Want community? Let go of the label and start showing up.
A few months ago, I decided to host a book exchange. I had dozens of books I’d all ready read collecting dust and I thought it might be nice to swap titles with some other book worms.
I posted about it in this Facebook group and over 50 women were so in, oh my god what a good idea, I can’t wait, I’ll bring wine!
Great! I created the event, invited everyone, and watched as the RSVPs poured in. An overwhelming number of yes, I’ll be there’s!
I started to wonder if there would be enough seating.
A couple days before, I post to ask everyone to update their RSVP if they haven’t already because I was buying snacks and wine.
So far so good.
The night comes and I have all my books sprawled across the dining room table. Candles lit. Corks popped. Food out.
1 person showed up. Out of the 38 final “yes” RSVPs.
It makes me cringe just thinking about it. Like the adult version of no one came to my birthday party.
I was so frustrated. Sad, too. Yes, even angry. I knew it wasn’t personal — most of these women were complete strangers.
I vowed never to throw a party again.
Then, November rolls around and I start seeing a lot of posts about people not having family around so David and I decide to host Friendsgiving.
40 people RSVP’d and commented with the food and beverages they’d be bringing.
10 people showed up.
Now, I will say that the people who came to Friendsgiving were truly wonderful and we had the best time.
But we bought 2 turkeys and prepped for days and got really excited about opening our home up to people in our community. It was really disappointing to have this type of thing happen twice.
In full honesty, I was pissed. And hurt that so many people had such little consideration for the effort we put into it that they couldn’t even bother calling/texting/writing on Facebook to say they couldn’t make it.
They just didn’t show up.
Are you cringing yet? Cuz I am.
I know that it is not about me. It’s not personal. In fact, I know of several people who have had the very same thing happen to them. And it sucks, every time.
Unfortunately, I had to check myself because I, too, have been the friend who dipped out last minute. (Though I’ve always had the decency to let people know I’m not coming.)
These instances got me thinking.
The reason we hosted these events was because we saw a need — people were posting on Facebook about how hard it is to make friends, how challenging it is to find an authentic community, how much they miss the days when it wasn’t so hard to connect to people.
And yet, no one showed up.
Is this just the way it is now?
Maybe you’ve texted a friend, last minute, “Sooo sorry to do this but I’m just feeling kinda drained tonight. Can we reschedule?” You know full well that you won’t reschedule, at least not for a few weeks. You may even cancel then, too.
If you’ve had this done to you, your response may have either been one of pure relief or one of frustration and rejection.
There are entire companies dedicated to honoring the introverts among us who, more than anything, want to stay in on Friday night with a good book and a glass of rose.
Hey, I get it. I’m as introverted as they come. There’s nothing wrong — at all — with wanting time alone, time to unwind, time to not be “on”.
But…are these labels costing us community?
I think so.
We wear labels like “introvert” and “anti-social” and “hermit” like badges of honor.
We shut and lock our front doors and hide out in our rooms. We ignore phone calls but spend hours scrolling endlessly through social media.
We feel alone but, at the same time, feel hyper-connected and need to unplug.
We’re more isolated now than we’ve ever been before.
Humans aren’t meant to live in isolation.
We’re meant to be part of a tribe, a community.
We’re meant to knock on our neighbor’s door to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar, not have it delivered by Postmates.
We’re meant to swing our front door open and say, please, come in. We’re meant to be able to show up on front porches with a bottle of wine and say can I come in? Without it feeling like a horribly rude intrusion.
This is how it was just a couple decades ago. I remember.
And I’m tearing up as I write this because I know so many women who crave this kind of community — myself included.
But the same women who say they want this — myself included — shy away from it because they’re having a bad day/need alone time/are tired/have to get up early.
I get it! I do. Life is hard and the media bombards us with horrific news stories day in and day out. We’re pressed for time and joy feels hard to come by some days. I’m right there with you, sister.
But I also know that sometimes showing up for the people around you will fill you with so much joy and energy that all your stores are replenished. I know that the initial energy it takes to convince yourself to just go will be returned ten fold.
I have to ask this of you, for myself and also for you.
Stop RSVPing on Facebook if you have no intention of showing up. This is not fair to the people who put themselves out there to try and build the community that we all claim to want.
Stop canceling because you’re tired. Go anyway. Let yourself be tired for another hour. Your sleep will be that much more restful.
Stop using words like introvert as an excuse to blow people off and binge watch Gossip Girl. Use the word introvert to know that you’re going to need some time to recharge but that it will be so worth it.
Stop using life as an excuse not to participate.
Life happens, every day. Work is hard and life is challenging and relationships take work and kids get tired. I get it. We all get it.
But we don't have to go through it alone.
Instead, start showing up. Say yes and go. Sign up for something and follow through with it. When someone asks if you want to get coffee, say OMG YES I’D LOVE TO and then actually go have coffee with them.
If we actually want community, we have to start showing up. For ourselves and for each other.