The Value of Community
I recently left Melbourne to start a new chapter. Again. This goodbye, however, was harder than any I’ve had to do before, including saying goodbye to my hometown, Montreal. It’s not because I had more friends there, or a great job or apartment. It’s because, for the first time in my adult life, I felt like I was leaving behind a community.
This is more a reflection on my tendency to hide in the periphery out of fear and anxiety than it is on the community life in any of the places I’ve lived, but in Melbourne I felt ready to open up. Arriving to our short-term room sublet in Melbourne, I had one goal: to immerse myself. I had no plans to work and for once, I couldn’t hide behind work friends or a lack of spare time. So I dived in.
I joined a yoga studio. Not just the cheapest or closest one, but one that I felt reflected my energy and priorities. I also went to as many poetry open mics as I could. The enthusiasm of the open arms that welcomed me into both of these communities was overwhelmingly heartwarming, and I quickly learned how important they were to my wellbeing.
If you’ve been feeling like a sense of community could be missing from your life, this is the perfect time to come out of hibernation and jump into it with spring just around the corner (fingers crossed!). If you’re still unsure about putting yourself out there, consider the benefits of joining a community!
There are different types of communities, but when it comes to joining a community based on a shared interest, I thought that just meant a large group of friends who would talk about or participate in their shared interest, but being part of a community is so much more than that. It’s about the support network you create. Everyone there is passionate about something and above all else, committed to nurturing that passion in others. They are there to encourage you as much as they are there to be encouraged.
Putting yourself out there and joining a community can be empowering.
Comparatively, I have friends I enjoy catching up with, and despite being vastly different people brought together through school, work, or mutual friends, I’ve always had their support. It was, however, more of a blind support, with no knowledge or personal interest in my pursuits. They cheered me on, but that never brought the kind of growth that I’ve seen in just a couple short months of active support.
When I meet new friends of friends or go to parties, I sometimes walk away with my own new friends. That’s how my social network has always grown. But as a social species, it’s important to cultivate different types of connections.
Now I see that some types of communities are exist for us to make the type of connections that will promote learning from one another. It’s the perfect way to meet people who you can learn from, who can inspire you, or who you could inspire in turn. These people probably also have contacts who you could learn from as well. I met an array of wonderful yogis that inspired my yoga practice. I met poets from all walks of life, some that helped me improve my poetry and some that pointed me in the direction of more gigs or books to read.
I love hanging out or going on adventures with friends as much as the next person, but sometimes you may crave more meaning. Being part of a community brought me that joyous sense of purpose. It was rewarding to contribute a piece of myself to a group of people, whether it was my energy in yoga class or a poem to be reflected on. It helped me grow more into the best version of myself.
As humans, we thrive when we are motivated to get out of bed in the morning. Some people are lucky enough to combine their passion or community life with their profession, but the majority of people don’t. I realize now just how much of a difference it makes to my wellbeing, having that sense of belonging and significance. We live to contribute, not just to serve ourselves. If your job is just a paycheck to you, finding a sense of purpose elsewhere will greatly enrich your life.
With technology today, it’s super easy to find communities. There are Facebook pages and websites that can point you to meet ups or events in most cities. Gyms, studios, and clubs have growing communities, filling that niche in a society being overwhelmed with loneliness. Sign up for a class! If there’s nothing near you, there are great online communities for just about any interest. If you want to volunteer, don’t wait for an ad looking for help, just reach out to an organization working on something you’re interested in. Take advantage of the warming weather to get some vitamin D and get out there!
I’ve always described Montreal as the city I’m from but not as my home because I never took the time to make it one. Community is home. It’s what roots you to a place. I made great friends and got involved in great communities in Melbourne. We were linked by passion rather than circumstance, and I gained so much.
So no matter the interest, and no matter if you’re trying something for the first time, get out there and do what fills your heart, and do it with the encouragement of your peers.