Why You and I Need More Community in 2017

written by regular contributor, natalie jean 

Photo courtesy of #createlounge photographer,   Claire Dobson

Photo courtesy of #createlounge photographer, Claire Dobson

2017. It’s a new year with endless possibilities.

You could enroll in an online class, work on cleaning out the clutter in the office, read a book, or finally join the gym. A new year means a new you, right? 

After giving that age old phrase “new year, new me” some thought, I quickly realized that I don’t want to be a “new” me. I want to be myself but better.

I want to improve in the areas that need improving, grow in the things I lack. I desire a strong community to grow with. It’s something we all need. Community keeps us going, it keeps us encouraged and fulfilled. I’m not alone in this desire, right?

Let’s take a step back.

In September 2015, I got married to my boyfriend of almost 5 years. We’re best friends, we met in high school and went to college together, our families live close by, and we have so much in common.

After the wedding we moved about an hour and a half away from our family and friends for my husband’s job. It was a new city, a new chapter in life, a new adventure. I was so excited! But in the months to follow I began to feel very alone and very sad. It was like one morning I woke up and thought, “This is it?”

That thought saddened me beyond explanation. I thought getting married to the love of my life would mean companionship, happiness, and excitement. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of that and we are so happy together. It was just that when he was away at work or I was having a bad day, I realized there was no one I could call up to meet for coffee. I didn’t have someone right down the street (or down the hall of my college dorm) to hang out with. I felt so alone. 

I talked with my husband about it, I called my mom, I prayed. Nothing changed as I sat and felt sorry for myself and just complained about how lonely I felt.

It started to really affect my mood. 

I wasn’t positive and excited about this new chapter of life anymore. I started comparing my life to the lives I saw tiny bits of online. I sank deeper and deeper. 

The day had finally come when a handful of our friends were coming for a visit. I was so excited. I cleaned the apartment, twice. I rearranged things and baked cookies and picked out some places I wanted to take them to in our new city. I made dinner and made sure we had enough popcorn, movies, and board games to last the day. I strived to be the perfect hostess. 

When my friends arrived we had the best day. It was such a joy to be in the same room with them, talking and laughing and holding one another close. When the time came for them to leave, my heart began to ache. Would it be another several months before I saw them again? Would they start to forget about me? I couldn’t take it.

Not even five minutes after they left I sent out text messages to them saying how much I had missed them and how much I loved them and that I was so glad they could come for a visit. I began to explain how I had been feeling; left out, sad, alone. I didn’t want them to forget about me. 

The texts I expected to receive in response would have read something like “We’re so sorry! We love you! We’ll never forget about you!” But what I read instead really knocked me back into reality.

“What do you mean? It’s only been a month. Of course we’ll come to visit again and you’ll come to visit us! How could we just forget about you?”

It had only been a month… I look back and laugh because I was so consumed with the thought that I was alone, it made it feel like forever since I had been with a friend. I totally had my first case of FOMO and it made me see things that weren’t really there. Of course I still had friends! 

Just because we were separated by this little bit of distance didn’t mean I was all of a sudden alone!

I realized that community isn’t necessarily being physically surrounded by people; feeling like a part of a community is just as much my responsibility as everyone else’s. 

I believe community is so important, especially for young people.

We need friends and colleagues to help us grow, to encourage us, and to give life more meaning. Something else I’m realizing is that community can change. You can have a really great group of friends, but joining an online writer’s group or getting to know people in your neighborhood or at your church can help you grow in new areas of life that you didn’t even know you needed growth in! You can inspire others and encourage others just as much as they can do so for you. 

Community is as much give as it is take, so the next time you’re feeling alone think about the effort you’re putting in and reach out to friends and colleagues. Meet up for coffee, go see a movie, have a day where you spend time together.

If you’re someone like me who has moved to a new town or started a new chapter in life, don’t shut people out. Be honest with your feelings and reach out to people in your area and start a new community! You can even make friends online through blogging, social media, or niche groups that are created specifically for community. A lot of friends I’ve made over the last year have been in Facebook groups, blogging communities, and through my business Oakmoss Collective. Don’t be afraid to reach out and connect! 

Cheers to more community building in 2017!

Natalie Jean for #createlounge

Natalie Jean

Natalie Jean is an entrepreneur in her early twenties who is married to her best friend, Mark and cat mama to Fern, their rescue kitten. She writes for A Tiny Traveler Blog and is the founder of Oakmoss Collective. Oakmoss Collective is a community that believes in supporting other creatives and encouraging them to embrace the simplicity + beauty of life through get-togethers, workshops, and online. She loves warm cups of coffee, eucalyptus, being outside, and getting creative.