Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?
Community. A word and a thing that I find I’ve been craving quite a bit in the last few years. Which is odd, because at the same time, when I look back on my life over the past little while, so much of it has been all about people. I have met so many interesting people in the last four years, five years, ten. It’s been a decade of meet-and-greets! (Side note: the Scottish word greet means to cry. It’s quite likely that this interpretation of the word could also fit the expression, as a great deal of these interesting relationships have inevitably led to drama.) And I’ve been a part of a number of communities during this same span of time.
There was the 2001 Castle community, those of us Queens’ students who had the privilege of studying at Herstmonceux. Then, there was life at UVic, and all of my cool cat writerly friends. There were the yoga women in Oak Bay. There was life and laughter at Con Brio music. Then, during that hiatus year in Ontario before going to Scotland, there were the folks at Chapters. (Cool cats yet again.)
And then there was Scotland. More writers that first year. And in the last two, there were music friends, dancer friends, trips to the theatre and around and a growing list of people on the blog. There was a slow-but-steady involvement in Twitter. There was a brief dabble in life at The Forest. And, perhaps most significantly, there were the Edinburgh Literary Salon nights, where I could be both a professional and a friend all at once. (Though those nights could just as easily be terrifyingly cliquish, and it took me forever to get up the nerve to go to them on a regular basis.) There was, in short, a plethora of mini communities in which I was involved. There were — there are — so many friends. I only need to think back on my farewell dinner to see proof of this. One of the friends who came that night had flown in from Oslo. (True, she hadn’t come all the way just to say goodbye to me, but all the same — I was touched that she took time out from her Edinburgh weekend to sit on a comfortable couch and hear about my not-plans for the future.) And now that I’m home, there are still more friends eager to know what I’m up to, what my plans are, where I’m going next.
Still. Still I find the word community to be difficult. Possibly (most likely?) this is because I am probably more of a solitary person than is healthy, and therefore had moments of wanting time to myself and away from the world even when in the midst of the communities as described above. Or possibly because I am wrong, and what I’ve described above aren’t in fact true examples of community. A friend of mine believes that it takes a good three years to settle into a different city — one year to establish yourself, one year to start making connections, and another year before those connections meld into a fully cohesive community-minded life. If we take that as some kind of dogma (just for the sake of this post, let’s say), and apply it to the spectre of community as a whole, then I haven’t really lived anywhere long enough to create the kind of connections that community requires. Nor do I, at present (let’s be perfectly honest), particularly relish the thought of staying in one spot for huge lengths of time. I am my own worst enemy in this regard. This I fully understand. Always restless, always searching, never wanting to stand still. Latching on to ideas — perhaps even ideas of community, in the I’d really like to be friends with those people kind of way — and imbuing them with a significance that completely overwhelms what real-life communities might actually be waiting to hold me.
Is there a cure for this type of malaise? I don’t know. Though I do know a few things: I know, for example, that I’ll have to get a job sooner or later (probably sooner) and start paying back these lovely student loans. That I’ll probably need to spend a good few years working SOMEWHERE, in one place, sans excessive boomeranging, in order to get this done. That once I’ve found that job and that city and settled into a life that isn’t quite as stripped to the bare essentials as life in Edinburgh was, getting involved in a community might be easier. Or maybe I’m making excuses.
Here’s a thought, re: communities in 2011. I’d like to host a Dinner Party for Strangers, once I’ve figured out where the heck I’m going to live. I went to one just over a year ago and it was amazing. I met some truly lovely people and I’ve thought about it ever since. I’d like to be that person who initiates such a thing. I want to be around writers, I want to dance, I want to learn to speak another language. Perhaps I can find communities for all of these things.
Or, not perhaps. Why not just a yes? 2011, this is the year that I will deliver unto myself all of these things. Let’s see what happens.