Community doesn’t have to equal conformity.
When you sit down and look at the groups in your life, you’ll be surprised to find how many of them you belong to. There’s your family; love them or not, you’re still related. There’s a divide between your work friends and your not-work friends. If you belong to a club or a group, that’s another subdivision.Even on Social Media there are groups you have joined because you like cats or Autumn or sports.
So why is it that we’re surrounded by dozens of communities but we can still feel alone?
I’ve been struggling with this lately, to the point where I’m contemplating deleting my Facebook for a while and locking my phone in a drawer. Isolating myself isn’t the answer, but it feels like a better solution than getting angry over things I can’t control. I want to be a part of the communities in which I technically belong, but conforming to an ideal I don’t believe isn’t something I’m interested in. I want to fit in and I want to belong, but I feel like I don’t.
There was a time when I used to belong to a group of friends that would go for coffee every morning. We would talk and share and listen to each other’s ups and downs. It was great, for a while. But after some time it felt like they wanted me to be something/someone I wasn’t. And it was their way or the highway. In or out. So I left. I still think about them and often feel guilty for leaving the community in which I used to be so active. Sometimes I’ll see someone when I’m out, but they never initiate contact. No one emails or texts. It’s like I never existed to them. I take full responsibility because it was my decision. I couldn’t fully conform to that norm and I don’t regret that.
So what did I do? I created my own community.
I decided to actively surround myself with people who don’t make me feel like an outsider. It’s not a large group, but size doesn’t matter with comfort and happiness. My tribe gets me, I don’t need to prove anything else. I don’t feel like I have to lie or pretend to be something I’m not just to fit in.
In his essay Self Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson urges us, “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Right on, Ralph. My crowd and I aren’t giving up.