WTF is Community?

I had the same group of friends from about 6th grade through high school graduation. I had known most of them since I was 7. We were best of buds through movie premieres, mall loitering, and the Myspace Top 8. I grew up with them, then I felt like I outgrew them and the suburb we grew up in.

I went to a small college with lots of intersecting groups, that I learned had often already been intersecting for years through boarding schools and small East Coast towns. I studied abroad twice while in college: once for a month, and then for a semester. We bonded over wild misadventures and a false sense of independence. We came back home with stories that almost felt like secrets.

After graduation, a bunch of us from college were all part of a bubble that moved from our college town up to the Big Smoke (aka Denver), a big-little city of its own. There was Rock Bar with its terrible carpet. Cheesman Park which we frequented like climate change was going to take it the very next day. D’s parties that everyone came out of the woodwork to attend because they felt just like the parties we remembered on the quad.

Slowly but surely, things changed. People left to Mexico, NYC, San Francisco. I left for a while too, more out of obligation than self-interest, for the Bahamas and then to Mississippi for grad school. Two more places, many more friends. As you might have gathered, I’m quick to make friends. A good roommate of mine graduated a semester early, and I remember feeling like I was being left behind. I felt oddly betrayed, and then instantly ashamed at how childish that was.

I moved back to Denver, but Rock Bar had closed, D (and everyone else, it felt like) had moved, and we were all suddenly too busy to wile away an afternoon at the park. There were new friends, a new roommate, and new things to do like Motown Thursdays at the delightfully kitschy Beauty Bar. Spoiler alert: Beauty Bar closed, and that roommate moved away too. I worked a job for 2 years, but by the end, everyone had either left or been fired. I switched careers (again) and found new community in activism and progressive politics, but I was beginning to wonder if maybe the trick was to always be the one who leaves first.

A friend told me about the book, “Attached”. In the interest of full disclosure, I put the title into a note on my phone because I thought I might read it, but I’m pretty sure I never actually will. The TLDR is that there are 3 types of people when it comes to relationships: Anxious (constantly yearning), Avoidant (constantly withdrawing), and Secure (give and take within your means). I’d always thought of myself as pretty secure in my romantic relationships, maybe erring on avoidant when I felt like my needs weren’t being met. I’m an independent person who feels confident moving with others as well as breaking new territory if something doesn’t work for me. But maybe that independence is a bit false, like the independence I felt studying abroad while my parents and student loans footed the bill. Maybe I didn’t want to go to new places all the time and make friends everywhere I went. Maybe what I’ve always really wanted is my own version of Cheers.

At the top of last year, a friend and I started a group to foster community. We wanted to bring people together around issues and passions that united us, to have fun and to work through the not-so-fun. As that chapter closes, I realize that the group was successful in many ways — so many stick and poke tattoos, group texts, business ventures, and genuine friendships made. In fact, I wouldn’t be here, writing to you on this beautiful website in this wonderful neighborhood of the internet, if it wasn’t for the connections I made in that community. It is not lost on me just how fulfilling and magical it is to create things with people you care about, with people who care about you.

But I think I need to stop chasing after my Cheers moment. I still feel betrayed when people leave or don’t show up, and I feel ashamed that I haven’t grown up enough not to feel that way anymore. The truth is, as independent as I think I am, I’ve decided to live in Denver because that’s where my family and my closest friends are. I’ve decided to live near downtown, partially because I hate the idea of commuting to the places I like, but also because I want to live near my friends. It is not lost on me that most of them live farther and farther away every year to buy homes and start families. I made these choices about where to be physically so that I could continue engaging in a form of community that runs on coffee dates, park hangs, and late night dance sessions.

I don’t think that terrestrial form of community is working for me anymore. I’m trying not to believe that being avoidant, being less and less available to others, is the best way to feel better about it. I haven’t figured out what my next friendship philosophy is going to be, but I have learned that the internet continues to link me to the people in all of my prior lives. Whenever someone I haven’t seen in years DMs me or laughs at a meme I found, it makes me think that maybe a bar where everybody knows your name is kind of overrated anyway. In the meantime, I’m making this thing here — this community, if you will — because I suspect that even if I do pack up and move or just stop showing up to things, that I’ll still need a feeling of connection.

I think you might need it too.



0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *