I have been searching for community my whole life. I remember longing for it growing up. And even though there have been times in my life when I have felt kinship with those around me, I haven’t felt a part of a community outside of the nuclear family my husband and I created for quite some time.
When I was growing up we moved a lot, so I felt connected when I had a best friend. I had a best friend when we lived outside of Chicago for 3rd and 4th grade; a best friend in middle school in Rochester, NY, and a camp best friend from my four years in the Adirondacks. And then came three different highschools in three different years. The lack of stability made it hard to make and keep friends—at least the best friend kind.
This longing accompanied me to college and for a short time I landed in a community in which I felt at home. It didn’t take long for hormonal angst brake up that feeling, and I fled to live in New York city where I finished college, while starting and running a business with my father. And thus began a period of time in my life in which I had my toes in a variety of different communities, still longing for one that I felt completely at home in.
In my 20’s I dipped in and out of circles of friends who had either gone to school together through dating different people. Then there was a group of people who were tied to a meditation school that I met through a boyfriend, and while I enjoyed their company, they were a cult-like group in which membership was for those who committed much more than I was ever prepared to do. My yearning or community never crossed the line of blindly following some mesmerizing character.
After marriage, in my late 20;s, we bounced around a bunch living in Washington, DC; Vienna, Austria; back to DC and then off to Northern California where I found a community of like-minded women, having babies and raising kids. Most of the women I met through my volunteer work with La Leche League. They were either other Leaders or the mothers who were attracted to attachment style parenting. We hung out in parks, took day trips to the beach, all the while watching the kids run around and always talking about our lives, our families, our dreams and sometimes our nightmares. These women nursed me through a difficult and scary second pregnancy and then stepped in again when my husband was diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer. They made dinners, did grocery shopping, took kids, held my hand, and listened to my fears.
In my 40’s we moved to the Midwest and started all over again. But this time is was harder. For a variety of reasons I never felt at home there, never found a community of like-minded people. The kids had excellent schools and my husband a work environment that he enjoyed, I never felt at home.
And then after nine years away, my husband accepted a teaching position back in the bay area. But nine years a long time to be away and I learned that you can’t go home again. And so even though we moved back, we had to start all over again.
And now we are empty nesters. One near-by and one on the east coast (so far) and we are once again faced with options. We love living in northern California and the question becomes: what kind of community do we want? How do we create the circle of friends with whom we can nourish and enrich each other’s lives?
Sometimes I think of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz after learning from her adventure over the rainbow that there is no place like home. But when one has moved around so much, where is home? If I clicked my ruby slippers where would they take me?
Do you feel at home in your community? Do you have a circle of friends who have seen you through thick and thin?
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