In The Creativity Cure’s latest podcast episode, I talk about how to keep a healthy community throughout life. While my community has always been around, friends can change and there have been seasons when my life changed and my need for community did too. For example, when I had my daughter I needed mom friends. Before being pregnant I never considered what friendship with kids would be like until I was right in it. Another example would be from my friends who talk about the togetherness of college life and the loneliness when you suddenly are juggling multiple schedules and distance.
Creative people can work alone but do best when they are together and truthfully I think everyone needs community. Maybe you don’t need a crowd but everyone needs support. Growing and maintaining your community is a skill you can learn! Whether you move to a new city or just haven’t had friends here are some ideas about how I have thought about building and maintaining community.
I got to a point this past year when I realized I needed to actively build community. I felt lonely and frustrated and overwhelmed. To share how I see community Imagine a 4-sided fence where a missing panel leaves you exposed or unsupported. This illustration (see below) helped me identify gaps and prioritize building my community. Check out this cringe diagram I drew explaining this concept.
Let’s start with the left and right panels of the “fence.” These people I consider friends but on two levels. Some friends are a bit ahead of me. They may have more experience than I do and I learn from spending time with them. They also learn from me so it’s a mutual relationship similar to a good sibling relationship. On the other side of the fence, I have a friend I may be a bit ahead of in life with who I can share knowledge but still can lean on or rely on them for support. These friends can be found doing life with you. In my current life parenting is really relevant so I need to have some friends who are also in this season too! Some of my friends have an older kid or multiple and we can share the journey of motherhood. I also have some friends who are just starting parenting and I love encouraging them as they begin their journey too.
In the front of the community fence (see silly diagram above), I think of needing people to serve or lead. This can be at home or work but they are people I pour out to. I am their support system. I think of my daughter and my clients in this way because it’s my job to create a great experience for them. When I spend time with my daughter or clients, giving of myself I learn a lot about generosity and selflessness. It puts life in perspective and helps me to take what I have learned and break it down for example when working with my daughter or communicating to help a client understand an idea I have for a session. Having these responsibilities helps me to continually grow and to learn how to give to others and lead well. There are many people who need a friend like you to champion them. You may not feel like you have much to give but your struggles can help someone overcome their struggles. Serving can be for your younger relatives, a new employee at work, or at a boys and girls club. Regardless of what is going on in life find a way to give to those in need of your care. Communities won’t thrive if we don’t take the time to share the values, skills, and stories we have lived through with those who are younger or inexperienced.
Listening To Those Who Have Been There
Finally, the back of the fence represents someone who has more experience, advice, and wisdom than me or my peers. This person is there for you to listen and they can be a shoulder for you to lean on. When I was looking at my “community fence” this was the piece that was missing. I love my friends but when I’m making big decisions I really appreciate the wisdom of my godmother. I feel safe being vulnerable with her in a different way because I know she has seen more than I have. Just sitting in the home of a mom who has more experience than I do lifts a huge weight off of my shoulders. I tell myself ” If she can do it, so can I!” If you rarely interact with people who are more experienced you should seek them out. I guarantee they are waiting to share their wisdom because they don’t want to see you make the mistakes you did. I MUST contribute a BIG amount of my growth over the past year to the wisdom of more experienced women in multiple areas of my life. I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t go and listen to them and take their advice when I felt unsure of how to handle different situations.
Bethany J. Photography is more than just a fine art practice. I build community. I make people seen and celebrated. Community is why I create and why I will always create. The truth is at the end of the day the people around me matter the most. They walk with me on my best and worst days, and for that reason, I work to keep my community close. I hope you have a community and if you don’t and you like what you see here, please join me by subscribing to Seen & Celebrated the Weekly email that I send out. I share short stories to celebrate Maryland natives who are doing great work for the community!
Hopefully, these are helpful tips but I am only one person so I would love to hear what has worked for you! Email me here or at email@example.com. Also, commission a portrait with me to collaborate on a creative art piece! Booking is open for 2023.