I have an honest admission to make: I haven’t really been online for the past six months.
Sure, I pop onto Twitter to dump 140 characters of what I’m doing at the moment and continue to read the NYTimes and Pitchfork daily. But the fact is, most of my media consumption over the past six months has been one way. With few exceptions, I haven’t been conversing and sharing and discussing with people that I know and love. I also haven’t been going out, really at all, not even for events that I know are important or to support the Houston music, arts, tech community. I’m also no longer a regular at some of my favorite dive bars (namely, Poison Girl).
As someone who loves to be out at bars, at events, at concerts, with people, talking, drinking, listening, laughing, sharing, the effects of this seclusion have been…an adjustment. It’s been very difficult and not just because the fun of going out and carousing has given way to firm deadlines and responsibility. My personal relationships with acquaintances I used to see around town have dwindled to an acknowledging head nod when we see each other in public. My grasp of events going on around town have been late to arrive to my ears and I no longer am privy to the inner gossip about whosit-what (this has been fantastic). And I don’t feel like I’ve been supporting the wide community of people that I believe in and believe in me as well. I haven’t been joining others to show my support or providing manpower or helping to spread word of events and thrusts. It embarrasses me that I have been occupied with other things and felt unable to contribute to the vibrancy of Houston and other communities that we see flourishing and growing around us. This is not jealousy, this is sadness that I just haven’t been pulling my weight. This is also an apology to those that I haven’t ben albe to spend time with or haven’t seen in a long time or haven’t been able to help or worse, dropped the ball. This is an explanation and a bright statement that I’ll be able to poke my nose up much more often in the next year.
So, what I have been doing? I’ve been working on an incredible project that could pave the way to apply the knowledge learned by working with the Houston arts, music, film, and tech community into a multi-disciplinary program in a University setting. A six month update is in part two of this post.
The point of this post however, is to give some brief but incomplete thoughts on the thoughts on the role of a community member and second, to recognize some of my heroes.
Building a healthy coworking space does not equal building a healthy community just the same as a failing coworking space may have a healthy community surrounding it. A healthy community is a mutually benefical organism, it supports, elevates and sustains itself. It requires equal investments from all its parts in the form of energy, time, guidance, committment and moral support. Its members are better off from inclusion, with the individual energy contributed increasing the overall level of energy, excitement and engagement of the whole. Those who demonstrate this interest in their community are rewarded with respect and cachet, those who demonstrate otherwise are treated with the same level of respect their actions project.
A real community is like a family, it works together and plays together. In coworking spaces, people agree to work together because they understand they have something to benefit from collaboration and surrounding themselves with other smart, motivated, driven people. What makes a coworking space a real community is the sharing between those coworkers outside of their normal workday, whether it be happy hour drinks, attending one another’s events or just sharing each other. Not by poking people or writing on walls or commenting on blogs. In real life. Real bonds between a community are formed during these times, opening up in the same way you would to family. Otherwise you’re just coworkers.
Over the past 6 years I have worked almost every day and gone out almost every night, my mantra being “every day is a work day, every night is a weekend.” I surrounded myself with exciting, exuberant, life-changing people who had a zest for life and a goal of changing the world. I participated in events, threw events and helped others make theirs a success. I was part of a community and a family and we all positively contributed to each other’s lives. Over the past six months, most of my work has been done in seclusion, at the Rice library, at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen or with coworkers. Successful execution of the last six month’s work aside, having to be away from the people and events that were missed was a sad state of affairs. Not contributing to people’s lives or sharing or respecting others means I was not part of a community, just a group of coworkers.
This was a needed transition that brought measure and structure to my life and provided a framework while launching a project I am as proud of as Caroline Collective. This post is an acknowledgement and the recognition that I have full respect for those who have jobs, families, real responsibility and duty. For the last six months it’s been nearly impossible to come home and think about drumming up the energy to go out. My heroes for the year are the people that I didn’t see at events or online who still f(i/ou)nd the time and the energy to support their community, friends and family outside of their immediate homes.
As this year draws to a close, please recognize and join your respective communities. It can get lonely out in the cold.