It's that time when people all over the world embark upon long, stressful journeys to see out the final days of the year with those they call family, for better or worse. Last week, I went to Los Angeles to visit some of my own family members, both chosen and biological. The trip made me reflect on the concept of family itself – what it has meant for me in the past, what it looks like for me now, and the way that the dynamics of my own upbringing have come to shape my personal and professional life.
As an only child who grew up in a single parent household, I can see that the relatively solitary nature of my childhood has had a palpable impact on my chosen career path. I've always felt comfortable working independently; always struggled with the interpersonal challenges of office life; never had much desire or aptitude for managing others on a daily basis. In all these ways, my decision to write for a living has been dictated by the fact that, whilst I can be very sociable, I am fundamentally best suited to working alone.
I had never been truly conscious of all this until I launched The WW Club and found myself trying (and largely failing) to delegate my ever-growing workload. This newfound awareness was heightened by the fact that, at the time, I was sharing office space with a dear friend who happens to be the middle child of five. Every day, I marvelled at how she was able to get people to do things for her without ever seeming bossy or entitled – the result, I came to eventually realise, of a lifetime of logistical team efforts and emotional middle management.
But the lingering effects of my own only childhood have had unexpectedly positive effects, too. When you don't have siblings to serve as your default friendship group, you get really good at meeting new people (and generally less complacent about maintaining those relationships, too). As I enter the second decade (!) of my career, I can look back and see that many of my endeavours have been attempts to construct a professional 'family' around me, often for the benefit of those who might feel similarly isolated for whatever reason. In this sense, The WW Club itself has been a connection-fostering effort from the start.
For a long time, I described it as a 'community' - it was, and in some ways hopefully still is - but the word has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, so I try to avoid it these days. Instead, I'm returning to the idea of the family: A concept that carries a little more gravitas, and a greater sense of commitment. I think the relationships we build through work are worth the effort.
Whether it's that one girl who keeps you from going insane at the office, or the person you can always call for no-bullshit professional advice, we need our work families as much as we need rock-solid friend families (and if we're lucky, amazing family families, too). If you subscribe to the notion that the quality of your relationships essentially dictates the quality of your life - and I very much do - it makes sense that we should try to extend at least a modicum of the patience and perseverance we extend to our blood relatives to those we might only see from 10am-6pm.
There are people who have really been there for me through the aforementioned decade of working life in ways that I'm only now able to fully appreciate. The next decade will be about trying, where I can, to reciprocate and pay forward their support: A family tree, of sorts.