Deplane, dinner, boba is the routine I usually follow on my trips back home. Where I'm from, boba is much more of a social activity than a delicious drink. An outing to get a Thai Milk Tea is comparable to a mini-Christmas dinner in the way I usually drink boba surrounded by people I care about with conversation that leaves me feeling happy and whole.

Boba is a motif that follows times of celebration and community in my life. During my senior year of high school, finishing a college application was rewarded with a trip to the local sit down boba shop with my mom, dad, and sister. The same went for when my sister PR'd in her track meets, or when my friends wanted to procrastinate on studying for exams, and even when my relatives were in town and were in deep need of a catching-up. This still rings true; my boba excursions during my visits back home have been to spend much needed time with my boyfriend and to catch up with friends whose hilarious stories make me wish I still went to school with them.

Oddly enough though, it seems as if the purpose of boba is to be an individual experience and not one shared by family and friends. It's packaged with a single straw for one person only and has no need to be enjoyed with anyone else. Other highly valued modern-day cultural artifacts seem to follow this same outline of individualism; smartphones alienate you from your peers, headphones allow you to block out the sound around you, and Google's latest Oculus Go literally puts you in your own world. On such a highly populated Earth, it's never been easier to be alone.

To me, this is dangerous. In a year where Cigna's 2018 Loneliness Index states that "nearly half of Americans report feeling isolated from others as well as lacking companionship" it is imperative now more than ever to reinstitute systems of community in our society before we alienate each other to a point where age-old morals like camaraderie and teamwork no longer exist. It feels silly to think that as human beings who are intrinsically reliant on each other for survival we could ever live truly individual lives, but this is very much a potential reality. According to the same Index's Loneliness Scale, Gen Zers (ages 18-22) scored a loneliness rating of 48.3 out of 80, making myself and those in my generation the loneliest generation yet.

For this depressing phenomenon, we desperately need a solution. This is where boba comes in. Everything logistical about boba tells you that it's supposed to be enjoyed alone. Many boba shops don't even have places for you to sit but still community and friendship prevail. If there isn't a table, I and my friends pile back into the single car we stuffed to get boba and laugh for hours about our most embarrassing moments. On other nights, we'll venture to boba shops far from our regular spot just to have the experience of enjoying our beloved tapioca in each other's company.

It's empowering to know that in the seemingly inevitable doom of generational loneliness there stands a champion of camaraderie in the form of milk tea. So as I'm catching up with my friends and family this winter break with long hugs and hearty laughs, I know what I'll be most grateful for... Boba.