I am trying to contemplate and put a tag on my values. I understand that they are fluid over the longer run, but it pays to have them nailed and labeled, while approaching life.
A sense of community is an important source of value for me. In my early 20s, I traveled quite a bit and lived in close to 3 different cities. I have met several hundreds of people – in fact, facebook tells me that I have been adding an average of 100-130 people every year over the past couple of years, and prior to that, about 60 people every year for about two years. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have been meeting and interacting with that many people over the past 5 years, since quite a sum ought to come from reconnecting with schoolmates from my equally well-traveled childhood, that’s still a lot of people.
Has this rendered my relationships superficial? Nope, I wouldn’t agree with that. I cherish all of my friendships, and social media has definitely helped in keeping in touch, but what was missing is a sense of community. With a single friend, you have an equation. You likely picked one another due to shared interests or circumstances, and your ideas bounce off each other to form something more coherent and realistic. It probably even shaped your identity to an extent, but depending on the personalities involved, this could also cut you off from realistic principles of the world, partly because you picked each other to create this cocoon of security and understanding, but there exists a world out there that doesn’t necessarily agree with your principles and methods.
This is where a sense of community is different from simply having a support system. The latter is a subset of the larger community. A community is a system that can cause you discomfort, angst, and frustration. It exists as a transactional setup in the background, within which you can carve out various aspects of your life- your relationships, your career, family and home, and more. Having a sense of community helps you understand and participate in the co-creation of your image – your sense of self that you don’t invest in the same way as you do in intimate relationships, while still featuring on the spectrum of accessibility.
It helps you grasp the larger picture through experiential learning, and the ability to look past your comfort zone. It creates a sense of balance- this is why people choose to complement their work lives with volunteering engagements, a social life, a family life – a layered existence.
I believe that it is important to stick around long enough to be able to create this sort of an existence. I want that. It’s not a picket fence reality that I’m shooting for here. It goes deeper than that. It facilitates reaching out, contributing to shaping a society and economy, and leaving behind lasting legacies – this is important to my identity. It is something I value, and ‘drifting’, simply doesn’t allow me that. Connectedness and deliberate engagement are key.
Communities are not necessarily just physical. As networks expand, communities are becoming virtual, and the playground is larger than ever before.