Heartfelt: Community is Everything
My favorite definition of 'Community' comes from the Oxford Dictionary:
"a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals"
When I think of Community, I think of the strong bond between individuals who share common interests and dreams. The love we feel from a community is vastly different (and arguably more important) than the commercial romantic love we are sold in movies, tv shows, and social media.
Speaking as an introvert who greatly values solitude, I can honestly say that community is for everyone. There was a time years ago when I believed I genuinely didn't need community; I didn't feel like I needed a reliable friend group, or at the very least a group of people that shared common interests and values.
But one thing that I had come to realize during this era of "no new friends" and "doing it alone" is that no man is an island. Learning to enjoy solitude is definitely important, but solitude still needs to be paired with a sense of community and belonging in order to be healthy. I wasn't being honest with myself at the time, but the truth of the matter is that I felt alone. I felt miserable. What was once intentional solitude eventually became isolation.
Even the most reclusive of introverts need meaningful relationships and a sense of belonging. As for extroverts, they have no problem keeping their social tank going but I find that a lot of times they may feel that they have a lot of surface-level friendships/acquaintances without a real sense of belonging.
Community, in a nutshell, is important because it allows us to think outward rather than inward. In times that I've felt the most frustrated or depressed, I found that when I put my focus on someone else, I eventually felt much better in the end. This can be very difficult to do at first because it requires us to be self-aware to an uncomfortable degree. Reaching out to a loved one, helping someone who is in a tough situation, intentionally making time to catch up with an old friend: these are things that build a sense of community.
How Do We Find Community?
To be even more transparent, a part of me felt like being able to feel a sense of community wasn't possible for me. I was very intimidated by the idea of seeking out groups and creating new friendships at an older age.
I soon realized that I wasn't the only one who felt this way. A lot of people my age (Millennials and early Gen Z) seem to find it difficult to make new friends. I've explained this in a previous post about creating friendships, but in short, when we reach adulthood it's the first time we're expected to make friends rather than have friends "pre-set" for us through school (secondary, college, and any extracurriculars we did during that time).
Finding community doesn't have to be this deep and intimidating quest. But it does require us to put ourselves out there more than what we may have done before. One easy way I know is to look up events going on in your area, particularly things that spark your interest. Another way is through community groups like MeetUp which makes searching for groups of people who share a common interest a lot easier. Community can also be found in religious communities, so it is worth checking that out if you are wanting community rooted in moral values and spirituality.
Other times, finding community means creating one yourself. Maybe you already have a sizeable friend group but you all struggle to make time to catch up with each other. Or maybe you already have an idea for a communal activity that you're very passionate about. This could be an opportunity to create a structured club or group that centers around said passion. For example, a friend from college enjoys nature and wellness, so she took initiative to create Evolving Outside to build a community of nature enthusiasts; activities include walks, hikes, meetups, and retreats around the DMV (D.C. Maryland Virginia) area.
In any case, whether you're searching for community through organizations that already exist or you are creating one yourself, it does require you to leave your comfort zone. It also takes admitting that no man is an island. Enjoying solitude is essential but it doesn't mean much of anything if it's not paired with a sense of belonging amongst others. Finding our tribe is what can help both give and receive love.
I want to thank you for reading this last portion of the Heartfelt Series! I've thoroughly enjoyed exploring topics of love as it pertains to our everyday attitudes and practices, rather than just romance. Love isn't just about romance and heart-shaped everything during Valentine's Day. Ultimately, I hope that through this series we can remember that Love is not just a commercialized concept. Love is an action, and qualities such as compassion patience, building community, and self-acceptance are all essential for human connection.
Thanks for reading!