Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Perfect Space

Lately, a friend and I have been talking a lot about something we both find rather elusive, something we're both looking for in the places we live now (halfway across the U.S. from each other) and that we'll look for wherever we respectively end up next. In short, we're looking for community.

When I moved this time, I didn't want to start over and I resisted it as long as possible -- I planned to move to a large Midwestern city, live with a close friend from grad school, and be within 10 miles of nearly a dozen other people I knew. I'd be starting over yes, but I'd start over with a pre-established network. But then, I had trouble finding a job. And I had trouble imagining myself in that Midwestern town, in much the same way that I struggled to imagine myself in the south. A friend got a job on the west coast. A different friend visited family there, and said to me, not long after, that I'd love it in the West.

So I applied for things westward, hoping mostly to have something by the time my lease ran out in the Midwest. And I did wind up with something -- something that meant moving to a new town, for a new job, where the closest I was to anyone I knew was an eight-hour drive.

Some days, I think the move, the starting over, have all been good for me. I love my town, I love the ability to get partway up a mountain in a matter of minutes. I enjoy what I'm doing, at least most of the time. And the people here are friendly, incredibly friendly, and very welcoming of new people--something I didn't expect and still haven't learned to react to in the easy-confident way of the people around me.

Other days, I'm incredibly lonely. I haven't formed the depth of bonds with anyone here that I felt so quickly with a friend from the Midwest (the one I would have lived with in that large Midwestern city). I haven't found many people who seem engaged in the things I'm engaged in -- or even their own things, a distinct lack of passion resonates from so many people I meet. And it's easy for me to focus on these things, to call them up when I'm feeling lonely, and to criticize them. But the truth is this: I came from a self-selected community of people more or less like my self, people who also have crazy Google searches (depending on what they're writing about or thinking about, or just read), who read a lot, who want to at least do no further harm even if whatever it is we're doing this year isn't actually doing much good. And even though these people have a lot in common with me, and even though I love them and miss them, when I'm really honest with myself, part of the problem with finding community here is that I'm looking for a community to step into, rather than to build a community, rather than to seek these connections, to grow and evolve with people.

When I remember this, I feel less discouraged about living here, less melancholy, and also less like I want to move again. But again, when I'm honest with myself, I know I will move again, at least once and that breaks my heart a little because I've never felt so quickly happy in a place -- especially in a place where I rarely cook, bake, or eat with anyone else.

***

When I moved West, my friend Brenna made me and our friend Rachael mix CDs for the road trip. On both our CDs she include the Avett Brothers, "The Perfect Space." I didn't listen to this song though until Rachael came for a visit and we drove to a nearby national park. That visit from Rachael was what I needed, at a time when I needed it, and in many ways felt very healing for me.

I want to fit in to the perfect space,
feel natural and safe...

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