I always check in with people on social media if it seems like they’re having a mental health struggle. We might be strangers in real life. May not recognize each other in the airport. But if I remember your profile picture and a shift in your mood? I’m going to reach out. I’ve made more than a few friends with kindness and probably my fair share of virtual side-eyes, too.
Yes, I realize that isn’t normal. Most people don’t do that. Most people don’t notice and don’t go out of their way to say something if they do. Instead, they go and gossip, saying things like “I wonder what’s wrong” to anyone but the person they’re wondering about.
I prefer to ask. I guess it goes back to the letter from last week. Polite conversation isn’t my thing. I think it’s worth saying, “I noticed you, and if you need something, I’ll help.”
Last week, it was a friend whose husband is about to deploy. She asked for a playlist and I replied, “something sad or fuck ’em up?” She chose the latter. You can listen to it here if you need music to get through the rest of the holiday weekend.
She said something else I keep thinking about as we celebrate a holiday (that should be) about gratitude. She said, “I wish I could pay you back for this friendship and checking in.”
While I appreciate the intent, I keep thinking that friendship is something we only pay forward.
It’s when you call that person. Write that thank you note. Spend the extra 5 seconds to say, “I noticed.” That’s how we pay great friendships forward – not only by showing up for great friends but also by being great friends to others. Even to strangers.
With that said, did you know a lot of you were great friends to me this week?
If you follow me on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter, you know that I finally made my big announcement this week. I am embarking on van life for one year. I’ll keep working and writing. I’ll just do it from beautiful beaches and magnificent mountainsides. (A lot of ugly truck stops too, I imagine. It’s not all glitz.)
As I hit the post button on those announcements, I felt this surge of panic and fear. I was trembling as I told everyone that I was going to take this route less traveled.
And there you were. Affirming. Celebrating. Inviting me to your homes. Getting excited about reading my stories as I venture into the unknown. You overwhelmed me with love, and I’m so thankful – today and every day – for an army of people who notice me. Who follow these stories and find tiny strands of their own experience. People who take these lessons and live a kinder life. For friendship shown through the most simple actions – yes, even just a comment, follow, or like.
Thank you for being a friend. The song will be stuck in my head now, too.
I feel fortunate to share parts of this van life journey with you over the next year. Thanks for coming along this ride, and I hope I can pay forward this immense kindness you’ve shown this week to every person I meet along the way.
P.S. And if you have questions about the toilet, yes I have one.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.