Journey to Understand the Importance of Community
It turns out my community really matters to me. It seems obvious, but when I first left Raleigh as a high school graduate, I felt differently. I wanted to exert my independence. To be my own person, I felt I needed to be far away from where I had grown up.
Instead, the process of constructing my autonomy led me right back to an appreciation of human interdependence. Community.
Here’s my story of how trying to make it alone led me to feel the power of working together.
As a Raleigh native, I spent my childhood sheltered in the City of Oaks. The sense of safety nurtured in me here planted the urge to extend myself away from the people and places I knew. After high school I sought out colleges outside of North Carolina, and landed at Washington University in St. Louis. There studying Spanish and interacting with a diverse group of people heightened my desire to experience a world further outside my boundaries.
I graduated with the inklings of an idea to move abroad to Argentina. Buenos Aires caught my fancy as a faraway cosmopolitan city where I could immerse myself in the Spanish language. I bought a one-way ticket on my iPhone screen in a moment of courage, and a few months later I was on a plane in Miami with a few like-minded travelers. No apartment rental, no real job prospects, and I was giddy. After traveling on a prescribed path through the educational system for so long, I was ready to make my own footprints in the world.
“Ah, look at all the lonely people.” The Beatles lyric would often pop into my mind as I peered out the smudged windows of belching downtown buses. Buenos Aires is a sprawled city crawling with people. During my first months there I had never felt such a sense of loneliness as I searched for a tribe of friends, and an answer to the question Y vos, ¿Qué haces? (What do you do?)
With time, I settled in to an apartment and joined the Argentine workforce at the headquarters of Danone South America. I received a salary in pesos, paid taxes to Cristina Kirchner’s controversial administration, and got to complain about inflation. I bought vegetables at a market on the corner and came to know my way around the public transportation system. I found my place among groups of friends– some Argentine, others from Chile, Colombia, and Venezuela. I was fascinated and delighted by the differences between their dialects as I became more fluent in Spanish.
My experiences in Buenos Aires were incredible—yet, I always felt lonely there. The city grew on me, but I never felt connected. I never felt any sense of ownership, or that my contribution was valued. I was still searching for answers about myself, about the life I wanted to live, about my goals and dreams, and about my passions. I wanted to feel like I was making progress toward something meaningful.
I quit my job at Danone after about a year and embarked on a six-month backpacking trip alone through Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. I began with the goal to see as many places as possible, and was soon worn out by the superficiality of passing through city after city as a tourist. I yearned to belong somewhere.
Returning to North Carolina after over six years, I now feel a sense of connection that I was seeking by traveling outside this state. Raleigh is a city blooming with entrepreneurial energy and new vitality, with opportunities to plug in and get involved around every corner. This city is at a formative place in it’s history. It has been said before—it feels big enough to be a true city, but with space for individuals to make an impact.
New Kind is also a place where I feel like I have an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution. With the team here, I get to explore what community means in a brand new way. I love working with the New Kind team to create powerful stories that inspire passion and foster a sense of community for our clients. Helping others to find meaning in their work lends a sense of fulfillment that is impossible to experience behind a wall of self-determination.
Plus, the people here are just plain fun to work with.
What about you?
The loneliness and separation I felt making my way through the busy Buenos Aires streets was the contrast I needed to recognize the value of my community. Have you ever taken a journey that led you right back to where you started? What is it that you most value about your community?