I have good friends. A few of them read my post on loneliness last week and jumped into action (thank you, everyone who sent a note or dropped by to say hello -- it helps a lot).

So on my way out to the FIE conference this weekend, I swung by to spend a night and morning with the Condo Crew. The players: My cousins Mark and Michael (the sons of my dad's older brother; Mark is a Babson grad and works at Medline, the same company as my dad, and Michael is an undergrad at UMich) and Megan (the daughter of my mom's youngest sister, finishing up econ and polisci at U Chicago) along with childhood friend Randy (who shares a condo with Mark and also works at Medline). Missing was Megan's sister Mindy (studying engineering at Northwestern).

We started with an amazing dinner, cooked largely by Mark, Michael, and Megan. Whole wheat pasta with shrimps in a white wine and shallot reduction, fried egg over sauteed arugula greens, broiled short ribs with red wine and cremini mushrooms, oven-roasted marrow with truffle salt. Pictures below courtesy of Megan.

Late-night conversations finally carried us to sleep, occupying all available couches and air mattresses in Mark and Randy's place. The next morning was spent trying to convert my wardrobe from "free geek tshirts" into something conference-suitable.

"Mallory’s free techie tee-shirts (cut for men) indicate her passion
for her projects (important in a male-dominated field) and serve as an
informal resume at conferences. We strove to synthesize pieces into a
style true to the essence of an adult Mallory, which involved a
combination of jackets, vests, belts, bold colors, geometric patterns,
as well as symbolic and verbal geeky esotericism." --Randy

I'm cheap and hate buying clothes. Indeed, my entire wardrobe fit into a single suitcase with plenty of room to spare, so there wasn't much for Randy to pick through. So in the end I departed for the airport mostly having borrowed his belt and tie and with the insight that my calibration for clothing was way too large -- I'm used to guys' shirts that are too big for me, so I picked jacket sizes that "felt right" accordingly. When Megan and Randy got me to try on identical items a size or two down, I was stunned by the difference it made; instead of a semi-awkward youngster in clothes I literally hadn't grown into, I looked in the mirror and beheld a young woman.

It felt weird. I quickly reverted to my good ol' blue jeans, but... we're going to be experimenting with this a bit more next time. Randy in particular seems to be thrilled to have my (lack of) fashion sense as a project. I'm repaying the favor with a personal finance makeover, and it'll be his turn and mine to put food (French) on the table in two weeks when we all hang out again.

I know making new friends is important, and I'm getting to know folks as I adjust to being in a new place, but sometimes it's good to just slip into a place with people and chill and be comfortable with them, already knowing everyone. My cousins and I have known each other all our lives, and Randy was my first friend (we were born 6 months apart on adjacent streets and spent a good chunk of our first 6 years of life together before he moved to Kentucky in 1st grade -- our parents were college buddies in the Philippines) so it's both an old set of friends and a rediscovery of who everyone's grown up to be now that we're all in college and beyond.

Comfort and contentment. I haven't felt this good in a while. Relaxing now.