Recently I’ve been mourning the loss of the community of my kids elementary and middle school. I’ve gotten somewhat involved with the school photographically, and as a parental chaperon, etc. The kids knew me, and I dare say that a few of them even like me.
And as a result, I’ve become connected with a number of their parents, mostly through my photography. And I was sad to think that I was losing the connection to that community, because although it is cool for a dad to take pictures of school children, its creepy for some middle-aged man with no connection to do the same.
So while I was feeling all sad and low about this departure, I kept trying to think of ways that I could get involved in other communities. Volunteer at schools? Pet shelters? Get back into scouts? Build a photography community from scratch? Connect bands and photographers and website developers and poster designers and sound mixers into a great music collective to turn Columbus into the next Nashville or Austin?
It all sounded daunting, and likely to fail. And failure just doesn’t feel good. I’m terrible at maintaining connections. I have precious few friends from college that I’m still in touch with. Even fewer from high school. None from graduate school (either time I tried).
And then my birthday came along, and the birthday wishes came pouring in. As I read through the names, there was an amazing variety of people commenting in Facebook: family, personal friends, photography contacts, coworkers spanning two decades, bands I’ve done promo work for, bands whom I’ve met once or twice, people I’ve met in bars.
It dawned on me as I was going through the list of all the people who had taken a moment out of their day to wish me a happy birthday: I had created my own community. Its a hodge podge of people, but they’re my people. My community. This is something I never got in those “job hunting 101″ classes where they advise “networking”. I hated networking for the sake of networking. I was terrible at it, and it always felt empty. But building a community, one person at a time, over time–I guess I can do that. We all can do that.