When you’re in school you have your people, your group of friends, your homeys, the ones you always sit with in class, in the cafeteria, or even in the courtyard or wherever it is you hang out. They’re your crowd, the ones who make you feel at home at school despite the fact that you may or may not know them all that well.
When you leave school and start working if you’re lucky you meet another group of people, a new crowd. They could be your coworkers, they could be your neighbors, they could be that guy you always run into at the store and the pizza parlor. It doesn’t matter where they come from, they’re your friends, your community.
When M and I moved to California I left my crowd behind. I said goodbye to my best friends and all the other people I hung out with all the time. We had a standing meeting place (the McDonald’s on the Champs Elysee’s) and we would congregate there on the weekends to argue about what movie to go see. We had our favorite restaurants and our preferred haunts. I taught them about Halloween and they taught me everything else. They were my pose and it was hard to leave them behind.
I was lucky, when we got here we joined the synagogue and I met new friends. I started working there and met even more. Within months I felt myself buoyed by my new friendships, by my new village. They made me want to be myself, to be better than myself. They pushed me out of my comfort zone and held my hand when I flailed. They were there for the ups and the downs and all the laughs in between. It made the distance keeping me from my old community bearable.
We went to the synagogue for services every Friday night and I loved being surrounded by people who knew me and loved me. I found it very settling to look around the crowded room and see so many familiar faces, people I could count on in an emergency or even just to grab a cup of coffee. Being part of such a warm community made me feel at home, and there’s just no describing the way my soul swelled when our voices rose in harmony as we sang the Shabbat blessings.
But the Bay Area is not an easy place to live and one by one my close friends have migrated to cheaper pastures. I had a baby and going to services became more challenging. Work at the synagogue became a bit unpleasant and I stopped spending extra time there. And all of a sudden I realized that I wasn’t part of the community any more, I was on the outskirts of it, and it didn’t feel like home any more.
For a long while that was OK. For a long while I was too busy to really notice. Between kids and a job that was pretty much sucking the life out of me, I wasn’t exactly overly concerned with the loss of my community. I was more preoccupied with surviving the days, let alone the weeks. I had new close friends and my peeps inside the computer to keep me afloat, it was enough.
Now that I’m doing something that is fulfilling me in ways my past job didn’t, the part of me that craves community seems to be stirring. Maybe it’s because I’m no longer working with people. Maybe it’s because I’m doing so much running around from work spot to work spot. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending so much time alone. Or maybe it’s because my soul is waking up, but for the first time in months, if not years, I’m craving that feeling of being surrounded by a loving community.
Whether I want a new community or to reconnect with the old one is a whole other question, one that might take a while to answer.