Meet Jillian Richardson - Founder of NYC events newsletter the Joy List and a monthly meditation and conversation series she hosts in her home.
You founded the Joy List to make NYC seem less lonely. Tell us about it!
The Joy List is a weekly newsletter that features events in New York that you can go to by yourself, and leave with a new friend. Our mission is to make the city–– and eventually the world–– a less lonely place.
Why? Well, to be honest, I struggled to make friends when I moved to New York. And I'm not shy. I'm great at meeting new people... but I wasn't sure how to create a deeper connection. I felt like I was constantly stuck in "surface level" conversations, and never really got to know anyone.
At the time, I had no idea why I felt so unfulfilled. Yet then I discovered Camp Grounded–– a summer camp for adults–– and felt a level of openness and acceptance that I'd never experienced before. When I left, I knew that I wanted to join communities that prioritized meaningful relationships. For me, that meant surrounding myself with people who align with my values of play, community, and authenticity.
I'm not alone. Only half of Americans say that they have meaningful social interactions on a daily basis. People feel disconnected and aren’t sure where to turn.
That is exactly why I created The Joy List. It's a resource for people to find events that they can go to by themselves, and leave with a new friend. It's a way to highlight the amazing work that people in this city are doing to spread positivity and connectedness. And it's a weekly gratitude practice for me, to remember that NYC is filled with love–– even though it doesn't feel like that sometimes.
In the long-term, I want to scale The Joy List to multiple cities across the United States. I also want to go on a tour where I interview community builders about the ways that they create connection. At the same time, I'll talk to experts about why loneliness is so prevalent in America, and the impact that it has on mental and physical health.
What is the monthly meditation and conversation series you host at your home?
I run Balanced, a space for vulnerable conversations and meaningful connections. My co-creator, Dennis, and I start the event with a 15 minute meditation. Then we talk about who we are, and why we created the group. That leads into us sharing a personal story about why we chose the theme for the month. We want to exemplify the type of vulnerability that's welcome in the space, so we try to dig deep and share something that's a little bit scary.
After that, the room breaks into 3-person conversation circles. Each person has 2uninterrupted minutes to speak. This allows the others in their group to practice mindfulness, and notice how it feels to deeply listen to someone else. For the speaker, it's really special to be so totally heard. That can be rare! Then, once the small groups get a chance to share, we break out to the group as a whole. People tend to have some big revelations after sharing with strangers, and I love hearing what surfaced in the conversations.
Fun fact: Balanced was actually started by Leo Widrich, the founder of Buffer, and Casey Rosengren, the founder of Hacker Paradise! When they both were moving out of the country, I asked if Dennis and I could take it over. The event meant so much to both of us, and we couldn't bear to see it stop.
You help people go from full time to freelance! What's your #1 piece of advice for someone hoping to make that career switch?
It's not hard to change your identity. Really. I think that people can get really in their heads about all of the certifications that they need, or years of experience, or number of clients. But the Internet is a magical place. For example, I recently decided that I want one of my writing niches to be cryptocurrency. I got one job from an agency, got a good review, added it to my LinkedIn and website, and had two similar ghostwriting requests within a month! Yes, people need to do the work. But the knowledge that I can change my positioning on a dime has been freeing.