I suppose when people find themselves alone and isolated is when they become aware of the connections they once had and place a higher value on those relationships.
This sense of being alone – and of missing the community one was once a part of – can lead a person down one of two paths: 1) Wallowing in isolation (yes, often being along is good for us and we can relish that time, but I’m talking about when a person is alone or disconnected but wants to be connected), or 2) Seek out your people.
When I lived in Australia for 10 months, it became very apparent to me – very quickly – how much my community back home had infiltrated, uplifted, and made my life whole. This was an adventure I needed and I took advantage of the chance to go inward, but I also felt very out of place and had a lot of difficulty finding people I connected with on a soul level. I was a bit isolated and wished I was surrounded by my community again – the relationships that made waking up every day worthwhile. This was the first time it became very clear to me how strongly I identified with my community, and how shitty it can feel when you are removed from that sense of community.
Since then, I have questioned what it takes to become reconnected – to find your people, develop deep relationships with them, and be imbued with those four components of sense of community that, for me, are a major part of what makes life meaningful.
I struggled a bit with this upon returning home. People have experiences without you, communities evolve, and time inevitably continues and relationships are hard to maintain. I found that my place in the community I once felt so connected to was a bit more distant than I’d hoped. I went back and forth between questioning my self-worth and whether attempting to reconnect was worthwhile, and trying really hard to rebuild those connections. I never resolved this, and then moved to Portland for Graduate School.
And here I am, a year into grad school, still trying to figure out how the hell to find my people in PDX. I’ve started taking more proactive steps: inviting people to do things I enjoy with me (e.g., hiking), maintaining the connections in other places that are most meaningful to me (e.g., Ellie and Dave in McMinnville), and actively seeking out interest groups of people whom I might connect with and groups that I might be able to contribute to. It’s a work in progress, and I’m recognizing that building one’s sense of community is a time- and labor-intensive process that requires patience and an open heart.
Part of the problem is I often feel like I have multiple selves.
1) The professional me: a graduate student who uses big words and likes research and getting super intellectual. This me takes an analytic approach to the world, writes professional papers, wears a fancy shirt to give powerpoint presentations, and acts much older than I actually am.
2) The free-spirited me: a tree-hugging (literally) musician, dancer, frolicker who prefers to be hairy and nude. This me remains childlike and playful, unconcerned, likely imbibing in some mind-opening experience with the intention of being love with the planet.
3) The philosopher: a unanswerable-question-asking book-reader who questions the paradigm of science and “fact” while also recognizing the inherent value of it all. This me gets a bit disillusioned and gets headaches from thinking too hard about thing that don’t have official answers or conclusions.
How do I reconcile all of these? Do I find separate communities for each? Are there folks who fit into all of these areas that I can connect with?
I often feel like I hide or “mute” pieces of myself in different contexts or around different people. I should probably wear shoes to my thesis presentation, and my partner makes fun of me when I indulge my extensive lexicon. I’ve only found a few people in the world whom I really feel mesh with all of these parts of myself, and right now those connections have withered. Hence, starting over.