to be alone… to be together…
This weekend I was forced to reflect on my time in Chicago thus far and I realized something….
First, being alone.
When Mike and I got married and moved to Chicago, one of the biggest things that changed was my sense of community. I have to confess that we have had the hardest time building friendships. As a fifth year married undergrad with a strong sense of direction in my life, I feel like I don’t fit in with most of my peers at school- I’m older, I’m married, and I’m a very recent transfer student. Most of the other people my age have had four or five years to build great friendships, and I’m the “new-kid-on-the-block” with a husband in tow. With far far less student orgs to get involved in than UW-Madison and less free time on my hands now that I was married, I was unable to find my niche at school this past semester. And Mike found himself at a job where he was by far the youngest person out of the five people that worked with him. So our only hope for meaningful friendships was our church… and building friendships there seemed to be taking a long time.
So Mike and I were alone… a lot. Instead of coming home to 4 or 5 roommates between classes and activities, I came home every day to no one. And instead spending time with large groups of friends, our weekend nights were spent with just the two of us. We didn’t have community- we just had each other.
So I picked up some bad habits. I go online more often. I turn on the TV for background noise. And I got an i-pod… why? Because I miss community and I am not so good at being alone day after day. God just didn’t make me that way. I love spending time with other people, and when other people aren’t around, I reach for the cheap substitutes like the TV or reading blogs. It makes me feel at least a little less alone.
Second, being with others.
Luckily, just this weekend things seemed to be turning around. Mike and I decided to invite some people over that we knew from church, and some people we didn’t know. We were hoping at least two or three would show up at our place on Saturday night. Instead 10 people showed up! So we threw a party. We ate and played mafia until one in the morning. We laughed, we lied to each other (hey, it’s mafia) and we realized we weren’t so alone. And then the next day rolled around. We saw everyone from the night before at church, and there was this comment agreement between everyone, “we’re friends now”. People were exchanging phone numbers in hopes of hanging out more and telling each other how much fun they had together. And only 12 hours after leaving each other the night before, some of us decided to spend the afternoon together watching the Bears game at the local restaurant/bar… we found friends, and we found community. (and the Bears won in OT, but that’s not quite as important.)
Ironically, the sermon yesterday morning was on solitude. And I realized that for all the time I spent alone this past fall, I really didn’t spend much time in solitude. I longed for community and ran as fast as I could away from spending time alone. I tried to distract myself from my lack-of-community as much as possible and reached for the cheap, yet entertaining, substitutes to community often.
So it’s a new season, and a new year, and even though i’m not one for making new years resolutions, I am hoping that this year I find both genuine community and peaceful solitude.