I’m not a past-dweller. There may be a few things I think about but generally when a chapter is complete it feels like waking up from a blackout or a past life. I just turned 30 which feels like a big chapter in my life has ended while the train moves on. When I was in Arkansas I went down memory lane and wanted to get a complete story of some friendships I’ve had for a long time. I wanted to piece together how we met and what were some of the defining moments in our friendships. Knowing folks from teenager to 30 holds a lot of interesting bits. Those people have hung out with every boyfriend that was a piece of shit to me. Those people have talked about anti-establishment things and together we have schemed up a thousand ways to get out of jobs. The most interesting part that really got my head in a knot was remembering when we started introducing new friends to each other and organically, a community was born. 1-on-1 friendships tend to be super straight forward and theres not a substitute for that type of communication but community is tricky.

first partner in crime

my middle school partner in crime

In middle school I had a small tribe of friends. There wasn’t a community because it was more or less 3 of us and we’d rotate our 1-on-1 time and sometimes we’d all hang out together.

I did get a high school diploma despite not stepping foot in school for the last 2 years. The first 6 months of high school started out as a very small tribe of female friends who I’d rotate hanging out with 1-on-1. Hormones were part of the times so a small tribe of guys started interrupting my 1-on-1 time and hanging out with us. Because there was a small tribe of guys, that attracted a few more girls and that would have been my first community (and in some ways it was) but I didn’t like the vibe and I had some fundamental life changes at that time as well.

The life changes were 3 things:
1. When I was 14 I worked my first job selling fried chicken for 9 months. I liked that job because my boss was a 17 year old senior in high school and we’d just chit chat (1-on-1) the whole time I was on the clock. I liked the job and it was easy so when I quit that for a new job I was traumatized when the new job felt new and intimidating (and that feeling has not gone away since).
2. I stopped listening to rap. I was raised on MTV and their version of gangsta rap, hip hop and R&B. I thought rock music sounded terrible. I was laughed at by all of the white kids and the black kids for wearing Tupac shirts every day to school. When Master P came out it sounded so bad that I had to learn to like rock bands. Getting off the rap band wagon was like a brain transplant. When I forced myself to find bands that I liked I had to own up to only being attracted to black and Hispanic guys. I had to own up to seeing the world through made up gangsta eyes. Changing my musical preferences totally changed my circle of influence.
3. I got kicked out of public high school for skipping school on finals and was sent to the emotionally disturbed room in alternative school. I hope I didn’t gloss over that but that was a very big change. I went from ignoring a very diverse crowd of thousands of peers to being at ground zero with 12 kids that didn’t give a fuck.

Looking back, the classroom at alternative school kind of had a community vibe. For one, it wasn’t a diverse group of kids. Everyone had very different characters and personalities but overall had the same life story. Only 2 of us out of the 12 hadn’t gone to green oaks, a facility providing mental health and addiction services. I hadn’t gone because I think drugs are stupid and my depression eats away my insides which is easier for other people to ignore. The only other person who hadn’t gone was someone who was 18 and wouldn’t consent to being checked in. Even though I thought everyone was super interesting, I couldn’t connect to folks in that environment. To block everyone out I started writing poetry and reading books during class.

I’m still friends with a few folks from that class but our friendships blossomed outside of that building. Why is it that my first community vibe was with a group of people I tried to block out? Something about having a common wavelength between us, seeing each other day in & out and watch each other loose our shit can be pretty bonding. Someone would have a meltdown at least once a day. I just remembered I would have 1-on-1 time with the 2 teachers running the class. They leveled with me as a human being and told me all sorts of meaningful personal shit. That’s where I first heard of Taoism, from one the the teachers.

the tao

the tao

After a year and a half of alternative school I was sent back to high school which didn’t last a month when I stopped going to school. I had some serious manic depression going on and was feeling very lonely in such a big school. I met my first boyfriend and we did the 1-on-1 thing most of the time. We were new friends with this other couple so now I’m back to a small tribe. After a couple years of that train wreck of a relationship, my boyfriend gets replaced.

No matter who gets replaced there’s a re-configuring of 1-on-1 & small tribe. When I was 19 I met this really cool guy who I blew off as not being that cool, avoided his calls, etc., which is similar to my reaction with the couple who I became in a tribe with. I didn’t so much like them at first and made myself unlikable. I ran off to Philadelphia, did a little bit a traveling and long story short when I got back to Texas I got in touch with the cool guy and we became great friends. He was older than me and knew a ton of radical shit and would try to explain it all to me. I would kill for a friend like that again! I started hanging out with the couple and they were really, really great friends. They did a lot of 1-on-1 time with each other and were needing to expand their connections and started reaching out. They would try to find like-minded people via Myspace (ha ha!) and it worked. I remember them saying to me that they met a couple new friends. Around that time I started doing community events AKA documentary night with vegan potlucks.

Halloween movie night

Halloween movie night

When I got back from Philly and reconnected with these progressive folks it became really clear in my mind that I shouldn’t be walking past people I share a neighborhood or zip code or planet with. That reaching out; consciously trying to connect would actually be a radical way to live so I started documentary night so we could all get together once a month. So the couple would meet new folks and invite them to movie night and movie night grew! We did it for 2 years straight then on and off (mostly off) for the next 8 years.

Movie night brought together a community. Most folks came out every month for 2 years even if they couldn’t care less about some lame ass documentary. That was the foundation of our contact list, folks from movie night. Those people were the folks we started inviting to the woods. One of my friends is the hub of the wheel. He found this secret place in the woods, off the public trail, cleared the spot and made it magical. Being around a fire on the earth is really bonding. There was a while when movie night dissolved and going to the woods was what we did. A lot of the folks who came to the woods I didn’t know. No one would ever call me to hang out 1-on-1. It’s a mixed feeling to be an alien in your own community. In my head I’m thinking that they all hang out in different configurations but I’m only invited to the larger community events.

By the end of 3 years I had pity parties about my lack of 1-on-1 time with folks in my community but I knew who my community was, or at least that was solid. Then solid dissolved. The main couple to the group broke up so that was like a weak link. Someone was hitting on (“playfully flirting”) with someone who likes to be dramatic and cry victim, another weak link. Turned out someone I was having internal catty feelings about had fucked my boyfriend, that was the link that broke the chain. No one gave a shit that I was being gaslighted the whole time, no one was my friend… just my vague community.

I needed a lifestyle change. My relationship was fucked, my friendships were fucked. I got into raw foods because I knew it would change the way I thought because if you listen to raw foodists they say shit no one else says. The raw food meet ups were a community. It seemed liked everyone had known each other for a long time. A lot of people were level-headed and everyone cared about health as much as I did. There was a very nurturing energy and all the language was about quality. It was different, things seemed precise and thought out. There were folks giving the “out there” kind of vibe, being a bit on the fringe and I really admired them but those were the folks I connected with the least. The down to earth folks were more like friends, more engaging and personable while the fringe seemed kind of like rock stars that I could look up to but would seldom say anything personal to me. I feel like I was secretly taking things from the people on the fringe and trying to assimilate it into my personality. It seemed like I was just little old me until the tables had turned and overnight I became the main player (manager & “head chef” creating the menu) for a raw cafe that was opening in Dallas. That’s when I felt the energy shift. I’m NOT going to go into the details of the fucked up cafe situation but I will say that it took almost a year to open and during that I became a quasi-central part of the that community.

in the woods

in the woods

The raw food community was another super solid community that for me, dissolved. I couldn’t be a raw foodist, I had to admit my health issues from veganism, I wasn’t a part of the cafe any more. The cafe did some fucked up shit but like before no one gave a shit because no one was my friend, I was just part of the community.

020

For time sake I’m going to skim over another community that started going to the woods together, a whole new crowd of folks. Folks that seemed like the previous folks going to the woods. Friends with each other, not with me, but I’m somehow a part of the community. That group didn’t totally dissolve. I wasn’t as deep in that group so I can’t say for sure. It seems like folks grew or traveled apart. It seems that there were issues with folks being romantically involved. I’m sure there’s plenty of communities where everyone fucks each other and it works out okay but that has not been my experience. I think flirting and fucking within your community is a fast way to dissolve a community but I could be connecting the wrong dots.

Community is something I’m interested in. When I look back over the last 10 years I get a really heavy heart when I think of going to the woods with folks. I miss that time in my life so much but honestly that wasn’t the best time of my life by far. I felt lonely and depressed but my brain insists on seeing that time through rose colored glasses. I miss not having a community. I have a handful of 1-on-1 friends. I have a handful of people that I think are cool as shit but they never check in with me and I’m always the one to initiate a message first, which I notice and I think it’s stupid that I message them in the first place.

There’s another piece to the pie. Melody was talking about adults being lonely and having a “rent-a-friend”. She’ll see folks at the gym not taking direction from their trainer, just trying to chit chat. That is paying for 1-on-1 time. She talks about folks confusing their tattoo session as hanging out with their “friend” the tattoo artist, paying for 1-on-1 time. I thought about all of my times in the raw food community, how I was essentially paying for those friendships as well. I was paying for classes as a “rent-a-community”. That is kind of embarrassing. The thing is when I was high up on the cool food chain I started to notice that we were buying and selling cool and acting like the products are legit when the product is just a small part of what’s really being sold. At the end of the day when I drop a name and act like someone’s product is so cool, I’m implying that we’re like minded in some collective community but those folks don’t give a shit about me. I have a friend who said “it’s their job, it’s how they feed their ego”. I had read once that tribe leaders sell their image on pure vibe. Like they’re feeling pure rage (because they’re so aware) or pure bliss (because they’re so aware) or pure whatever. So folks have this perfect awesomeness and connect their product to their awesomeness and now you too can have the missing thing in your life to make you more whole like them. I want a real community, not a rented one.

art fart 061 re

I’m so fucking lost when it comes to community. I want to get land with other people and I no longer feel like I need land with my best friends. I felt like the expectations around “we’re going to grow together and get closer in every way” seems to implode but getting land with strangers seems like a crapshoot. I would love some perspective. Insight any one????

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