This was the Fireside Conference, three days in northern Ontario, with the most fun, smart, eclectic group I’ve ever met. I miss that!
By Caitlin Kelly
Many people opine now about how lonely we are, staring into our screens alone at home instead of bowling with friends or joining a choir or a knitting club or…
I grew up in a Toronto boarding school, ages eight to 13, which was, technically, a community in one respect but I rarely felt welcomed and was often in trouble and shunned accordingly. Finally in Grade Nine, I was told not to return.
Ages 8 to 16, I attended three summer camps, the last one being perhaps the closest to my ideal community, combining a lot of personal freedom to explore, to test my athletic and artistic limits (and thrive in both), to make deep friendships, some of them still strong today, and to feel completely valued even though I was a quirky little thing.
The nostalgic scent of sun-dried pine needles, the typical smell of camp, to this day soothes me deeply.
Today, finding mid-life face-to-face community feels elusive. I attended little formal education in the U.S. (a few years part-time at design school) so I have no alumni networks. We have no kids.
My right knee is now bone-on-bone, so I’ve been forbidden to jump or run, (foregoing my coed softball team of 15 years.)
I can’t read music so unable to join a choir. (Yes, I could learn.)
My passions are specific and nerdy — like antique textiles — so other than online, where to find fellow enthusiasts? I am completely enjoying my Instagram feed, where I follow textile designers, collectors and dealers, learning a great deal from each of them.
I belong to at least a dozen online writers’ groups, but none offer what I deeply crave — really smart high-level discussions of craft, great ideas, inspiration. It’s often a moan-fest/brag-fest, and too many are just too young and inexperienced.
Church? Not really. I love the physical space (our church was built in 1853), but I’m not a good fit within a wealthy, clique-y crowd.
Politics? Journalists are professionally expected to stay out of politics.
Neighbors? We live in an apartment building where (I counted!) I know almost half of our residents, by face or name (there are 100 apartments) but socially…No. Most are in their 70s, 80s and 90s, many quite ill and frail.
The rest, as is everyone here, obsessed with work and family.
I’m very grateful for a husband who is excellent company, but he’s not my everything, nor should he be!
So it’s a challenge…
Oddly, or not, the closest I’ve got is my three-times-week spin class, where I’ve made a good friend and know I am welcome and known. I like our town very much, and I “know” many locals by sight, (and vice versa), certainly independent businesses like the third-generation-owned hardware store and a few local restaurants. But to me, that’s not the same.
Where do you find true, lively, inspiring community?