A New Way I’m Thinking About Community

How I feel after catching up with a best friend

I feel like there’s been a lot of talk about the word “community” in the past year and I haven’t really paid much attention to it. I thought I knew what it meant and I didn’t feel interested in exploring it further. But then one of my very best friends, Hawken, called me last week and we ended up catching up over FaceTime for a couple of hours. He dropped some real mind-expanding ideas on me about community.

Hawken is an artist, designer, creative — all of the things. He’s super talented and has worked on lots of big projects for big companies. You could say he fits into the “community” of ad agency art directors. But he is SO much more than that. As we caught up about our creative projects and feelings about life, he started to explain to me how his idea of community has been evolving.

Instead of seeing community as one place where you belong, like I’m a part of the podcast community, it’s a lot more accurate to see ourselves as part of infinite communities that are created in the moment with whoever we are connecting with. For example, during our FaceTime catch up call, we were in a community of two creatives who also are friends from college and were roommates living on Orange St in Los Angeles years ago. My mind really started to work with this new definition.

I’ve always been part of several communities. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I never identified with just one part of the country or one town or one school. I was also a kid who did well in school, so I was part of the “smart kids” academically, and then also I was part of my church community. I was a daydreamer and a reader and a shy kid. I was then a blossoming extrovert in college. I moved to Dallas and became a businesswoman. Then a design student. Then a “freelancer” who moved to LA and got into self-development. And now I’m a Utahn who is also an entrepreneur, a married woman, and a podcast producer. And that’s just the easy-to-name communities I’m a part of.

For the past week, I’ve been thinking about why community is so much more interesting when it’s an idea that is constantly expanding. I’ve never been comfortable, deep down, with being completely associated with any one community. That’s probably my independent identity needs coming through. So I love the idea of being free to be part of infinite communities, sometimes for an hour and sometimes for years, and learning and contributing to each one as it fits on me at the time.

One of the reasons why learning to own my worth has felt so important to me is that I know what happens when I do. I become comfortable at being myself in any community I’m a part of, and I show up to give my best to that community. I don’t feel the need to judge or control or make it exclusive. I celebrate the best of what it can be, and know that I am not defined by its limitations.

I’m sure my ideas around community are going to keep evolving daily and I’m now very excited about this idea. This feels especially important today, as our identification with certain communities seems to be a divisive barrier. I can see hope for a future where we all let ourselves be part of infinite communities and find the commonalities we have in each one.

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