America is facing a loneliness epidemic. So many of us wish that we had more community in our lives, but don’t know how to organically build it. We feel the pain of losing community as we inevitably leave home or graduate college, wondering, “Will I ever find a community like this again?”
So we check out meetups, attend public talks or sporting events, and go to our workplace’s happy hours. Yet this motley of activities can’t really replace that warm dorm community of college or loving home environment of our memories. What’s different, and can we ever get it back?
This isn’t everyone’s experience, of course. But whether it resonates with you or not, I’d like to offer something of an answer, at least to the first of those questions. And to the second, I hope that by understanding the different shapes that community forms in our lives, we can identify what we might be missing and where we need to look next.
Grace and I recently spent our vacation in Singapore over her Spring Break. From the moment that Grace’s parents picked us up at the airport to when they brought us back a week later, our trip was filled with what I’ve now come to expect from Singapore: gatherings with friends and family, often over good and cheap food, various cheap public transit options to get between them, and the continual pursuit of air conditioning to avoid the year-round heat and humidity.
While the flights were super long and the trip felt short, we really appreciated being able to spend that time with friends and family. Even though we didn’t get to see everyone we wanted to see, it was still very refreshing to catch up and have fun together with those that we could.
Queuing, or as we Americans call it, waiting in line, is everywhere in modern life. From grocery store registers to vacations at Disney to daily commutes by car, we spend minutes every day waiting our turn.
Most discussions of queuing focus on the individual: How can you avoid waiting in line, or make the most of that otherwise lost time? We rarely see a consideration of the effect of your actions on others. But for those of us who more or less believe we should value everyone equally, we should consider what effect our waiting in line has on everyone else there.
I started my 2019 blog reboot last week with retrospective reflections on my life in 2018, and as is common this time of year, I’d like to follow it up with my goals for 2019. In compiling this list, however, I found a unifying thread between the goals: In every case, I hope to replace a mindset focused on maximizing quantity with one focused on maintaining quality.
I’m currently taking the second year of the Chinese curriculum here at MIT, and as anyone learning another language knows, there’s a lot to remember. It can be easy to focus on the short term and review just the most recent vocabulary and characters we’ve learned, but the class is cumulative; I am often asked to read or recall anything we’ve learned in the first year as well.
Naturally, this means that I need to regularly review the old material on a semi-regular basis, using Quizlet flashcards created by one of my classmates that match up with the text. But the exact mechanics of how I do so are not as important as the fact that I’m reviewing at all. In fact, after I took one year of Chinese, I decided to try to take a break and gauge whether I’d be able to keep it up long-term. After a year of doing so, I was satisfied with how much I was able to retain that I decided to go for one more year.
Languages like this are rather conspicuous examples; if you don’t use them, you lose them. I’m already (sadly) planning on allowing the German I learned in middle school and high school to fade gracefully, rather than latching onto the few German-speaking peers and starting conversations with them just to keep it up.
But it’s helpful to think in terms of review cycles in many other areas, too, especially those where we need to make intentional effort to do or be something.