I returned from SF recently. I went to college in the Bay Area and my company’s headquarters is there as well. Most of my college friends still live there. I left the Bay Area six years ago for New York.
I assumed when I moved here that either I would get closer with friends from work or I would find new friends. Six years later, neither of these things have really occurred, or if they have they are now strained by changes in people’s lives. In the back of my mind though, I saw myself as still part of that community of friends. I’m not so sure anymore.
Over those six years those friends have visited NYC individually. As they have I have heard about their lives and through them the lives of other friends. I understood in a theoretically that they were a community and deeply involved in one another’s lives, but never saw it explicitly. This gave my mind the chance to continue its belief that I could still be part of that community.
Visiting these friends in SF though, I feel that possibility slipping away. I see now that they have moved on with their lives – as a group. They have moved on without my being a part of that group. A number of them will be getting married soon, I wonder if I will be invited. Where in the past dinners with them would go on for hours, full of conversation. Now conversation dries up quickly because I am not a part of their world and thus don’t know the people they know who they normally would talk about.
I have another friend who had moved to NYC from the Bay Area. She was here a year or two when she had a major health incident. She has since moved back to the Bay Area because that is where all her friends were, where her support network was. I saw her when I was out there and she said she might have been able to stay in NYC if she had found a partner out here, someone to ground her. I got lucky and found a partner out here, but if I had not I might have done the same as she did.
A partner though does not a community make. I have been able to somewhat become a part of my partner’s friend group, but that doesn’t fill the void of real friends. If anything it might have been a crutch I thought I could lean on. A crutch isn’t meant to be used indefinitely.
Maybe it comes down to shared experiences. In college you meet people and stay with them to develop a history of shared experiences together. It is from this foundation that your future community can be formed. When you are unmoored from that foundation you won’t be grounded in another community until you have had shared experiences with those other people.
I am going to have to find that group of people and put in the time and effort to have those shared experiences.