On the Difference between Finding Community, Creating Community and Joining Community

written at world cup roasters at powell’s city of books

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I arrived to Portland just over a month ago and am grateful for how this city does prioritize a sense of community and camaraderie: Sunday night potlucks, music jams, AcroYoga meetups in parks, biking alone and then suddenly finding oneself surrounded by bikers. One of many. Yet I came here with the intention of joining three distinct communities: AmeriCorps, a writing group, and “the” or “a” yoga community.

The first was easy. It is where I put most of my time and where I was sort of handed a community on a…compostable platter. I realize now that I am used to being handed communities on platters (Wesleyan, with its wealthy campus, just happened to be a silver one). My yoga community was there for me to join in New York and for me to create at school. These communities were abundant and, while I put a lot of effort into creating and joining them at the time, I forget about them now, as they are established and rather than still being a part of them, I am now seeking community elsewhere. I was an English major at school and part of Girls Write Now in high school so my writing communities were relatively implemented for me.

And now I am searching.

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I remember a pivotal phone call I received from a friend my sophomore year of high school as I lamented leaving all my NYC communities and returning to school, where I felt like a lone ranger. It’s funny to think about now, as I’m in a similar boat, though this time school is what I sometimes lament leaving (though don’t get me wrong; I am above all thrilled to be here!). Walking out of the student center and checking my voicemail, I heard her response to my predicament: “You’re a yoga teacher. You’re you. Create your own community.”

Now, as I sit here in Powell’s City of Books, looking out the window over Northwest Portland on this rainy Wednesday morning enjoying my second cup of delicious coffee and catching up on blogs, I am reminded of these words of wisdom and how they shaped so many of my experiences.

Today, the Wednesday after my weekend of “failed” attempts to find a yoga studio to teach at regularly and a writing group to join, Gala Darling published a post entitled, “Stop Waiting to Be Picked; Choose Yourself.”

There was something in the title that sounded familiar to me. And with that familiarity came that Third Chakra comfort of knowing myself and the potency of what happens when we fully commit to starting something. Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Here are some gems from that piece, which I would like to keep with me:

You could spend years refining your book proposal, honing your elevator pitch, or mastering your demo, when you could simply be CREATING. Making more stuff, trying new things, growing as an artist and as an entrepreneur.

It doesn’t matter what you do: you know your audience, your clients, your people, better than anyone. You know their needs, and you know how to help them. So don’t let someone else’s lack of vision get in the way of serving them. Do what you need to do!

I agree with Gala Darling, but at the same time, the critical thinker in me still believes that community and helping hands are vital. With AmeriCorps, I am serving at a community school and that, combined with being raised by a single mama makes me know one thing at the core of my being: it takes a village. That “it” for me now consists of me creative and professional passions: writing, yoga, applying to graduate schools and service work. But this can be extended to whatever we all do. It all requires balance. So, without further adieu, here is a revitalizing three-pronged approach to the different ways we find ourselves In Community:

FINDING COMMUNITY: This is when we join a community that already exists, but is loose in its formation…like a potluck group or generally-structured meet-up. We stumble upon it, but we don’t decide right then and there whether or not we are going to join it. It doesn’t feel like totally our own and that’s okay; it doesn’t have to. Sometimes it’s nice to simply be a part of.

JOINING COMMUNITY: Found that community that already exists that you want to be a part of? Join it and become an active member. In my experience, there are few things more comforting than realizing we are one of many and not alone in our passions.

CREATING COMMUNITY: This is what me and my wellness-enthused friends R and L did at Wes when we created WesBAM!. We innovated because we saw a lack and our ability to fill it. We created the community we wanted to be a part of. It’s like the piece of advice I received when I contemplated writing Yoga U: “Write the book you want to read.” This one is very much in line with Gala Darling’s advice above. This takes a lot of work. A lot of help. And an abundance of creativity. But it’s possible!

And above all, thank you for letting me write the post I needed to read this morning.

Namaste,

S

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