I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship, and community, and all that jazz lately. Yesterday, there was a phenomenal post about this exact topic.I’ve written about my own shifting feelings on this whole issue, but I realized I left out a huge thing that’s making me feel better about this community business. See, if there’s one thing that seems to be common with 20-somethings, it’s this general feeling of confusion regarding friendships and community and the end of traditional relationships. So, recently, after thinking a lot, I decided to take some action.
For me, my sense of community goes back a long, long time. I was raised in the church, where I was automatically surrounded by a million adults who loved me, built in playmates and companions via church youth events and a general sense of community. I loved it. And while it’s been many years since I’ve been directly involved in church, I still remember that underlying feeling of safety and love and care. The truth is that the community there hurt me. Deeply. Being a divorcee, asking the hard questions, and being a bit silly or too honest at times does not necessarily make the best impression.
But, see, it’s not just that community. I always feel a bit out of place: wondering if I made a joke that crossed a line (actually, that’s basically a given, so…) or wore the wrong thing or am not ____________ enough for said “group.” I spend time analyzing whether or not people actually enjoy me, and then acting as if I don’t care either way if they do. It’s not that I don’t have friends—I do! I have many wonderful, amazing people in my life; however, group things are weird. I never feel quite part of the group, like I’m part of that center core.
The thing I’ve learned in the past few months is that EVERYONE feels this way. Every. Single. Person. At one time or another, everyone feels out of place or unimportant, or questions themselves and their role in the group. Learning this alone was comforting in a serious way. I sometimes think that I’m the only one who feels or does or thinks certain things. But usually, if I’m brave enough to share, I find I’m not alone.
Despite my own awkwardness and general reluctance, I missed community. I missed having a group where I know I’m supported and included and loved. I missed being around people with my own ideals.
So, I started one. Yep. Just created my own community.
I thought of some girls I know who are like me—maybe they’d done church, but were disillusioned. Maybe they live with their significant other, or enjoy wine or other seemingly-illicit activities. Mostly, I looked for girls who liked to laugh. Who are not afraid to cry or talk about the real stuff that’s going on in their jobs, their relationships, their family life, their feelings and emotions. Girls who I thought I could talk to, and spent time with and enjoy.
We meet every other week, in one of our houses. We eat snacks and drink wine and talk. It’s not a Bible study or anything serious: just a bunch of girls who’ve made an intentional comittment to hang out, be real together and enjoy life. Yes, it’s new, but I have high hopes for this group.
Other ways I’ve found community? Daily emails with this gal. Reading and commenting on 20SB and seeing the responses I get. Twittering back at people who interest me. Emailing Bloggers I enjoy. Befriending the new teachers at school. In short: giving a shit about others.
I really think that last part is key. You need to care. Sure, you’ve probably read it in every dating advice column or book on making friends and whatnot. But in all honesty, it works. I think it’s worth taking the risk to put yourself out there, to form the relationships you are looking for. You can’t feel excluded in your own life, unless you let yourself.
I’m no expert at this. I’m just saying: it’s worth it to put yourself out there, to see what you can develop by putting yourself out there. As Kyla says, “It’s not perfect, it doesn’t happen all the time and it doesn’t work all the time, but sending one short & sweet e-mail a day really agrees with me so I’m sticking with it. Because being part of any community is about my actions, and kindness seems like a good place to start.”
So, go out. Take action. Be kind. Stick with it.