First steps, first loves, first kisses, first jobs, first apartment, first home, first time, first christmas after divorce,1 first weekend where kid is at the ex’s, first day of school, first time she’s gone for more than a week, her first year of college, first time i’ve ever lived all alone, first time I was away from kiddo for her birthday, first time I moved somewhere just to please myself. Some firsts are gleeful miracles, some are… less so, but perhaps no less important or, or over time, as satisfying.
This Spring was the first time I’ve ever moved somewhere without a lease or a house or dorm or some sort of certainty that all of my shit will be here in this spot, right away. The first time I’ve moved somewhere with no mechanism, however artificial, of a ready baked in community. When you go to college or when I moved for law school – community is your schoolmates. When you move for a job – at least a decent crack at some community with some co-workers. When you move and belong to a church, some ready-made community of supposedly like-believing people who are, in theory anyway, supposed to be nice to you because church. If you move somewhere and have kids still at home, then you invariably meet other parents at school and extracurricular stuff. A common interest. A common purpose.
And yet while a move without those things has seemed daunting, here’s a fact: I have exactly 1 person from undergrad I still keep in regular touch with and 1 person from law school I keep in touch with. Same on my last two jobs. That’s not to say when I was actually still at those places I didn’t have more of what felt like “good friends”. But friendships built on forced temporal proximity can be rather fleeting where the common interest is the task at hand (the job, the degree etc.). Everyone has had that moment after they quit their job when they realize, I only want to put in the effort to see this one person or maybe two people. Everyone else just sounds … like a lot of work. And that’s when you see who you really valued as a meaningful connection versus who was “convenient” for you and you for them. 🙂 But then, I’ve found that life is a series of opportunities to learn how to let things and people go.
And yet, we can seek out our own “community” with things that mean more to you or where you might find connection beyond the task at hand. In Utah, when I went to a yarn shop where I used to live and joined their knit night, I made 2 friends I kept up with weekly and several others I saw from time to time enough to feel “regular.” That was a community I went to go find and develop. Well, accidentally stumbled into. Because communities are everywhere, and they’re honestly not that hard to start if you can’t find one that fits you. Before I left Utah, I’d started hosting weekly game nights, monthly parties (when it was nice out) in my backyard. Most of the people were neighbors, yarny friends etc., but occasionally I’d put out a wider call to come and it was always answered. My goodbye party became a surprise occasion for me to feel so.damned.loved. And to see how broad of a group of friends I really had there. Not for daily or even monthly meet ups or support and enjoyment, but people who were at one time important in my life who found me still important enough to come and say goodbye. And that was satisfying and heart-filling.
It also induced some hope in me – that after I’ve lived in my new location for a while, I’ll have something similar. Not the same, because work and school folk won’t be there. It will all be “found” community. I’ve been in the state for about 5 months now, subtract out a few weeks on vacation and the month and a half I had the plague and didn’t leave the house and we are looking at a solid 3 months here. I still have zero people’s phone numbers. But I’m pursuing more firsts, and that’s going to help. I’ve been to my first couple of knit nights, my first lunch with a group of women my age+, and I’ve committed to just striking up a conversation whenever it suits me… and sometimes when it doesn’t. I stopped a neighbor in her yard on my way home from the beach last week and asked her about this big harbor thing that weekend and which parts to go to… she responded with an emphatic – all of it! Her name is Jeanie. She was very kind. We chatted for a while. I may or may not have been impaired when I took my walk and randomly decided to chatter with her. But it was nice. And, I’m reasonably certain that she will remember my name when I pass by and say hi and I will definitely do the same.
Firsts also come in other ways. I painted my living room last weekend – it’s now the first completely done room in my house. It’s awesome. I love everything about it. It’s cozy. It makes me like my house. It helps any anxiety I might be feeling calm down. Maybe most importantly for me right now – it feels like a place I’m glad to come home to – and NOT a fortress I don’t ever want to leave – no matter how much I enjoy it. Soon, I’ll go visit kiddo for the first time her sophomore year and we will go to a concert together. Then I’ll go visit bestie who is just a few hours further away than kiddo and work from her house for a week. Which will be my first take-working-remotely-out-for-a-spin that isn’t “functional” like moving, but rather simply because I want to hang with my bestie. I think that work week is forecasted to be sort of gross for us both, but we will get to play, sew, game, whatever after work and that sounds pretty awesome.
What communities might I search out for more firsts and friends? I’d love to find a bunch of non-disgusting grown ups who like to game.2 I’ll give some cautious side eye to maybe an introverts book club. I enjoy pub quiz, but I’ve never gone to something like that alone. Yarn store. Volunteering? Whatever sort of women’s bar org there might be here. Right after I get licensed here anyway (see another first!).
What community might I create wherever I go? Beach knitters anonymous? Sunday afternoon card games at the pub? I think the only limits here are my imagination and courage. And I can tap into plenty of both
- Note I didn’t say “First divorce” as I aspire never to have another … by never remarrying 🙂
- I could do several posts on the oddness of what some dudes think is acceptable to fantasize about in D&D with total strangers. Ew. There’s a D&D group nearish me, playing a campaign I’m actually interested in, but it’s all in person and you can’t just go try them out before you commit to a character. In theory, I know I could go and then say hard pass but that also seems oogie. Sigh. Between the concerns about what kind of person I’d be playing with, if I’m honest, I’m also concerned about showing up and it being a bunch of 20s boys with cheetos 😉 Also pass.