The last couple of weeks have been rather busy with hard work; moving out of the old house and into the Cottage, getting myself set up and dealing with a cluster of minor crises. I’ve survived, but I couldn’t have done it without the help my friends and community. I’m very, very lucky to have found the kind of quality people I can lean on when I need to, and I can lend a hand to in return.
It wasn’t always like this. When I first moved to Hobart three-and-a-half years ago I knew almost no-one. It was just me, my then-partner and a cluster of cousins, uncles and aunts that were virtual strangers to me (having grown up far away). For the first couple of years I really struggled: Hobart can be a very closed social network; the product of small population, isolation and distrust of blow-ins from the Mainland like me . I struggled to find ways to meet people and to turn a handful of promising acquaintances into genuine friendships.
When my relationship ended a couple of years later I found myself with just two very new friends and a serious gap in my emotional well-being. Brilliant friends in distant places kept me going through the wonders of online communication, but it’s just not the same as having face-to-face conversations. No matter how much we’d like to, you can’t give a hug over the internet.
Our connections with others help to nourish us. They provide that essential feeling of belonging, being part of the world around you. We need strong real-life networks to connect and support us, to help us grow. Finding those people who will become our friends and chosen family is one of the great joys of life, and one I’ve been blessed with so many times.
Finding myself suddenly single gave me fresh incentive to put myself forward and make the most out of the opportunities life presented me. Those two tentative new friendships flourished, given a little extra effort and have grown rich and strong. Fate smiled on me one day when I ran into an old, old friend, long-lost, on the streets of Hobart. A forced change of role of work had the unexpected benefit of landing me in a team of lovely people who share my warped sense of humour and appreciate my quirks, quickly becoming much more than just colleagues. Through smiling, saying hello and putting myself out there I slowly got to know more and more people and began to find my feet here in Hobart.
I involved myself in activities and volunteering, walking the hounds at the Hobart Dog’s Home and helping coach a local soccer team before finally finding a joyous activity that brought a warm welcome with it: beating out Japanese-style rhythms with Taiko Doramu. Drumming has proved an immensely rewarding activity filled with amazingly warm, open and funny people. At long last I found myself a community, a place to belong.
It’s no longer a lonely life for me. Slowly but steadily I’ve built up a brilliant network around me. I’ve managed to find the people who challenge, teach, inspire and nurture me. After an uncertain start these people make Hobart feel like home and I don’t know what I’d do without them. Certainly I would have had a much harder time moving house! Many hands and a couple of trailers made short work of the move, at the bargain price of a batch of lime and poppy-seed cupcakes, a hefty dose of gratitude and the promise of a feast once I’m all settled in.
Now I’ve landed in a new house in a different part of town I’m working on connecting to the community around me. So far it seems I’ve been lucky with new neighbours who have welcomed me and offered a hand to get me settled in and I’m hopeful we’ll develop the kind of rapport I had with my old neighbours, where we looked out for each other and shared the occasional bottle of wine.
So this one goes out to my friends, colleagues, neighbours and taiko troupe: you’re amazing people and I wouldn’t be without you. My personal community is a key part of making this life sustainable, keeping me connected and making me feel like I finally belong, that this little city is home. Friendship, support, affection and a helping hand: love.
How have you found your own community? Have you ever had to start from scratch somewhere new? Tell me how you get by with a little help from your friends.