I am a classic introvert. Since childhood I’ve been most comfortable alone, enjoying quiet time with a beloved pet at my side, secure in the love of my family constellated out around me. As a child, I loved taking long, solitary rambles through the woods and fields around my family’s country home, a practice that continues to sustain me today, whether I’m wandering through forests or along coastlines.
Things changed a little in my Water years, when, like most teenagers, I felt the urge to meet friends and have a community outside of my family. It seemed an important mark of social success to have a tribe, a trusted group of friends my own age. When I went off to college, I almost immediately fell in with a group of friends who became quite a tight clique—for all of a few months. The center could not hold, and we spun off in different directions for the rest of our college years.
The intensity of that relatively short period of friendship lives on powerfully in my memory, all the more so because as I’ve gone on in life, I have never again experienced that thrilling sense of all-in tribalism. Now, in adulthood, I have a broad circle of friends and loved ones, all of us connected to multiple groups in many overlapping circles of mutual respect.
In our polarized age, I’ve realized that respect is a critical value for community life, whether between individuals, other groups, or the other species with whom we share our planetary home. And while I value my time in community, I also continue to enjoy spending good chunks of time alone, content in the company of my beloved pets—perhaps our pets deserve more recognition for the loving community they provide for us, their human companions!
This month, I invite you to think about the communities you have been a part of during your life, and how they have nourished you (or not). What communities have made you feel most happy and alive? Which community bonds have persisted over the years, and why? How can we learn from our past experiences of community, allying ourselves with groups that make us feel happy and valued?
I’ll close with a question that aligns the personal with the political and planetary: Remembering that our individual contributions to specific communities in our lives reverberate out into the larger world, how can you be the change you want to see in your experience of community?