Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Finding Community

I have a driving urge to write, but I have no clue about what!  It's a sunny, beautiful day outside, and as soon as someone either stumbles out of bed (not to mention any names...) or arrives home from running some errands, I will drag them outside for a walk.  With my camera, this time!  But until then, I'm left with a mind full of clamouring thoughts and emotions and ideas and dreams...

One thing I've been thinking about is community.  It's something that's been on my mind for a while now...

When I was young, we were involved in the local homeschooling community.  I made a couple friends, but I found relatively few people to connect with in the largely conservative Christian, school-at-home group.  There were plenty of nice people, just not *my* people.  Despite that, I enjoyed the company of the friends I had, and never really felt much of a lack...

Then I reached my teens.  And most of the homeschoolers I knew, as they also reached their teens, headed to school, and we lost contact.  Teen years can also be turbulent, especially in a society that is so unfriendly to teens, and I definitely felt that.  I became as much of a hermit as my family would let me be for a couple years.  I don't remember much about my early teens, or where I was in my mind, to be honest, either good or bad.

When I was 14, my mother, trying to find some group activity where I could meet others my age (my very social, extroverted, and outgoing sister made friends wherever she went, and so never really caused worry in that area for my parents!), my mother came across the Air Cadets.  A Department of Defence funded youth program, based on military structure.  A big draw was that it was entirely free!  Hey, why not, I thought.  So my sister and I both joined.  When I tell people now, in all my anarchist hippieness, that I was in cadets for three years, they look at me in shock!  To be honest, I find it rather surprising myself, at this point! :-P But I learned a lot in those three years, and not any of it stuff you'll find in brochures advertising the program.  There was so much bullying, so much dishonesty and bullshitting, so much sucking up to officers in charge, and treating lower ranked cadets like dirt.  It was stressful most of the time, fun occasionally.  I learned just how things SHOULDN'T be!  Just how people shouldn't interact.  It helped shape and solidify my opinions, so that when I finally decided I'd had enough when I was 17 and left, I was searching.  Searching for the things I thought were right, the ways I thought people should live and be.  It was shortly after I left that I embraced unschooling, and started seriously looking into anarchy.   It still amazes me I lasted that long in cadets, and though it seems strange and rather silly to say, that time, though I don't regret it, did hurt me in some ways.  I learned what it was like to be treated as lesser, to be made to feel shame for making mistakes, to function within a rigid structure of rules, to be constantly judged.   

I actually did make one or two friends there, one of which is still a very good friend, who left cadets not long after I did, and is now a happy green party supporting pagan dude. ;-)

But I was left in pretty much the same place: without a real community, and only a couple of friends.  I started my blog about that time, and started meeting unschoolers online.  In the nearly two years since then, I've found a huge community online, one that is supportive and truly amazing (seriously.  I love you guys!).  I've also made friends in person from across North America, really awesome people whom I want to get to know better, and whom I really wish lived closer...  I've learned, unlike what I thought in my early to mid teens, that I'm not unlikeable, and there are plenty of people out there whom I get along with wonderfully. 

But I'm still left, here where I live, with virtually no community. A couple friends are about it.  So in recent times, I've been trying to change that.  I've been organizing unschooling meetings, getting to meet a bunch of lovely unschooling mamas, and even a few teens!  But I feel like that's only a part of what I want, and maybe even need.

I've sometimes seen people be accused of spending time only with those who share the same opinions and live the same ways, and sometimes I wonder if that's what I'm trying to do, but I really don't think it is.  What I care about is finding people who don't judge me negatively for thinking and feeling and living the way I do.  People who will support my decisions and life choices.  And at least some people who *understand* and live the same or similar choices, because sometimes you just need someone who really gets it.  In my experience, the people *most likely* to do just that are unschoolers, anarchists, pagans, or anyone really who has chosen to make their own decisions, live their own lives, to not be part of the "mainstream", at least on some levels.  I want people who get unschooling, but I also want people who share my other views.  A bunch of different people.  People who can talk about anti-civ stuff with me, people who can talk about peaceful child-raising, and about consensual living.  People who are into freedom, and animal rights, and *truly* sustainable living (not just all this "green" crap).  I feel a real ache, a true lack of good, regular, in person contact with people who get me, and people who I "get" in return!  The unschooling group is a very good start.  Now I just need to figure out the rest of it...

But right now, it's beautifully sunny, and there are roads to walk and trees to hug and wind to listen to and buds to gently-ever so gently-touch, and pictures to take.  Any more heavy thinking can wait for a while.



  1. I feel the same way Idzie. I've been looking for community here in L.A. and thought I find a few people here and there everything is so spread out here that creating a community of people that actually sees each other is difficult. And Jerry was never on homeschool park day so that makes it hard. He's kind of finding his community, though, which is nice. He plays a weekly D&D game and we've found a park day that we both like (naturally it's a long drive to get there!). I know our community is out there and I just have to keep putting myself out in the world in order to find it. :)

  2. How close are you to Montreal? There must be a vibrant "scene" in the downtown area - philosopher's cafe's, open mics, etc.
    Also, what about at the university campuses? Different disciplines are always hosting speakers, and they're usually open to the public.
    My school recently hosted a talk in a series on "Indigenizing the Academy" given by a Sami woman, Rauna Kuokkanen. Tonight I'm attending a talk hosted by the School of Social Work and Early Childhood Education on "The Economics of Poverty" by Krishna Pendakaur from SFU.

  3. Hi Idzie,
    I am 43 and I can relate to your post so much! I think I have realized that I am the sort of person who truly needs to connect with friends in a meaningful way and that usually means I have at most 1 or 2 "honest to goodness" friends that really "get" me. My husband is one of them. :) That said, it is good to find larger groups of people and it sounds like your unschooling group is a great start! Best wishes!

  4. @Colleen: Yeah, I feel the same way! I'm sure my community is out there, I just need to keep putting myself out there to find it. Which can be a very difficult thing for my introverted self... Hopefully we'll both find more community in the near future! :-)

    @Alison: Thanks for the suggestions! I'm reasonably close to the city... Far enough away that I don't often hear about smaller things going on there, but close enough it's not that hard to get downtown! My problem lies more in overcoming my natural shyness when entering new situations.

    @Tammi: I think I was happier when younger with having a few really good friends, but right now I feel like I really need a larger community! Actually though, similar to you, my sister and mother are two people that get me more than anyone else! Having at least a couple people who "get" me is what keeps me (mostly) sane. :-)

  5. I love your blog :) My daughter is almost 9, and unschooled. "Socialization" is a concern for me now. Not that I think she needs to BE socialized, but we don't have a "community" where we live. We don't fit in with the homeschoolers in our area and our best friends moved away last year, it's been rough finding new social opportunities (for both of us really). I worry about her being lonely. There are kids in the neighborhood she plays with, but they're all school kids and sort of aggressive, it's more "default" than actual desire to play with them. I'm sure we'll find our place again, and her whole life won't be defined by this time when we were sort of adrift, but jeez, a mom's gotta worry about something ;)