joe crawford. blog since 2001 indieweb guestbook

On Belonging

James wrote thoughtfully and wistfully two days ago:

The memories of standing on the street late at night surrounded by laughter from friends left me with a message that I had thus far not thought about emotionally: that this is a community in which I feel I can be myself. After spending so much time worrying about whether I am good enough — whether I do enough work, have created enough — I realised more so than ever that no amount of work substitutes the joy of sitting back and sharing ideas (from the good ideas to the whimsical ones that make people laugh) and getting to know people.

For a long time, I have wrestled with a difficult separation: that other people have already found their in-person community, and that I am one who is an outlier in the places I am. The worry perhaps I will never find the people who find my particular brand of humour or interest in ideas comes often.

I had the experience of being monolingual in an overseas country. I moved around a lot because of my father’s education and career. Once I got settled in my first valid career I made the decision to leave and start over. And after a few years there I moved again. And when that relationship exploded I began another one and moved yet again. Maintaining connections during that time requires conscious effort.

Moreover, I also have made mistakes and disappointed some friends in past times–a particular and peculiar kind of self-destructive behavior on my part. I mourn the relationships lost by my actions.

The relationships that have survived are strong. But the lessons of the ones that drifted away or disintegrated are that without a certain effort, relationships can’t last.

In January this year I wrote Al & my Friendship-as-Garden theory. I’ll repeat what I wrote then, as it continues to be true for me:

Friendship is a garden that we cultivate. It’s not a bad metaphor. Friendship as a thing which requires nurturing and care, just as a garden does. It’s subject to the weather. It changes with the season. Some friendships fit in the garden, and some don’t. Some plants require particular care and climate. And some are sturdy. Some things grow without prompting. When conditions are right, incredible and unexpected beauty and joy can emerge from a garden. So much so we can share it with others. And some years, nothing goes right, and the garden goes fallow.

Friendships are only partly under our control. Some years are bad. Too much sun. Weeds. Flood. Pests. But also Murphy’s Law applies: sometimes things just aren’t right and go wrong.

And I’ll say–James–that the signal your feelings are giving you are valid–and the answer is that just as you cultivate your website as a garden, you might also cultivate relationships. Embrace the seasonality: the springtimes and the winters, and the lens you look at the world with will show you the beauty that’s out there.

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