To know me is to know that on November 6th, 2008, my life changed forever. It was on that date that I finally attended my first Meetup event. The reason I say “finally” is because I originally signed up for Michigan Adventurers at least six months previous (I was member number three hundred and something) because it sounded exactly like the sort of group I would enjoy, but I just couldn’t force myself to attend a single event for some reason. It wasn’t until a tenant of mine absolutely talked my ear off about the wonders of Meetup that I finally committed to attend an event, and what better an event than a Meet n Greet to be my first. It didn’t take long to realize that I had been missing out on a lot of fun. Five years and over a thousand events later, I have experienced more, traveled more, laughed more, and made more friends than anyone has a right to hope for in a lifetime. It is for that reason that I am hosting my Five Year Anniversary of Meetup Meet n Greet where it all began for me. Whether you are new to Meetup or are already well aware of what it has to offer, I hope you consider joining me at the place it all began for me. And if you are new and enjoy it a fraction as much as I did and do, imagine the memories you could have five years from now.
Unless you are a Meetup veteran or are a close friend of mine, you shouldn't feel obligated to read the following, but I am compelled to write it and post it publicly, because it’s just too important to me not to.
My Letter of Gratitude
A small handful of individuals from MAC have had an enormous impact on my life and, since this event is my five year anniversary of joining the group that changed my life, what better place to thank them than right here (in the order I met them).
Charity—while not the founder of MAC, she was the woman I most closely associated with the group because she was the most active leader at the time and I saw her name and face on countless invitations and events I otherwise ignored during those first six months. By the time I finally met her, I felt like I knew her. And between her awesomely friendly personality and ability to make a new member instantly feel like one of the group, I actually did feel like we were friends by the end of the night. That feeling continued as she led the first group hike I’d even been on, just a few days later. But never did I need and appreciate someone’s ability to read a situation and make me feel like a human being than at the botanical garden event in Ann Arbor. Without going into too much detail, the weather was terrible, I got terribly lost driving there, I was on the verge of a divorce, and I basically had a complete emotional breakdown on the way there. I finally arrived quite late and most people were ready to leave by then, but she basically extended the event just for me. I don’t know what even gave me the strength to get out of my car when I arrived, my nose still plugged up and my eyes red and puffy, but I thank God I did. To this day I’m not even sure if she has any idea just how significant her sympathy and kindness was for me that day. It was after that (and the party that followed that night) I knew I would owe everything to Meetup and a few very special individuals. Even after all these years and countless events, I still feel a certain magic about her that is unmatched in anyone else.
Troy—has the great distinction of being in the right place at the right time when I needed him most, twice! I’ll write about him next because it was at his house (the above mentioned party) that I fully came to appreciate just how awesome a group of people I just met could be. Never in my life had I laughed more or had more fun at a party, let alone a party where I hardly knew anyone at all. We played a game of Uno that should have been filmed for a commercial because we never stopped laughing and having fun. But even more importantly that that, it was Troy with whom I confided on a hike the day after Thanksgiving, the day after I realized my marriage failed. I don’t know if it was just coincidence or if he had “Charity-like” superpowers and realized that I was in pain and needed desperately to unload my heartache, but he was an awesome listener and he gave me hope during a terrible time in my life.
Charlie—Speaking of giving me hope, Charlie had basically gone though was I was currently going though a year earlier, and he became my mentor of sorts. I found we had so many things in common and, if he eventually got though everything as was doing as well as he was a year later, so could I.
BK—I didn’t get to know her very well until the previously mentioned three people had already had enormous impacts on my life but, without her, they wouldn’t have had any impact at all, because I would never even have met them. I sometimes exaggerate a wee bit when I tell people BK basically founded Meetup, but what she did to was found the group that basically started it all. Meetup.com started after the 9-11 tragedy in an effort to bring people together. However, as you might imagine, it takes a long time for a site like Meetup to gain traction when they don’t advertise at all (and still don’t). Until MAC, Meetup (at least in MI) was nothing more than political, religious, and foreign language groups. I give her credit for starting the very first successful group where regular people could meet and get to know each other and do fun outdoorsy stuff. MAC indirectly inspired or directly spawned all subsequent outdoors, sports, social, and singles groups. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also become one of my closest friends.
Katie—I didn’t actually meet her though MAC, but without MAC and Meetup, we both agree that I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep her interest. Although we didn’t end up getting married, we are still friends, and she is a huge part of why the last five years have been the greatest of my life.
Robin—I first met him at my own MDA event, but I only started that group after getting inspired by MAC. And it wasn’t until the MAC event “Winter Wonderland NYE Bash” (one of my favorite of all time) that we became almost instant best friends when fate paired us up during cross-country skiing. He is by far the most recent person on this list that I’ve met but, in that relatively short time, he’s become the best friend I’ve ever had!
The only reason I don’t list more names is because it would I wouldn’t know where to stop. I’ve met so many incredible people during the last five years I can hardly believe it. As an only child with almost no family, I made making friends a top priority in my life. I had so many great friends in high school, and so many more in college. I thought they would be my friends forever, and many of them are still very important to me. But it’s the friends I met though Meetup that changed everything. As I’ve said so many times before, people in Meetup actually DO things. They are more adventurous, sporty, social, friendly, and certainly more active in life than other people. And they are the reason my life is good, despite so many other terrible things that have gone wrong.
I wrote this not just to thank everyone who has helped me live the dream, but also as motivation to people just starting to discover the possibilities of Meetup. My life mantra is that “every single day you wake up and leave the house is another day that anything could happen, and it could be awesome.” That’s true for everyone, but especially the great people in Meetup!