On Growing Up in Communities and Stuff

Several things this summer have reminded me of stuff that is absolutely essential to my being.

#1. COMMUNITY

I’m not sure if there will be a #2 in this post, but I am clarifying that there are other things that are essential to my being. I’m working on discovering them. For now, I want to write about how much I love communities, via specific examples.

This summer, I returned to my true alma mater for a summer job. This phrase is Latin for “nurturing mother,” and most aptly describes what my elementary school is and was to me — both because my mother works there, and, perhaps more profoundly, because it was one of my first and most nourishing communities. Here are some things it gave me, because I’m into lists today:

A. A love of learning, and a commitment to the Whole Child. My school is a Montessori school, and for those of you who don’t know much about Montessori…do some research. It’s a beautiful educational philosophy. Among its key components is a commitment to nurturing the whole child. Montessori kids don’t just learn math and language and science, they learn how to set the table, how to pour juice, how to sew, how to collaborate and compromise with other kids, how to mentor and how to be mentored, how to make choices and take responsibility for them — essentially, how to function in a community. The importance of this foundation has gradually revealed itself to me as I’ve grown up and found new communities. Each new “habitat” requires the same humble curiosity as I learn how to be a part of it, and the process of shaping it and being shaped by it brings me the same joy and sense of security that I felt throughout my formative childhood years at Eton. I learned how to engage in communities with my Whole Self, and I know what it feels like when I am holistically engaged by a community in return.

B. An appreciation for “all God’s children,” as my friend (and also the father in the movie Easy A) would always say. My 8th grade class had a whopping 13 people in it, and they were people I’d known at least since fourth grade. Growing up in a small group can be stifling at times, but it can also provide a super-safe place for being one’s self, without fear of judgment or ostracism…hard to come by in middle school. I learned to appreciate even the people in the group that were most different from me, and how all of our unique strengths came together when we all participated in the community. The school play was a yearly example of that, when all of us transformed into characters — little did they know, we were all pretty out-there characters already. We even tried to write a novel as a class, which was a crazy undertaking, but inventing a story incorporating 13 different people who wrote their own characters and had totally different writing styles and dreams about where the story will go is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (After a chaotic brainstorm session and DAYS of discussion rounded out with an unruly vote, we ended up calling it: “Troubled Waters”…..)

This idea is on the forefront of my brain because I’ve been so thoroughly reminded of it this summer, by working at my old school AND by my visit to my college town last weekend. I have a lot of friends who are still there for jobs or because they have another year to go, and engaging with them again reminded me why I love communities so much: to me, there is little that is more fulfilling than exchange. Exchange of ideas, exchange of wisdom, exchange of smiles, exchange of hugs, exchange of food and friendship and insights and laughter — and in a community like the ones I grew up in, exchanges are everywhere. Being there made me feel connected, and the interactions I had were so fulfilling that the feeling of connectedness that started forming when I was a little 7 year old playing Guinea Pigs and Unicorns with my best friends at recess remains deeply embedded.

It’s incredibly comforting to know Where I Came From, at the same moment that I prepare to jet off into Where I’m Going.

Where am I going? Geopgraphically, I know. Physically, my body will probably stick around. Emotionally, the forecast is a drizzly PNW morning: a little confusing and shrouded in mist. Linguistically, I’ll probs speak a little French. Ultimately, I hope that Where I’m Going is into a new and different community, maybe one that I get to create myself. But, regardless of what happens now, I am full of gratitude for my dearest formative communities, and what awesome tools they’ve given me to community-build in the terrifying REAL WORLD.

People keep asking if I’ll be coming back…who knows. 😉

(6 days!)

On Growing Up in Communities and Stuff

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