A few weeks ago I posted to my personal Facebook a little rant about “community.” It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot this summer. I’ve been looking, searching, seeking out a community I felt I could be a part of. I have so many wonderful people in my life, but I still feel I’m missing certain connections.
The post generated a lot of support, a lot of comments, and a lot of renewed connections. I found it resonated with such a variety of people—my expat friends, my Berliner friends, my travel blogger friends, my friends friends. It seems so many of us are on this quest for community. We all want to be connected, and yet so many of us struggle to find it. What is keeping us from these connections? Is it fear?
I love connecting with new people, meeting strangers, being silly in public. I tend to trust strangers, to trust new people in my life immediately. I hate the borders and the barriers, the walls we put up. Life is so much more interesting when we put ourselves out there. And yet, despite all of this, I still struggle to find a community. I’m sharing below parts of the original post I wrote about community with the hopes that it’ll help me connect with more of you, or that it’ll help you find your own communities.
I think this is a subject/buzzword everyone loves to talk about. Over the past four years in Berlin, I’ve tried to find a community; I’ve made friends with every type of person. It’s not always easy to find a community, but I was open and wanted it for a long time, so I kept trying, dipping my toes in to different communities, different interests, to help discover what I liked, what I disliked. With all my own interests, I figured finding a community shouldn’t be impossible. But it really is.
I’m a blogger, but I find it so very hard to relate to other bloggers.
More specifically, I’m a travel blogger, but that’s a community I don’t feel a part of. I can count on one, maybe two hands, the number of other travel bloggers that I think of as genuine friends. Working independently as a “travel blogger” has been a real struggle—as you’ve probably noticed from recent rant-y blog posts.
I’m a blogger in Berlin, and there are a lot of us. But I’ve yet to find a group of Berlin bloggers I can trust, ones who I can speak openly and plainly with. I’ve tried to find a Berlin community I could be a part of, and I always expected it to be other bloggers, but no, that just hasn’t happened.
I’m gay, but of all the shapes and sizes in the gay and queer Berlin scenes, I haven’t found my fit.
I’m a writer, but I struggle to connect to the other English-speaking writers in Berlin. Maybe I do things differently, maybe I don’t know what I’m doing. But trying to connect with many of the other writers has been so surprisingly difficult. Even if I’m somewhat competitive by nature, I definitely am the worst secret-keeper. I like to think of myself as a people-connector, often connecting friends with other friends, matchmaking when it’s relevant. But
I’m an entrepreneur who has found it difficult to interact with other entrepreneurs. The start-up scene in Berlin drives me mad, but maybe I just haven’t found my crowd.
I’m an expat, and while language barriers exist and can be a challenge, I haven’t connected with as many other expats as I would’ve liked.
The only community I honestly feel close to is probably the most vague. I’m a Berliner. Love it or hate it. But this city has me. There’s this shared collective feeling of people who know Berlin, who live or have lived in Berlin. However little, but those of us that have spent some time here, those of us who have this passion for the city… there’s something about it. I often find an instant connection to those people that know Berlin. But even still, I face a lot of challenges living in this city—as much as I want to be connected to it, I often find the city pushing me away. And yet I’m still here.
When I was working as a graphic designer in Boston, I was a part of the local AIGA chapter. I went to meet-ups and seminars and talks about design. I’d hang out with my friends and colleagues and we’d talk design and trends and movements. Now, working independently as a writer/blogger/freelancer, I don’t have that community. It’s lonely to be out here, working for myself. I go to the conferences, the meet-ups, even sometimes the seminars and workshops. But I haven’t been able to connect. I’m not sure if it’s something holding me back—my own thoughts, my stubbornness, my fear or my perceived enemies. But something is out there, preventing me from reaching that full potential. And without the support of a physical community, I feel lost. And alone.
Has social media helped or hindered our communities? I don’t know. I used to think it was a way to connect better, but so much of what I once loved about it, I now…like a little less. Social media has made it so much easier to meet people, a subject I’ve written a million times before, but I also think it’s kept me sitting on the surface, unable to dive in deeper.
Anyways, I’m writing this for no-one. I don’t want you to think I’m sad, to think I can’t meet people. Because I’m not sad. And I meet people all the time. But everyone expects me to have this rosy, happy life—living the dream traveling and exploring and writing. And while it’s pretty fucking fantastic in a lot of ways, I still struggle with many of the challenges. I just needed to get these thoughts out there. And to let you know that I’m always on the look-out for a community of those I can love and trust, those I can get support from and those I can support. There are pieces already out there. I just can’t seem to complete the puzzle. But maybe that’s the point—we’re always moving and changing, and looking for connections.
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And, as a friend commented on my original post, maybe this is really just what being young and on a quest for “the life that fits” is all about. Another friend wrote that it’s sometimes “hard to connect to genuine people who also manage to make place in their life for you, especially in this city, especially in this phase of life.” But I don’t want to think that I’m limited by these things—the place, people and phase of my life as it is now—instead I want to use them. I’m ready for more connections, for deeper connections. And I guess if it doesn’t work, there’s always Twitter because I’m still looking for something to grasp onto… See you out there,
I know I already said some of this on FB, but I totally get this struggle to connect with people. I like that travel blogging introduces me to people I wouldn’t meet otherwise, but I can’t connect much with a lot of them. I was involved with a big expat group in Freiburg that met for dinner once every 2 weeks, but most of the people I met there couldn’t relate to my life and vice versa. They had “normal” jobs and kids, or they had “normal” jobs and were single and didn’t want to hang out with us married people. I’m introverted so I value my alone time, which means I don’t go out as much as I probably need to to meet people and make friends. It doesn’t help that I’ve lost most of my summer to travel and being sick, so I’ve been here for months without really feeling like I’ve had a chance to make friends. I think it’s also harder to make friends, especially the deeper kind of friendships, the older you get. I realized when I was back in Atlanta a few months ago that the friends I had there, while still great people, are not people I have much in common with. We were friends almost out of convenience, connected by college experiences or even less than that. So it worked 5 or 6 years ago, but I don’t think it would work now, and I have no clue how to find the kind of friendships and community I’d like to have at this point in my life.
Ali – Thank you again for your thoughtful comment and insight. It’s been so great to get to know you better this year and looking forward to more regular meet-ups and conversations!
I do tend to agree that as we get older, it’s more difficult to meet new people. That’s why I’m just going to have to try to stay young as long as I can!
I remember that you once wrote about a movie about toxic communities. We can’t choose some communities that we join early in our life – like that movie – but we can when we become grownups.
Now I’m so happy to have many blogger friends who are type of people I’d longed to meet. I hate to admit that I’m still too shy to show up at many communities, which is very different from you, but the situations around me have become dramatically better than ever.
I suppose it is OK to advance slowly. My surroundings are not perfect now, but I feel happy with what I have gain, too.
Thanks, Adam, your posts are always impressive.
Hey Kozue – wow, excellent memory! You’re referring to one of the films I reviewed at the Berlinale film festival and you’re so right to remember it! I’m working on trying to find the right community for me today, and it’s been a good process, though not always easy. Thanks again for the kind words and the support!