Part 1: The Premise 

This past January I was planning my birthday only two weeks after the real date, which is pretty good for me. The plan was to enjoy some cocktails with a collection of my closest friends. Pretty typical, except I couldn’t help but see this gathering as an opportunity for good ol’ self-exploration. 

But let’s rewind for a minute. A month ago—as is customary for me at this time of the year—I bought a beautiful new journal I intended to fill with revelations and doodles. This New Year’s exercise reminded me just how much I love questions. Specifically, questions that highlight people’s personalities in some way. 

And here I was, planning this event that, for the first time, would bring together New York friends from all chapters of my life: childhood, middle school, high school, college, time in Los Angeles, time since moving to Manhattan…summer camp. 

They say ‘you are who your friends are,’ so, putting two and two together, I wondered what I might be missing by only looking inwardly to find myself. If I wanted to seek out insights about my personality/hopes/dreams/etc why not do this by way of the people I’m closest with? 

Part 2: The Idea 

And that’s how I landed on the idea of hosting a boozy birthday focus group! (lol) 

I picked a low key speakeasy in the West Village and sent out my invites. The attendees had no idea what I was programing, but with them knowing this was very me, I knew they’d play along. 

The day before the party, I pulled from my bookcase a few of my favorite question sources: A coffee table book of Proust interviews given by Vanity Fair editors, a question-forward journal that asks one question a day (for five years!!!!!), and a deck of dinner table asks. I began compiling a list, adding in my own top questions as they came to me. When I finished this exercise, I had a handsome list of 41 questions. 

The rules of my game would be simple: 

  • Each participant would pick a number 1- 41.
  • I’d read aloud the corresponding question. 
  • Then we’d go around the circle and each participant would share their response. 

With me acting as a participant, I’d have 7 questions x 7 replies per question. 49 new data points in which to see myself in a new way!!! This was going to be so fun.

Part 3: The Big Reveal  

The group chose well the night we celebrated. We circled the group asking: 

  1. What’s the most exciting airplane ride you’ve ever taken? 
  2. What would you consider your greatest achievement? 
  3. Whom do you envy most? 
  4. In what position do you sleep? 
  5. You are the ____ of the family.  
  6. What did you fantasize about today?  
  7. If you were receiving an Oscar and you had time on stage, what would you do with the time? 

Below are the superlatives of each party participant and the responses that hit me in the gut with that ‘100%, I feel ya’ feeling: 

The shoots-it-straight dog mama

Q #5: You are the ____ of the family. 

A: “I am the self-proclaimed funny one in the family.” 

The loyal healer 

Q #7: If you were receiving an Oscar and you had time on stage, what would you do with the time? 

A:  “I was thinking after watching the Golden Globes I don’t think I could make a political statement. Everyone does it. So I would stress all the struggles I had to overcome to get to where I am. I read somewhere that success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm and I feel I have really embodied that in my professional career so far and I’m proud of myself for continuing on. I’m in my dream job now and it’s taken quite a journey to get there…So I would stress that. You know, to help out the youth.” 

The “sultry ray of eternal sunlight” 

Q #3: Whom do you envy most? 

A: “I envy people who have found their person. It’s really hard to date and meet people and there are so many awful—I mean, I’m sure they’re all good people but there are so many dating mishaps. I’ve met people that have found it. And I think that’s such an amazing thing.” 

Always in your corner corporate exec

Q #2: What would you consider your greatest achievement? 

A: “I think the thing for me was moving here. It’s been a long journey to get here. I’ve been in Austin, Dallas, then back to Austin. And I was just kind of like f**** it I want to move to New York and I did everything I could. I applied to five jobs every single day for at least three months and finally got an interview. I was a journey…but I made it.” 

The boarding MBA Class Act 

Q #1: What’s the most exciting airplane ride you’ve ever taken? 

A: “One time I decided to sit next to Alex Savage for a full flight. He’s really hot. Really hot y’all…I don’t remember I think we were flying back from Colorado.” (This is one of my high school friends and he WAS a really hot senior, so I found this hilarious. I had no idea.)”

The thoughtful redhead, but not be underestimated

Q #1: What’s the most exciting airplane ride you’ve ever taken?  

A: “I went to Korea two years ago, so 14 hour flight. And I slept for 9 hours. It was memorable for that reason alone. The funny part of the story is it was my boyfriend and I going. And Warren’s like ‘check-in, check-in,’ and he does his online thing. So he thinks he’s all set. Well he changed his seat, so by the time we get up there they’re like ‘oh Emma your in 15B and Warren, 27E’. I’m like ‘you f*****; you messed up.’ We’re flying 14 hours next to strangers?! No, I was adamant: ‘you’ve got to have two seats next to each other…you better.’ [The flight desk] called us and finally they said ‘we have it.’ And now when we tell this story Warren’s like, ‘I can’t believe we did all that  so you could sleep for 9 hours’…” 

The ridiculous organizer of this event 

Q #3:  Whom do you envy most?

A: “I will probably say anyone who has a kickass, oh-my-gosh, dropdead apartment. All I’ve ever wanted was a to-the-“T,” all-the-details-very-me kind of apartment.” 

Such a diverse bunch! Such great people! If the math is true, you are who your friends are, well then I’m pretty happy with being funny (even if only to myself), humble (and all about revealing the messy backstory), oh-so-single (well this one I’d like to update, but so it goes), gritty, lucky with airplane arrangements, determined, and design obsessed. 

I’m even happy with being one year older! Something that’s not always the case. 

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