You Are Who You Meet: Why Your Daily Five Can Make or Break You

{About a 4-minute read}

Two years ago, if you’d asked me who I spent the most time with, my answer would’ve sounded ridiculous. Because the truth was, I spent most of my time with about 150 or so dogs.

On Instagram.

Believe me, I realize how bat-shit crazy the words sound even as they come out of my mouth.

A brief synopsis of the crazy: two and a half years ago, I moved to New York. I decided to go there after living in Paris because it seemed like I needed to up the ante again after such a big, life-changing adventure. Because I wasn’t 100% sure about making a permanent exit from San Francisco, I decided to keep all my stuff I’d put in storage before moving to Paris right where it was in San Francisco, and just move to New York with two suitcases before committing all the way.

I loved living in in New York and doing all the amazing New York things New Yorkers do. But it just never felt quite right. In a city of 8 million people, I was lonely and a little sad, and I just couldn’t convince myself to pull the trigger on moving there permanently.

Then one day, perusing the interwebs, I read this:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

It stopped me dead in my tracks because it all suddenly made sense: I didn’t even have five people in New York to create my average.

I panicked. When I tried to come up with five people I spent a consistent amount of my time with, I couldn’t; I could only think of one person. One awesome, incredible friend-person, but still. Just one. Out of 8 million.


If you’ve lived in New York you know: getting together with people is hard. Like Herculean-effort, moving-Everest-type-mountains hard. I had a decent number of friends there, but seeing anyone consistently was next to impossible. So outside of work, I didn’t spend regular time with anyone except the friend I saw all day, who had a life of her own and could understandably only take so much of the Parlez-Vous Loco package known as me.

I wanted a dog, but since I lived in a sublet studio with nothing but the two suitcases I’d been lugging around the world, a pet was out of the question. So in lieu of the real thing, I started following the dogs I wanted the most on Instagram thinking they’d be good (fake) company: golden retrievers, goldendoodles, chocolate labs, shih tzus, and lhasa apsos. And the quick hit of happiness I got when I saw them every time I checked Instagram was so addictive that I started following all kinds of other dogs too; I even followed a few rabbits. (Hi, did I mention I was lonely and a little bit crazy?)

I knew that this wasn’t the kind of tidbit you shared at cocktail parties or in the office kitchen when someone asked what you did over the weekend in the way that you’d share, say, a nice normal habit like running, or a creative habit like painting. But knowing how ridiculous it was didn’t stop me from following Instagram dogs. I was addicted. My outlook got a little sunnier and I looked forward to seeing what all those freakin’ dogs on Instagram were up to every day.

And then I had a realization: the dogs, collectively, had given me one new person. So I was up to two “people” in New York who were shaping me, my daily outlook, and my life. And one wasn’t even human or in person.

Yeah. It was kind of a sad realization. The kind that makes you leave cities like New York in the dust.

As fantastic as my two people were, I needed some more regulars. I needed San Francisco. Within six weeks of figuring this out, I moved my entire life back there, and within a week of being back, I found a place to live and gainful freelance employment. Everything fell almost magically into place.

Why am I telling you this? Three reasons:

Because like me, sometimes you get in a funk and you probably have no idea why. Assessing what was up with my five (or my non-five, as it turned out) made things crystal clear for me. So maybe do a quick rundown of yours when you’re feeling off. What’s going on with them. Is there upheaval amongst your people? Did a couple people fall out of your five? Have you had some sort of disagreement with one?

Because you need to understand that the five people you interact with most may not be your best friends, your partner, or even people you like. Who do you work with? Who do you spend two hours a day in the casual carpool with? Who are you hooking up with? Who’s personal training you for an hour a day every day? And of course, who are you having breakfast with every morning and falling asleep with every night? The people in the answer to each of those questions are shaping you, your outlook, and your life. So pay close attention to who they are.

My five varies depending on the day, but for starters, my row of coworkers-turned-friends is full of five awesomely amazing, hilarious, kind, kickass, creative people that make coming to work something I kind of don’t want to miss. I live directly above two of my best friends (and their two dogs) and I live in between and across from really nice neighbors. I love the people who greet me every day when I work out and I adore the people I talk to every morning when I get coffee. (Yes: adore. You should get coffee at my place.)

Because I now know that we all need to stay on top of our five and act accordingly. Does recognizing, appreciating, and constantly being aware of your five help you knock out the people who bring you down? Does it completely change your daily life and have a major impact on your day, your attitude, and your outlook? Absolutely. The lesson for me wasn’t so much “be careful who you surround yourself with,” (which is true and important) but more, “Diversify your awesomeness and make sure you have enough of it.” That may sound a little greedy, but, hello, people: I follow dogs on Instagram. I know from experience it’s true.

Since I realized how my five affected me, I’m constantly on what I call Five Watch, noticing who mine are and how they affect me — and how I might be affecting them. I don’t want to be the weak link, after all. As Sweet Brown says, ain’t nobody got time for that.

In case you’re wondering, I still talk to my one awesome real human from New York and I miss her terribly. And those dogs? I still count them as part of my “five”–which, I’m grateful to say, isn’t really five anymore because there are way more than five people that I interact with now on a daily basis. Which is probably why San Francisco feels–and has always felt–like home.

If you’re interested in getting acquainted with some of my favorite dogs, or just want a daily attack of cuteness, look for a post on Wednesday where I’ll share some of my favorite canine follows.

(Come on in, the water is great over here in Crazy Land.)

PS: If you want to follow me over on the Instas, I’d love it; I’m RBC1.