It’s interesting how the beginning of one thing means the end of something else. One thing must end for the new thing to begin. Every time. We’ve lived in Los Angeles for two years and it wasn’t until recently that I really started to feel a bit at home there. Even though we had been living there off and on for the seven years previous to our move, it took a really long time to feel settled, to not feel lost most of the time, for LA to feel like home. But it wasn’t until a new thing was about to begin that I realized what we had.
Some of the long settling process is LA’s fault. It is a city that is notorious for being difficult for people to connect in. It takes two years, most people say. Though, the vast majority don’t last that long—they head home, complaining they never found community in LA, never really met anyone. There is something to the frenetic energy here–the constant pursing of a dream, that makes the pace of life, well, a lot overwhelming. It creates a sense that one must always be in motion to be on the path to success. If you stop to, say, spend time with someone, it means you aren’t ‘busy’ pursuing your dream. Or working your survival job—that flexible, low-paying job that barely pays the rent but keeps you available for the work you want to do.
So it wasn’t until we were saying goodbye to people for a temporary move out of the area, that I fully realized we had done the near impossible—we had community in LA! I am not even joking. We had a number of people who insisted they get to see us before we left town. Rearranged their schedule to see us. Texted us repeatedly until we could find a date that worked to grab lunch and say goodbye.
I say all this because sometimes community doesn’t look exactly like we expect it to. At breakfast with my sister about a year ago, I was sobbing about how we hadn’t been able to build much community in LA. That it was hard to have people over for dinner and arrange playdates for the girls. That people didn’t invite us do join them to do things, etc. I sobbed for quite some time about this. The wait staff at the diner we were at just kept carefully refilling our coffee as I used napkin after napkin to wipe the tears.
Then my wise sister said, ‘Maybe community will just look different here.’
And there it was.
Yes, community will look different in a huge, urban environment than it did in the suburbs of Colorado. It will look different because life is different. We have older kids. Urban does not equal suburban—cities have a lot to offer, but it’s mostly more complicated. Of course it is different. Why didn’t I see that?
Community is about having people who care about you, who are willing to invest their time, energy and resources into being in your life in some way. It may not look like playdates and barbeques. But it will look like people who make a point to be involved in your life. And bring you Chick Fil A lunch the day before your family moves to Shanghai. Or let you borrow all their duffle bags for 6 months. Or carve out time to go to Disneyland before you leave town. Or ask what you will miss the most and it is a bbq-cheeseburgers for dinner at your daughter’s request.
Community looks a lot like that. Here’s hoping I get that figured out a bit faster in this next adventure. Because it will end, too, and it will be the beginning of something new and I don’t want to miss out on community because I thought it would be dressed differently when it shows up.