On community

This is by no means an exhaustive post on the subject of community, just part of the ongoing conversation that are my “Day Post” blogs posts.

I was talking this morning with Juliette, instant messaging actually, as we both had just arrived at work. The subject of feeling disconnected, feeling a sense of loss of purpose came up. We talk a lot about what we want in life, especially early in the morning. Maybe it’s something about a new day that just makes you feel like you can tackle those problems you couldn’t solve before.

I also talk a lot about my job with her, how disconnected I am from it, how my personal goals and the goals of my company don’t necessarily feel in sync anymore. I shared how I’m grasping to achieve the sort of self sufficient life that I desire. By writing, canning, brewing, baking, cooking and pursuing my own spirituality, I’m trying to gain a sense of self-sufficiency and stronger identity to anchor myself in a world that feels increasingly beyond my control.

And that’s when, in the conversation, I had a realization. One of the things that I’ve been missing a lot is a sense of community. This lead me to another realization, that community is one of the biggest issues I’ve struggled with in my life. Having grown up in a very small town (current population around 650), the idea of community can be very stifling for me. When I first moved down to Florida, I was introduced to an already existing community.  They were (and still are) amazing people, very caring and I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome than the one that I received. I, a total stranger, was warmly invited to parties, dinners, given work when I couldn’t find any and made to feel like I belonged.

The only problem was that I couldn’t handle it. Being somewhat socially awkward, it’s difficult and mentally taxing for me to spend lots of time around people. And, instead of trying to explain that, I just sort of acted like a jerk so that I could create space and barriers between myself and others. It worked very well and I soon had alienated myself from most of the people who had taken me in.

Another challenge is that there are certain cues or rules that you need to abide by in order to take part in any community. If you don’t like some of the rules, it’s difficult to remain active within that group. The more differences you have or you create, the further from the center you go. Eventually, you’re so far on the outside that you’re really not ‘in’ the group at all anymore.

So now, how to rebuild that sense of community? I feel like socially, I’m seeing more of people lately, thanks in large part to Juliette making efforts to see people. But community is about a lot more than socializing. It’s about celebrating as well as lending a hand, being there for a friend when they’re down and out, working on projects that benefit the group as a whole. It’s about challenging myself to step outside of the boundaries that I’m comfortable with.