28-year-old Emily Grigg moved to Charlotte four years ago, only to find how hard it is to make friends in a new city.
Outside of work, where most co-workers were older than her or married with children, it was hard to find someone that she connected with.
“I made a lot of ‘going out’ friends,” she told me. “Friends that just go out to the bar and party, but the kind that are just waiting until the next time you get wasted to hang out.”
To cope, she spent a lot of her free time at places like Starbucks, where she would settle in with a book just to feel like she was around people.
“I was so lonely. It was so sad,” she said. “My friends now say it’s pathetic, but I’m like, ‘I just didn’t want to go home and sit at home every night.”
If she wasn’t at Starbucks, she was at yoga classes or the Dowd Y, or the place she had the most luck, Elevation. In fact, she credits being a “believer” as one of the main reasons she’s been able to forge friendships that run deeper than “going out friends.”
Still, finding those connections took about a year.
“It took me about a year to have friends,” she said.
Once she had them, she was able to step back and realize how lucky and thankful she felt for the sense of community she’d found herself in.
“I want everyone to have that, because I think it can be really lonely without it,” she continued. “I’m single, not married, so I think when you’re in this ‘in-between,’ you really need that community. I wanted to pay it forward.”
The in-between community has made Emily’s life richer, and she wanted to try her hand at facilitating that for others.
That’s a big order – how do you do it? You throw a party. A Compound Throwdown, specifically.
Emily and her roommates, all in their mid- to late-twenties, decided to throw a party. They live in a duplex near Montford, and decided to fill their yard with games, music, food and everybody they know.
“We were all just looking for community at the same time,” she said. “Right time, right place. We literally invited 70 people.”
The goal was to provide an atmosphere that was more intimate than being out, where “you have to yell and nobody’s really talking about real things.”
So after nailing down a date, they pooled together everyone they knew in Charlotte and sent out e-mails about a month beforehand.
“We were really nervous that people wouldn’t show up. I’ve never thrown a party. But we started getting yeses,” Emily said. “If you throw it, they’ll come.”
The party came together, and so did everyone else.
About 50 people came and went throughout the day.
“I’m not going to say it was like, ‘kumbayah,’ and everybody was best friends at the end of the night,” she said. “But it definitely helped people that wouldn’t normally mix together meet.”
The games, music and low country broil (that “may not have been cooked right, but… whatever.”) helped created a “common thread” that made everything less intimidating. So much so that some people showed up alone.
Halfway through, the skies opened and everyone had to pile into either side of the house, but nobody minded – so much so that at the end of the night, those that stuck around wound up at Jeff’s Bucket Shop, where you truly get to see the what type of people those around you are.
“I would definitely do it again,” she decided.
Thinking about throwing your own? Emily’s got some advice for you.
“Don’t go in on it alone. It’s expensive,” was the first thing she told me. The total expenses, split between three people, hit more than $600. “It’s definitely a once a year thing. It was stressful.”
As for changes she would make? She wouldn’t send invitations via e-mail again, but over Facebook, stick with her own speakers and get people to chip in more.
“We didn’t want to have a pizza party — it needed to be different,” she elaborated. “But a low country broil is expensive, and I wouldn’t do that again.”
Overall? She believes the party was a huge success, and she definitely paid that sense of community forward.
Feature photo courtesy of Emily Griggs