Community is a buzz word of late. But for all the buzz, for most it’s a little bit like looking behind a facebook profile into the messy reality of what lies beneath. Many are lonelier than ever before. And I know what it feels like. Especially when I’m travelling.
I grew up in Belfast (Northern Ireland), studied and worked in Nottingham (England) and now am into my fifth year working in Cork (Ireland). By this stage I’ve lost contact with most of those I grew up with (by living a flight away from them for 5 years), and haven’t done any better with my uni friends (yip, still a flight away). Starting afresh in a new city, new culture, new job and new everything (it would seem) hasn’t been easy even for a fairly outgoing social person like me. I guess working evenings and away from home hasn’t helped.
I’m happy playing in sports clubs, I’m grand sitting in pubs, I love a classical concert but nor do I object to dancing the night away on a dancefloor til the “wee” hours. Happy chatting deep philosophy or bantering the night away on a surface level. I’m happy in most place to be honest. But it’s still hard.
I’d love to say it was because young professionals are few and far between in Cork, but I’m not sure it’s true. Or that there aren’t the places to hang out and meet people, but there are. So why do most of us in the city that I’ve talked to find it so hard to make friends?
Perhaps the post-uni relational lows of not having endless free-time, not having clubs and societies that meet in convenient times and locations to us, not have common experiences of everyone leaving home and being thrown in together. When we don’t have people perfectly like us around us, we struggle.
The more the years go on, the more I see my friends looking to live by themselves. Why? Well I think partly because living with other people (even good friends) is hard. They find those they live with are not like them. In tiny ways, but enough that irritates them after a long day at work.
And the more years go on, the more I see sex being assumed in every young professional’s friendship in the city. Not because we love someone. Just because it’s fun, it’s an escape, and it may just cement a friendship and make it work. So often the same people who’ve offered me sex, are the ones next month offering someone else. Not because they’re desperate for sex per say. Or because they’re horrible people (in fact, quite the opposite).
But because they’re lonely.
Unsure what they’re looking for.
And so I think people are always surprised when they find real friendship. And mistake it for romance unless they see that every member of several communities that I’m part of the city are offering that kind of friendship. Very real community. And it’s beautiful to be part of (though far harder to cultivate).
I’ll come on to some of what I think that looks like tomorrow.