When I sent out messages asking the friends I've made through meetup for their insights about site, and 'finding your people' and all that jazz, I have to be honest I wasn't sure what I'd get. However, what I have discovered is that a lot of people have similar experiences. Having the realization that if you want to meet people, you actually have to put in a little effort, and that in the end, that effort can mean meeting some awesome folks. When I think of the first time I really 'remember' Erika, it's from the NerdHQ Halloween party two years ago. She dressed up as Tippi Hedren from Hitchcock's The Birds and it was AMAZING, while we probably had an interaction or two prior to that, it was the amazing costume that flagged her as 'get to know' in my brain. Little did I know that was just the tip of the creative iceberg. The bleach t-shirts she creates are amazing (Bob Dylan, for reals), and she can decoupage Edgar Allan Poe onto a vase, but the thing I'm most in awe of is her crazy cross-stitch skills. One day at a crafternoon with NerdHQ she was cross-stitching Mario and I was in, that was it, I had to know more. Now I have my very own collection of embroidery floss, and while I can't create patterns quite like the master, I can follow a pattern and make my own cute, geeky, cross-stitches. Yeah, that's right, I made a Marvel alphabet cross-stitch! While, I was going to post this earlier, I'm kind of glad I ended up having to push it back, because that means I got to see the Surrey side of Erika when we went to Roller Derby in her 'hood this weekend. The sass we got to witness was amazing. Now that I've known her for about a year and a half (is it only that much?!?) I feel like a fun new, slightly darker version of Erika is starting to appear, and it's both hilarious and amazing. Master cross-stitcher, Erika, made these Adventure Time buttons for me for my birthday! Here are Erika's experiences with meetup.com, in her own words: I think we all know people who can make friends with anyone, anywhere. That friendly, confident person who can strike up a conversation with a stranger in a bookstore and actually translate that encounter into a genuine friendship. I am not one of those people. I am an introvert and have always been a little shy, with a pinch of awkwardness and a dash of anxiety sprinkled in for extra flavour. I’ve always had a hard time meeting people and it was becoming harder the older I got. It’s not like I didn’t have friends. Facebook told me I had lots, but I felt like I was really lacking a social circle with meaningful connections. People I could just be myself around, hang out with, go do various activities with etc. I realized as I was rounding out my twenties that unless the pizza delivery guy wanted to stay and watch X-Files reruns while I organized my excessive amount of craft tape, then I needed to make some changes and actively force myself out of my comfort zone. No one was going to do it for me. But how? It’s very daunting to set out with a mission to make new friends when you are almost 30. I couldn’t use school as an option anymore. I wasn’t interested in going to ‘singles’ events or business networking events, clubs and bars are not my thing and I was much too shy to start a conversation with a stranger. I figured if I got out of the house and did things that I enjoyed doing, with other people who enjoyed the same things, then maybe something good would start from that. This is how I found out about Meetup. I was looking for art and photography classes in my area. While searching online I thought it would be nice if there were more “clubs” (for lack of a better word) that brought people together with similar interests. Like movies - I like movies, so it would be awesome if a group of people wanted to get together and watch movies. Or crafting - I’m all about crafting - surely there are other people who loved to get together and craft (spoiler alert: there are). I searched a bit more and found meetup.com which seemed to facilitate this exact thing. I was blown away by how many people were already using this site. As weird as it might sound, it made me feel normal. Obviously I wasn’t alone in feeling the need to connect with likeminded people. I signed up with the site and joined some groups that peaked my interest. It was a little overwhelming at first. Some of the groups had 100’s of members, so I just lurked online for a little while. I finally forced myself to go to an event (the first meetup I went to was with the Vancouver Movie Lovers group) and I was terrified. However, the group was lovely. The organizer was very friendly and I even stayed for some post movie chit-chat. When I got home, I felt like a superhero, like I could do anything. I was so happy that I forced myself to get out. Over the years my participation in various meetup groups would go up and down. Some groups closed and new ones start up. Not all groups work out, some are duds. When you find a good group though, it’s golden. Over the past year and a half I’ve been pretty active with the NerdHQ meetup group. It’s really the all encompassing group of awesome and has changed my life. It’s kind of like a second family. There are people I’ve met here that I feel like I’ve known forever. I’ve never been around a group of people who are so welcoming. To anyone reading this who is new to meetup or is maybe on the fence about joining a group. Give it a try. I know it can be terrifying to walk into a cafe with a large group of people - who already know each other - but trust me, it’s worth it. You get what you give, so you have to go to gain the benefits. I’ve met the most amazing friends and so many good things have happened in my life. I’m a happier person in general, I’m more creative and get inspired by the people I’ve met. I’ve done so many things this past year - movies, shows, concerts, conventions, galleries, things that I always wanted to do, but never had people to do them with. It’s also helping me overcome my shyness and anxiety. I realized I’m a lot more outgoing then I thought I was. It takes guts to drive to the middle of nowhere (literally, in this case it was Mission) to meet up people you don’t know. Meetup really has changed and continues to change my life. Currently, the slogan for Meetup is “Find your people”. That’s really what it’s all about. Connecting with people - the right people. Well, mission accomplished.