Growing up, my childhood home was filled with shrieks from kids playing nerf wars and games of basketball. There were five of us siblings under one roof. I was the only girl so I was able to escape to my own room and punch the lock button with one pointer finger (before a brother would attempt to push himself in) and find moments to myself to listen to my music and craft the latest trends. Friendship bracelets and Shrinky Dinks anyone? I believe this is where I became perfectly content with being alone and introverted – I recharged in alone time.
Jump ahead to my young adult years; I joined a sorority in college in efforts to get the heck out of the dorms and to escape a creepy and somewhat questionable roommate. I moved into a house with forty other collegiate women, and ten of us girls shared one bathroom. Crazy right? Membership dues were paid every semester and they covered philanthropy and social events, room and board and added bonus, friends. Sisters! I had always dreamed of having sisters! Floating around campus was the stereotype that girls who joined sororities were just “buying their friends.” I was required to live in the house, attend meetings and functions and certain meal times, so I can see how that would look to people who have never experienced Greek Life, but… we’ll come back to that.
Now, as a more seasoned adult, I receive compliments on my ability to quickly become active in a community, and often am told, “You always find the fun things to do!” Even after moving to Duluth I find myself with a fuller schedule being a full-time mom and childcare provider to my daughter than I had when I was a mom in the workforce. There are the moms’ group meetings to attend at church, memberships to places the kids can explore for an afternoon, my book club, outdoor markets and holiday events… I can say that I have never been out of options to entertain my two year old since I’ve moved here!
People close to me have noticed the fun we have and ask, “Are you working?” Or, “How do you know people already?” I have had times in my life where my only friends were my coworkers. Getting to know each other was easy because we were required to accomplish tasks together. Unfortunately, friendships, relationships, and feelings of belonging in a community don’t always come as effortlessly.
Still to this day, I’d consider myself very much a social introvert; I love being active, but still recharge alone. My anxiety reminds me with every invite that I receive that there most likely will be uncomfortable unknowns in new public situations. I hesitate to RSVP “attending”, but not because I am dreading seeing certain people or engaging in a certain activity–I actually love seeing my friends and meeting new people.
I am just a hardcore homebody. Most days I force myself out of my house. Ask my parents, I was that kid who would go to a sleepover across the street and get homesick, calling my parents at midnight and asking to come home. My simple joys include being in the comfort of my home with a crackling fire in my wood stove and my puppy acting as my shadow ever step I take, as my family is close by.
Do you want to know a little secret? The truth is, in order to find your niche in your community… you have to SHOW UP. You can pay your dues and memberships month after month and keep buying the most recent book your club is reading without actually stepping out of your house and interacting with a human being. The community you live in can have an awesome Chamber of Commerce or business association that plans inspiring events and canvases the city with event calendars, invites and reminders, but if you don’t get yourself there, you might eventually feel the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
Revisiting my sorority days, if I hadn’t invested my energy in my roommates each semester, or spent time with the girls outside of the required meetings, I would never have the relationships, support system and memories that I have today. I would be missing out on some really special friends that money nor memberships could ever buy.
As many of my favorite local fitness instructors always say to us mamas attending classes: “The hardest part is getting here!” This statement rings true here as well. Getting yourself (and most likely your children) out the door and arriving at your destination is most likely the hardest part.
Mamas, I encourage you this month to choose two community events to attend, or schedule two coffee meet ups with your favorite friend or a mama you would like to get to know better! Dust off those membership cards and use them! With kids or without, freshly showered or covered in drool, you can do it- just show up!