They tell you community is important, but it's become such a buzzword lately that I struggle to really believe it. If it was so important, why is it also so difficult to find?
Now more than ever, I recognize the value in community. Not from having found it, but having tried to live without it.
When I moved to Nashville in the summer of 2016 I was scrambling for something. My post college plans broke and fell apart in the worst way, and I needed something to grasp in it's place. I needed a plan, a place, and a purpose.
I thought I had found that in Nashville. It was the city that sparkled. I thought it offered everything Albuquerque didn't: a real downtown, artistic neighbourhoods, new perspectives on church - things I thought I needed that I quickly learned didn't matter at all. The people were creative, the community was welcoming, and everyone knew what it meant to be the new person in town: we all were at one point.
I came to Nashville to pursue a graduate degree called a Master's of Divinity, but three semesters into the program and I quickly realized that seminary school wasn't going to be the way I would fulfill my purpose. When I stopped taking classes in the spring of 2017 it was the first decision I made that didn't have a follow up plan. I didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't know what was next. I was 22 years old, in a vibrant city in the south, with a college degree and no real idea of who I wanted to be. A year later, and I still needed a plan and a purpose.
A year into my time in Nashville, and I also desperately needed a community.
I'm independent to a fault.
After a year of being here I had a few people in my corner, but the root of my community was still in Albuquerque with my college friends and in Denver with my high school girls and family. I bought into the lie that I could handle things on my own in Nashville. I could survive on a virtual community, on phone calls and texts, on weekend visits home.
Maybe some people can live like that, but I am not one of them. I need to feel like I am at home wherever I find myself living, and the best way I know to do that is with the people that feel like home.
Nashville, and it's people, still didn't feel like home. It was lonely, even though I was in this big city with so much to offer and so many people. Maybe that made it worse. I felt caught between not being a tourist but also not being a resident here, like I was waiting for something more. Something else. Something that felt like home.
In December I flew to Albuquerque to see my people, the people that felt like home. We didn't do anything truly exciting all weekend, but I felt myself fitting back into my old life with my old community and my heart just ached. Why on earth did I ever leave this for a city that I don't fit in?
The stress and anxiety that I had been carrying ever since I stopped going to graduate school suddenly had words to label it. The restlessness I was feeling was not because I cannot stay in one place for too long, but because the place I chose wasn't home for me. The anxiety I had experienced was rooted in a lack of purpose and plan, the stress from no real support or community here.
I had known this all along, but had never been able to vocalize it - which probably contributed to the heaviness. I'm a writer: I love words, and to not be able to use words to describe myself was beyond frustrating.
My body tried to get my attention in February, when I got sick and doctors couldn't tell me why. It happened again on that trip to Albuquerque, and I had no choice but to pay attention. Something had to change.
God has always moved abruptly in my life. It's the surest confirmation He gives me. I will be following the plan I like, the plan that makes logical sense, the plan that everyone approves of, and God has this tendency to sweep in, change all of it, and make sure all the details are covered so that there is no doubt that it was His will all along.
That's exactly how this move back to Denver happened. The timing of my trip to Albuquerque, the upcoming holidays in Denver, a road trip from Virginia to Nashville planned only a few weeks prior. Everything from quitting my job to finding a place to live fell into place: I never had to question the logistics in my decision to move home.
I did have to wrestle with my own pride, in being able to admit that this city wasn't healthy anymore, that I needed to be in a place where other people could support me and walk with me, and that sometimes even the person who never stops moving and going needs to take a few months to rest. To be still. To heal.
Maybe, had I paid attention all those months ago, it wouldn't have happened this way. Maybe people could have been given more notice, maybe different plans would have been made. Maybe I would have had more time to say goodbye, maybe it wouldn't have felt so abrupt.
But maybe this was the only way I was ever going to slow down and pay attention to what God has been calling me to for months. Maybe He needed me here, in a place where I desperately need people and I have to express that need out loud, to really change my heart.
This is a healing season.