Community: it’s that sense of fellowship. It’s finding that place where you simply belong. Brotherhood or sisterhood: having that invisible card of citizenship with a group of like-minded people, humans whose love is unconditional and comradery is unmatched. It’s more than just houses lined up on the street or the town that you call home… it’s being a piece of the pie, and fraction of a whole that is larger than any one individual.
Have you ever felt that incredible sense of acceptance? Has your existence ever seemed meaningful to the mission of those around you? Have you considered yourself a part of a community of people?
If so, congratulations! That’s amazing!
But, I have not.
I’m not entirely sure when it started; the details are a bit fuzzy after nearly 31 years wandering this wasteland. I can remember sitting at the dinner table, looking at my parents and my brothers, talking to them, yet feeling disconnected somehow. There’s memories of boarding the bus on those cold Michigan mornings with my pixie cut and ball cap and feeling eyes on me, the silent curiosity on their faces about my gender was the same one in my own head. I remember bouncing between friendships, becoming so absorbed in someone only to watch it crumble within months.
Who was I? Where were my people? When were they coming for me?
Sure, I’ve belonged to groups, but to me it’s somehow different. I lived in the band room throughout middle and high school, I was absorbed in our school’s drama club, and I was the confident and passionate captain of our quiz bowl team’s “backup crew.” Yet, somehow, I never felt connected, I never felt like family; I was always that outsider, like the homeless man sleeping on the bench yet nobody considers to invite him to a town celebration.
So, here I am: a month shy of 31, still trying to find a place where I can really be who I am, still hunting for my fellowship… my community.
I wonder if I’m simply not trying hard enough, or if my inability to look in the mirror and see the truth is somehow inhibiting me from actually feeling a connection to anyone. Yet, that doesn’t seem to really matter, because the truth is, I am somehow like this illusion of a person; I somehow don’t really seem to exist.
Yes, I am female, but I don’t really see myself as a woman nor do I feel like I’m a man. Sure, I have become highly invested in writing as a hobby, yet I still feel like an imposter in communities of others who share their stories through strings of prose and poetry. I have a personality disorder, yet I don’t seem to fit into the mix of others with my same condition because of other parts of who I am. I’m married and have children, but I never seem to connect with other parents. When I was a teacher, I was always that one who was “different.” To the bisexual community, I might as well be a fraud.
Again, who was I? Where were my people? When were they coming for me?
A former friend of mine once said that I always make sure there’s a seat at my table for anyone who needs a place to belong. She said that when others judged her or rejected her, I welcomed her with open arms. I don’t tend to see the kindness; I just see my actions as who I am. Good, bad, it’s hard to say.
As I thought over all of this last night and poured my heart out to my best friend (as I always seem to do when we talk late at night), she brought up yet another point: “Community isn’t always a whole group of people coming together. Sometimes, community is a single person who understands you like no other.”
Maybe, somewhere in all of these thoughts, that’s the reality that I’m missing? Perhaps communities aren’t always a pre-existing established place where you end up; it’s possible that communities sometimes start with an open heart, an empty table, and arms ready to embrace everyone. Maybe I haven’t found my community yet because the members are waiting for me to find them. Or, it’s possible that I already do have a community in my best friend simply loving me unconditionally. Maybe my community is just like Mia and Lilly from “The Princess Diaries.” Perhaps my community is those moments where I’m sitting on the couch, surrounded by my daughters, husband, and cat, watching an animated movie.
If you are a lonely wandering soul like me, just trying to navigate this harsh purgatory we call Earth, I hope that this message finds you and allows you to know that you are not truly walking your path alone. And, if our souls ever meet, and our paths suddenly collide, know that there will be an open seat, embracing arms, and food to eat when you are ready to join. It’s time to stop waiting for life to happen and start making it happen for ourselves. It’s time to open up and make the community of our dreams, the friendships our heart has always desired but never found. It’s time we see who we are, find our person or people, celebrate our connection to the universe.