow in their place. Those of us who work for Revel like to think of our platform as both a nesting ground and a launchpad. I myself fit right into this tableau. I’m 58, have weathered a painful divorce and found myself more “me” than ever before on the other side of it. I’m also a recent empty nester, am trying mightily to be of support to my aging parents, and this fall will marry my 65-year-old OKcupid true love.
What I’ve learned is this: when the context for a gathering of any kind is one of welcome, generosity, curiosity, and lack of judgment, a path emerges for whoever’s part of that gathering to lay claim to our most vital expressions of ourselves. Wherever that context might happen to be. The context can be set anywhere, in any environment. It’s replicable and knows no bounds.
Revel’s Chief Creative Officer Nina Collins and I were reflecting on this very idea. “Hmmmmm,” said Nina. “What if Revel were to hold a global series of celebrations all on the same day?” Half joking, she added, “We could call it the International Day of Revelry!”
And there it was (why not?). Sunday, July 24, 2022, is now the date for Revel’s first annual International Day of Revelry (moving forward, save the date for the last Sunday in July). Among some 30 events (with more being posted daily), there’ll be yoga in a Toronto park, a picnic at a Reveler’s home in the south of France, a “porch hang” in Washington D.C., a walk along New York’s Hudson River with attendees’ dogs, a pool party in Maryland, a picnic in Beverly Hills, and a beach party in the Hamptons!
We’re living in difficult times. No matter the event attended or hosted, Revel’s first International Day of Revelry will be a cri de coeur, a balm and a solace, a battle cry for who and where we are now, and a confirmation that we can only get where we’re going together.
As the poet and historian Jennifer Michael Hecht has observed: “We believe each other into being.”
Let us gather.
Become a member of Revel, and join our revolution with your own July 24th International Day of Revelry event. You can create that event right here, or reach out to me at email@example.com for help setting it up.
Jenny Douglas is the Director of Host Experience & Operations at Revel, and divides her time between Brooklyn and New York’s Hudson Valley.
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