This month we are focusing on community and its importance for mental health and happiness. (1)
As an introvert, I don’t exactly associate groups of people with reduced stress. I find it very tiring to deal with people, especially ones I don’t know.
So the idea that I need a community or support network isn’t exactly obvious to me.
We all get lonely
When I first moved back to Kamloops, I felt so isolated. Nearly all my friends where in other cities. I didn’t know the city. I didn’t feel connected to anything. Where previously I had always had school as a grounds for building friends, in adulthood I lacked this completely.
While I recognized the gap in my life, I had no idea how to make friends. And as an introvert, the idea of trying was pretty scary.
Rotary steps in
On a whim I made the decision to join Rotary. At first, it was incredibly challenging to go every week to see 100 strangers. But unlike networking or a cocktail party (an introvert’s nightmare) we were there for a purpose.
As the months went on, I started volunteering for trash pick up and the food drive and other events. For some reason it was easier to get to know people when we were working on a common project. I didn’t have to make small talk about the weather when we were trying to feed 300 people. I didn’t have to say anything clever as we built a path at the hospice. We talked about things that mattered. We did things that mattered.
My belonging was in showing up to achieve something together. My value was in my effort.
As an introvert it can be incredibly challenging to build a community. It can be so easy to feel like it’s impossible to make friends. Or to feel misunderstood in a world of extroverts. But we need human connection just like extroverts. We need to be loved. We need people to talk to and laugh with. We need connection.
It doesn’t have to be scary either. All we need is common ground.
What do you like? What do you care about? This is where you will find your community. While service was my interest, for others it may be books or cooking or soccer.
All you need is some basis to build from. The rest will take care of itself.