I have the distinction of being the longest-running member of Manhattan’s first and foremost coworking center, New Work City. But lately I’ve been staying home on the Upper West Side every day, working at my dining table or on the couch, instead of taking the 20-minute subway ride down to TriBeCa. It’s cold and snowy outside, and I’ve been lazy and anti-social. And to be perfectly honest, it’s making me kind of depressed.
This morning I read Underdogs, a new post on New Work City’s blog written by Tony Bacigalupo, one of my best friends and the owner and “mayor” of NWC. I was reading it on my iPad while lying in bed, and as soon as I finished it, I jumped up, ran over to my laptop, and started writing this post. Tony has a way of making people act. He embodies everything there is about coworking.
I was compelled to write this post because he helped me remember something, helped me realize why I’ve been lethargic lately and shutting myself in — because I’ve been spending every day alone. I have used up all of the energy I have to give myself. And I’ve been too depleted to recognize the greatest gift that coworking ever gave me: togetherness.
In the hyperconnected world we live in, with our smartphones and social networks and everything on-demand, it’s easy to feel like we have constant companions, like we have company over even when we’re home alone. But the reality is that we need to gather within four walls in order to truly be together. Together we can create the space in which we gather. It’s a virtuous circle.
There have been a proliferation of so-called coworking spaces cropping up all over New York and around the world. I’ve been to some of them, and they’re sterile, manicured, soulless environments. They reflect the people who started them — 21st century carpetbaggers — but have little connection or meaning to the people who fill the space. They’re simply a place to work.
New Work City is a place to live. It’s the place where I gained the confidence I needed to grow my independent consulting business, and have encouraged other people to do the same. It’s the place where I’ve made lifelong friendships and made new personal discoveries. It’s the place where I go to cry after a shitty client meeting, and the place where my belly laughs reverberate off the exposed brick walls.
Most of all, it’s a place I helped build, with my own two hands. Now I might not have done any of the manual labor that Tony, Peter, Jonathan, Ben, and Brian did, weekend after weekend getting our newest space built out. But I look around and see furniture from my parents’ old office, the Feel Better Soon box filled with meds and toiletries that I created two years ago, beanbags that I ordered, and hiding spots where I’ve stashed chocolate. Even when I’m not regularly present, my contribution to the space — and, more importantly, to the community — is no less relevant.
New Work City has its imperfections because we created it, together. It’s ours, not an investor’s. It reflects our goals and our ideals, our dreams and our intentions. Everyone is allowed to and expected to contribute to the vision and the evolution of the space, its purpose and its programming. No one’s trying to get rich here; we’re trying to change the world.
Polish eventually wears thin and flakes off, and what lives below the surface is never what it seems. With us, what you see is what you get.
Today, thanks to Tony, I remembered that despite being an independent consultant with no partners and no employees, I’m still very much a part of something. Something really special. And if I want to continue to feel together, I need to gather. I need to get up and go.
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