When I think about community, I think about home. Not your house, not even where you grew up, but just the idea of home and what that feels like. In fact, I don’t feel at home in the place where I grew up even though I spent the majority of my life there. I can tell you lots of stories about that area like how I used to search for shark’s teeth with my dad along the river’s beach or how my best friend and I got in trouble with the county sheriff because we were goofing off by the lake his house overlooked. I bet if you let me tell you these memories, I could leave you feeling like that is home to me. But it’s not. And the funny part is that I knew it wasn’t home even while I was living there. It didn’t give me the warm and fuzzies, I didn’t feel supported by the people around me, and I didn’t see myself growing based on my relationships with the places or many of the people there. I knew that fond memories didn’t equal home, and now I know that fond memories don’t make a community either, as much as I wish that were enough.
I think that community and the idea of where you feel at home are concepts that either hit you like a brick or they take a while to grow within you; I don’t believe that one is better than the other. I feel at home in Southern California, where I was born. I feel community when I am in Hawaii. You’d think it was just the beach, but I don’t feel that same sense of community in Florida nor in North Carolina. But I felt community in Italy. And in Charlottesville. And now, finally, in Richmond.
I remember when I moved to Richmond in late 2005. I knew only two people, and they were both busy a lot, so I had to venture out on my own to make new friends, find work, find roommates, and seek out the good food in town. I hated Richmond when I first moved here, or at least that’s what I told people. I didn’t actually hate it, of course, as I think it’s hard to hate any place or anything, but I didn’t feel at home here. I certainly didn’t feel “community.” I missed Charlottesville’s food and I longed for the positivity of the Italian people. Richmond was just a place where I lived because my boyfriend (at the time) was in medical school and I was able to find a cheap apartment, even though it turns out that landlord was a thief. Tough breaks at the beginning!
But over time, I made friends. I started trying new things. I dated. I had good jobs and bad jobs. I got excited about great restaurants that started popping up and the crime rate going down. I felt Richmond come together, slowly but surely, in my own heart and mind. But I think Richmond also started to come together in a lot of other people’s hearts and minds, too. I think everyone wanted a community and everyone just finally started acting on it. It was a chain reaction, a good virus, and it spread!
And now, with an amazing group of creative and good-hearted friends, a city condo, a great love, a few blogs, and about to start my dream job, I know that I’m home. For the first time, I’ve stopped wanting to move away on some new adventure (I’m a Sagittarius, I’m wired this way!) and instead I’d rather stay here. I’d rather stay here, in my community, in good ol’ RVA. I love my community, I love how the people of Richmond spend a lot of energy building people up, and I love the support of all things local. I feel myself growing as a person, finding new opportunities, and having a lot more fun because I’ve found my community here. It’s a feeling that brings a lot of comfort, just like being “home.” Thanks, Richmond, you’re pretty cool after all.