Tag Archives: village

It Takes a Village, Part 2

29 Jun

The past two weekends, two friends of mine have come back to New York City to visit. While my friend Ryan came down for his birthday, Daniel came back for this past weekend’s NYC Pride March. During the summer, my friends, like me, have gone on individual paths of self-actualization, working to improve their lives and try to make sense of what they want to do. With all of my friends on their own paths, it is rare that those paths intersect. But, when Ryan came back for the weekend, the tribe seemed to gather together as if nothing had happened at all.

Going at it alone is often a sign of strength. We don’t want people to know that we’re hurting, or that we missed our morning workout, or that we’re more insecure about ourselves that we put on. To get through our walls, our friends either have to hulk through them, or shimmy up the sides. Either ways, friends need a set of skills in order to relate to each other. We have to remember people’s favorite flavors of cake on their birthday, slow our pace if we walk too far ahead, and open up our couches to each other when they need a place to sleep. Sometimes, it may show a bigger sign of strength if we lean on our friends shoulders instead of putting all the pressure on our own two feet.

A Meeting of the Walls

Ironically, it takes a lot of strength to show others our weaknesses. I see strength in a lot of my friends. I see strength in my friends who are able to recover from unfairly losing their jobs, or able to confess that their relationships aren’t as perfect as an outsider might think. I see strength in the friend who can call me up any time of day to tell me that their insecurities are at an all-time high, and I see strength in the friends that put pride aside and ask me for help.

Speaking of pride, my other near and dear friend Daniel came in this weekend for the NYC Pride March. This was my first year attending the parade, as in past years the thought of attending caused me a bit of anxiety. Though I am a huge gay activist, and now work in-depth in the community, I have always felt a tenuous connection the gay community, a completely opposite feeling from my friend Dan, who has a tenuous connection to the heterosexual community. However, if the parade taught me anything this year, it’s something very similar to something I’ve already written today. The community is nothing but a collection of individuals, and the parade is the place to gather when the community chooses to deconstruct its own walls.

The gay community can be just as racist, transphobic, and ignorant as many other communities. We don’t talk about a lot of issues, we value whiteness, and we still fret over whether the “T” belongs at the end of the acronym “LGBT” (which is too short as it is). But at the parade, svelte twinks, bulging bears, and overly active clubbers come together to celebrate that which makes us the “other.”

So, did I finally feel a connection to the gay community on Sunday? Somewhere between the end of the parade and my return home, my friend Dan and I wandered through the winding streets of the West Village. Adding to its usual labyrinthine layout, police guards and yellow taped herded us around like cows, and getting out proved to be a time-consuming difficulty. The streets, like my feelings, can be very difficult to navigate. And yet, there is another common denominator between the two:  people. Everywhere I went on Sunday, I was always within about three centimeters of another sweaty, proud person. They may not be three centimeters away, and I may not be able to reach out and grab them, but I know I always have others in community with me. As much as I may go at it alone, my strength is buttressed not by confidence and attitude alone, but by the friends I have at my fingertips.

Advertisements

It Takes a Village, Part 1

23 Jun

Why do we stop being raised after we grow older? If it takes a village to raise a child, then who raises the twentysomethings like me who wander through life—not exactly aimlessly—without a clear guide map through young adulthood’s piney forest? If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a family, a campus, and a city to raise a twentysomething. We, Lord of the Flies—style, have to fend for ourselves and raise each other. And we people of the concrete jungle know that our island can be just as rough as the one in Lord of the Flies, because rather than a group of gangly boys, we’re dealing with eight million people who would put our head on a pike to get ahead of us personally, professionally, and romantically.

I think a lot of us in our lives try to paint by the numbers. We see how others have succeeded, and try to follow along within the lines other people have outlined. Putting personal flare into our lives is a topic that I have previously advocated in my blog, but it was advice that I didn’t take myself until a friend of mine swooped in and caused me to color outside the lines.

Patrick is a friend of mine through a long line of connections. He goes to Fordham at Rose Hill, and I met him because he dated one of my best friend’s roommates. With such a tenuous link between us, it seems weird that he was still in my life at all, but we have kept in contact through this time. Last Friday, he called me up because he was in the city, and he took me to lunch at Empanada Mama where I mislead him as to the size of the empanadas. I could’ve sworn they were bigger. But what they lacked in girth, they made up for in flavor.

The date went really well. It wasn’t a romantic date, and neither of us have any interest in each other (unless Patrick is one to conceal his passions, and from his out-there, expressive demeanor, I doubt it) but it was the best date I had so far. Patrick had a lot of great advice, and it was really great to work through some of my problems with someone one-on-one. Whereas most dates cause anxiety, this one worked as a kind of relieving therapy session, only a booth replaced the couch, and the office was Hell’s Kitchen.

I had become discouraged because, while I have seen and felt my body respond well to the diet and exercise, I felt as if I was failing in my mission. Patrick, though petite and healthy, is on a personal journey to lose weight, even if I believe he doesn’t need it. It’s always part of the plight of the fat person to believe that every skinnier person should be happy with his or her body. However, we may have a bigger blind side to the problems of pretty, skinny people than skinny people do to those of us who are an extra pizza slice away from visiting the tailor to have our pants let out. He advised me to not always worry about the numbers, and that if I felt myself shrinking, it was best to follow what my mind was thinking, and if I liked the way I looked in the mirror, then I shouldn’t ache to bring a scale into my circle of friends. Whereas friends can give subjective, personal advice, scales cannot.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, It Takes a Bulldozer to Raze the Concrete Jungle

As I related in my previous blog, I recently began speaking with my ex-boyfriend. Though he hurt me in the past, much like Patrick felt obligated to help me where he had experience, I feel an obligation to him to help him through experiences I share with him. He has been having problems with his boyfriend, and when he called me to talk to me about it, I heard a lot of the same things I said last summer after we broke up coming out of his mouth. Even though I knew how to deal with them, I remember how hard it was for me to take advice last summer, even from friends of mine who knew how I felt. When someone is going through a break-up, it’s especially hard, because the person is expected to transition to the single life while simultaneously going through a period of trauma. Transition is hard enough without having to do it in a distraught personal state. If being broken up taught me anything, it’s that you need other people to get through it, because going cold turkey doesn’t work when it comes to break-ups. Breaking up is a team sport, and your friends are the star players. However, my ex-boyfriend finds himself right out of college, most of his friends have moved back home, and he now has no boyfriend, which is why I have come in to help him through this period.

I got the job as the intern for the About.com GayLife blog. During the interview, my boss talked a lot about how he believes that journalism is an important platform for social change. The blogosphere is a place where people can feel community without being within physical proximity of each other. If you can relay important news to a lot of people, and force people to think about important issues, then you can change the way their brains think and their hearts beat. It’s very powerful. With this blog, my writing is a force for personal change. However, there is still a community. Knowing that I have readers who are coming along with me on this journey is important to me, because you are an unseen motivation, the unsung heroes behind the biking, the dieting, the reading, and the writing. It still takes a village, but at this age, it’s a village of equals who stand to learn from each other. We are often blind alone, only able to see peripherally, or not able to see past the end of our nose. But together, we navigate the concrete jungle in search of love, financial success, and friendship, and along the way, a little bit of not-by-the-numbers fun.