In the 3rd grade, I found myself playing on the monkey bars at my elementary school with a 5th grader talking about what felt like forbidden topics of the soul: loneliness, insecurities, pain, death, and more. It set me alive in a way I hadn’t felt before. It became our secret though but I never could understand why it needed to be so hidden when it felt so real and important. As I grew older, I pushed back against this narrative of vulnerability and truth-seeking as shameful using the term “lifechat” to invite others into this deeper space I found myself cultivating. The term stuck and now I want to share this approach with you.
I can’t remember the first time I used the term “lifechat” or how, by the time I was a senior in high school, it became something I was known for:
Anne McCarthy makes it a point to get to know people. When she approaches her teammates for one of her trademark long talks, her friends poke fun: “Anne’s gonna go have another life chat.”
All I know is that I’ve always felt like I’ve had too many questions trapped inside me combined with what sometimes feels like relentless curiosity about the deeper end of life. I sometimes attribute it to being born through traditional surrogacy and how that impacted my sense of what many take for granted (like the idea of family, belonging, home, etc) leaving me constantly questioning. For many years, it was just something I did with friends, strangers, the cool kids in secret…
In January 2014 during my senior year of college, I setup a site where people could sign up to lifechat with me and posted fliers around school. 15 people signed up in the first 36 hours leaving me both ecstatic and overwhelmed. I’m an introvert by nature and a bad one at that considering how much I crave connection. I thankfully realized the flaw in my approach—it’s better for me to be a force multiplier by sharing a framework for how to have these lifechats rather than to be an always-on facilitator. This insight has served me well.
After graduating, I joined Automattic in September 2014 and, for a time, tried to keep up a personal site for meeting people for lifechats before surrendering to the fatigue of it all. Before a month of employment passed, I setup a company version of the original lifechat site calling it a “pause in the chaos” playing off our company wide saying of welcome to the chaos. Through various forms and iterations, the lifechats have continued and spread. During that time, I began to grow in my understanding of what it takes to lifechat with a specific focus on emotional consent as a key foundational concept. You can read my initial thoughts here and my most recent update here. After years of being borderline reckless in my approach to asking questions, I’ve shifted and am better for it.
In late February 2020, I stumbled upon the idea of “Conversation Menus” while on a lovely trip to visit a long time friend in Madison, WI. I bought a set on the spot but quickly found myself wanting to create my own in order to sprinkle in my approach to lifechatting. 2020 had its own plans and the pandemic arrived leaving so many of us separated from others. In my pursuit to try to find the opportunities embedded in this time, I began running group calls with friends from across many areas of my life and joining similar calls other friend were doing. Suddenly, my own conversation menus became lifechat starters that I shared with friends and co-workers alike. More questions came pouring out of me until I knew it was time to create this site. On November 15th, I did just that.
If you find in exploring this site that this isn’t for you, I encourage you to check out other resources working to help create connections: We’re Not Really Strangers, The School of Life, You Think You Know Me (& I’m sure there are more). Life is short and I believe it’s meant to be done together.
I hope you lifechat. I hope you make it your own. I hope you to tell me about it. More than anything, I hope it helps you connect with others in a way that makes you feel so very alive.
For additional ramblings from yours truly, head to nomad.blog.