People need a “third place” — a place that isn’t home, or work. Someplace else. Different. Apart.
Starbucks realized that and built a business on it, but here’s why it worked: for a lot of us, our personal and professional selves are closely, even inextricably, intertwined. For a lot of us, they’re one and the same — how we see ourselves in one arena is defined by how we see ourselves in another.
Having a third place gives us space, a physical space, to do something different, to see different people, to be different. To be ourselves, alone.
That break from routine is critical: to fully understand something, you need distance from it. To see the distortions in the mirror you’re using, you have to step back.
In other words, we need a mental space, a third place for our heads. We need a way to process things about the other two places that doesn’t involve them. We need a place — one free of history or politics, free of judgments or consequences — that lets us process what we think about the other two. A place that lets us feel without invoking expectations or taking actions.
But that mental space isn’t sitting on every corner, and it didn’t just change its logo.
Finding it depends, I think, on who you are. Sometimes being in a physical third place is enough: sometimes changing your environment changes your perspective, too. But sometimes a physical change isn’t enough, and we have to keep looking.
Writing helps, but some things can’t be written.
Talking helps, but some things can’t be spoken.
Sometimes that third place isn’t a where or a what, it’s a who. We need to find someone who takes us as we are. Who questions us and how we think. Who reserves judgment and just lets us be.
Where’s your third place? Or who?