Prioritizing community

When we finalized our plans to move into an apartment and settle down in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, both Ross and I were particularly excited about the opportunity to find community.

Previous to hitting the road in an RV, we’d both found community mainly in the arts. Though I was still seeking a “best” friend or two, for the most part, we were happy enough day to day with our social circles. We had friends of different ages, friends who we’d invite to parties, and the friends that we performed with. It wasn’t perfect. Ross struggled to find a strong, accepting music community with plenty of opportunities for him, and I didn’t have the close friends I was hoping for. But we knew we were lucky to have lots of friends and fellow musicians that we were sad to leave behind when we started traveling.

As full-time travelers in an RV, our definition of community shifted. We found online community with other RVers or musicians, in-person community when we settled into a campground for a while, and in some places, we were welcomed into the local music community too. When we hit it off with friends while workcamping, held in-person meetups with friends we’d met online, or stumbled into a wonderfully accepting music community (think Seattle, Denver, Orlando, and most ESPECIALLY Portland, OR!), we rejoiced and made the most of it. And when the pandemic hit, Ross found community with musicians from around the world at ukulele meetups.

By the time we moved to Canada, we were ready for other types of community. The need had been exacerbated by the pandemic as well. We were ready to find a local farmer’s market, a regular grocery store, retailers, restaurants. We were ready to build lasting relationships and find a musical home that would accept us and sustain us moving forward.

For Ross, finding community has happened fairly naturally. As a student, he met classmates and professors and was soon getting invitations to parties and musical performances. He started performing in ensembles and socializing during and in between classes, and together we enjoyed local holiday festivities and concerts with the wider community (when COVID protocols and our own comfort permitted).

For me, finding community has meant taking deliberate actions on a regular basis, and following my intuition. I had a hunch that music would be a great entry point to making friends, and that hunch was completely correct. It led to me making a couple of wonderful friends within a few months of arriving here, and I’m now collaborating with dozens more through Island A Cappella and Luminos Ensemble. I even made a friend through a purchase on Facebook Marketplace!

My friend Jenn and I, at a wonderful comedy show, pre-Omicrom variant.

I’m now regularly receiving invites and getting to know my new local friends. I’ve even joined a local book club, one of those things I’d “always wanted to do” pre-pandemic, but never had.

And while COVID often slows things down for a while, each of these efforts has had some positive effect. I have both in-person and virtual meetups regularly.

Meanwhile, I’ve continued to strengthen my existing friendships, with Zoom meetups and phone calls with friends and family: our personal development mastermind, RVing friends, monthly family teas, and monthly check-ins with family and friends from so many places in my life.

I spent so many years feeling frustrated that I didn’t have the close friends I wanted. If I threw a party, it was always a hit. And I could cast a show or a concert. But who did I call or text when I was struggling? Honestly, for most of my adult life, I didn’t have anyone, or if I did, it was my partner. My husband is amazing, but we do better as a couple when we each have our own friends too.

Now, as I’ve struggled with anxiety and overwhelm in no small part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on those tough days, I have a list of people I can connect with. I can make plans with friends. And in any given week or month, I’m getting some of those 1:1, deeper conversations that are one of my favorite things in the world and that energize me.

So if you’re challenged in finding community right now, I wanted to encourage you. I believe it’s absolutely possible. It may take months or years (even decades!) – but it’s possible, if you are able to carve out the time. Especially if you will prioritize it. Join a book club (online or not), a musical group, a walking or hiking club, start a group to attend theater shows together, volunteer…the possibilities are endless!

And one of my goals for this year is creating a retreat so that I can foster and share that kind of relationship-building that I’ve found so helpful and comforting in my own life and business. (Do let me know if that interests you!) I’ll be leading virtual retreats and, in the future at least, in-person ones as well.

Where do you find community? Is this an area that you struggle with? Have you found virtual outlets for when in-person gatherings aren’t feasible?

Please comment, and let me know. I’m so curious. And thanks for reading, friend.

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