The Importance of Community

When I first came to campus, my desire for independence and my stubborn demeanor were both at an all-time high. My parents made no secret of the fact that they were worried about my ability to function away from home. My brother was also quite vocal in his opinion that he did not believe I would survive a full semester. For a little bit (and as a joke) he and my Mom made a bet on how long I could go before I came home for a weekend (needless to say, I lasted until the third week of September). 


For most of my life, I have always felt this subconscious need to prove that I can physically, as well as emotionally, go above and beyond what people expect of me. Going away to college was no different; that particular need actually intensified as friends and family members back home expressed their concern for me. I had this vision that attending a University would be this huge cross-over from childhood to adulthood, and in various ways, that’s exactly what it has been. 


In the first couple of weeks of school, my whole idea was to completely start over; for a while, I didn’t even plan on telling anyone about my physical condition (for more on that, you can read it here). Suffice to say, people will either figure it out or at least ask me about it eventually. (And at the risk of getting off topic for a moment, I do prefer asking questions rather than making assumptions). I wanted to be the kind of person that I hadn’t been in the past: strong, independent, assertive, calm, level-headed…you get the idea


For the most part, I was pretty comfortable. Yet as time went by, there were certain aspects that began to change. It got to a point where one person sat me down and basically told me that I was a burden and that it wasn’t fair for others to have to take care of me. To this day, I still don’t know if it was something they said out of love or if it just slipped out unnoticed; but regardless, I was devastated because it was mostly due to the one thing I couldn’t control. At that time, I believed that I was completely on my own. 


Again, I felt that incessant need to prove that I could be an “adult”: I vowed never to call my parents up crying unless I felt it was absolutely necessary (I’ll admit that I did do it a couple of times, one of them just recently). In a sense, I had someone who I considered to be very special in my life and I didn’t confide in anybody about it until long after it had ended. When I went out, I made it clear to those I was with that they were not obligated to take care of me. I went so far as to stop asking my friends for hugs or to just hold me for a minute or two when I needed it; this was mostly out of the fear of being told “no.”


But that was seven months ago. 


It was toward the end of February or some time in March that I began going to Intervarsity with another floormate of mine. At first I was terrified because I had already tried two faith-based groups on campus, and I always felt out of place because it appeared as though everybody in there had these perfect relationships with God and had everything all figured out. I, on the other hand, was still terribly confused and therefore concluded that maybe  it just wasn’t something that I needed in my life. 


But whenever I went, which was usually just a small group of us in a dorm, I felt like I didn’t need to be an “adult” so to speak. Admittedly, there were times where I even wept, not because I was sad or upset, but because I was relieved. 


And the same was true for many other people that I’ve met, gotten to know and have come to truly care for around here


I think the biggest misconception that most human beings have in relation to adulthood is that as you get older, you have to start relying more on yourself and not the people around you. I don’t know if it’s just my generation, the generations that will follow, or even a few ahead, but it seems as though we’re all being raised in a dog-eat-dog kind of world. As though it’s every person for themselves, and if you’re not the last one standing? Well, to put it appropriately…that just sucks for you. 


I won’t say that the world isn’t full of bad things or bad people, because it definitely is. There are those who don’t give a damn about anyone except themselves, and they will often pretend to care only if it benefits them in some way. I won’t say that one shouldn’t learn to become physically and financially independent, because their parents or whomever raised them will not be around forever. I won’t say to go crying to someone about every little bad thing that happens, because one can only go so far before they become completely and utterly dependent on another to fix everything for them.


But does that mean that one should go through life alone? 


I think not. 


Thus far, I’ve only begun to learn just how essential surrounding yourself with a community of people really is. Whether that be a sports team, a church, a fraternity/sorority, family, or just a group that does one common activity together, it’s important not to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. As much as one thinks self-reliance will help them succeed, it plays a small part. In the grand scheme of things, you need people around you that will encourage you, laugh with you, be there for you, and so on and so forth. 


As for me personally, I’ve come to understand that just because one person says something or thinks a certain way, it does not mean that everyone else feels the same. I know that my friends and family members want to be there for me. They want to see me happy and to succeed in everything that I do. It’s just a matter of being honest with myself in regards to when I can’t put on a brave face anymore. 


To do this day, I still struggle with it. I go through phases where I feel like being an open book for a while, and then I will feel inclined to carry my own weight for a certain amount of time. It depends on who I surround myself with and what is currently going on in my life. 


Sometimes I just need a gentle reminder that I’m not meant to be alone. Life is not meant to live alone.

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