Last Friday, I ventured with a group of women to a little cabin in the North Carolina woods for a weekend retreat. The intent was to have a chance to relax and prepare ourselves for a year of conquering the goals ahead of each of us. What we were met with instead was a mountain road covered in ice and snow, a cabin with frozen pipes and no running water (read: no showers or flushable toilets), and nine ladies whose idea of roughing it is having anything below 3G service on a cell phone.
Life is like that though - even our best laid plans are often met with challenges. How we approach those challenges, though, depends a lot on who we have by our side. Adversity feels much less lonely when we have people to hold our hands through the storm.
When I made a snap decision to attend the Making Things Happen Intensive three years ago after randomly stumbling across this blog, I never could have imagined the ways it would turn my world upside down. I never could have fathomed that the girl who walked into that room in March of 2012 would be molded into the one I see in the mirror today. I couldn't have guessed the tremendous community of people that one decision would have brought into my life.
As I've said before, I always been vocal about thinking quality was more important than quantity when it comes to friends. I limited myself to just a handful of close pals who knew all my life secrets, and I held my cards close when it came to anyone else. I said no to hanging out with new people, instead opting to lay on the couch and watch yet another Grey's Anatomy rerun - not because I needed a time of rest and reflection (good), but because I didn't want to put in the effort and energy to have a real relationship with a someone new (bad). Instead of allowing myself to have a community - a tribe of people who would push me to be the best version of myself - I limited myself to a few good people who couldn't possibly carry all that weight on their own.
What I didn't realize was that quality and quantity can coexist.
More and more as of late, I'm reminded of the importance of being in community with others. The importance of inviting people into my home and saying yes to their invitations and picking up the phone instead of sending them to voicemail because I'm just too tired/busy/etc. to talk. The importance of being with people who push me, who challenge me, who love me, who tell the truth even when it makes me mad, who make me laugh, who push me into the unknown - people who are molding me into the best version of myself. And then, being there to do the same for them when the tables are turned.
he funny thing about community is that it happens gradually and hits you all at once. One second you're alone and the next you are surrounded by like-minded individuals who you know you can call "your people."
Community requires work, but meets you with grace.
It forces you to say "yes" even when you know it would be easier to wallow on your own.
It asks you to contribute when you're strong and gives when you yourself have nothing to give.
It surrounds you with love and empathy and encouragement.
And we could all use a little more of that.