Friday, December 16, 2011

Reverb11: Community?

Online and in real life we're all part of a multitude of communities. Tell us about one that moves you.

For the first time during this Reverb11, I think I have to flat out cheat. (That is assuming you don't find some of my previous answers cheating.) I will begin that cheating, (that is to say, sidestepping the prompt) with this provocative, and controversial statement; I am a part of no community that moves me.

To lessen the blow that I am sure many readers will feel that statement delivers, let me mention what this doesn't mean.

It doesn't mean I have no friends. It doesn't indicate there have been no noteworthy people enter my life, either online of offline in 2011. It is not a refusal to take part in communities. Nor is it casting any aspersions upon those who are a member of a community that moves them.

What it does mean is that I have not had a great deal of luck with becoming a solid, important and valued member of a community. Since I am not a hermit, I am by default a member of some communities, but do they move me? Am I made to feel welcomed, protected, supported or loved by any of them in particular? Do I find their mission to be inspiring in its own right? The astonishing and depressing answer is no.

"That's bullshit. I happen to know a few communities of which you are a member that you could talk about for this prompt. Based on your writings and the fact that I am in some of the same communities, I know this isn't an accurate statement you make."

The above is the generic version of the response I anticipate from some people who read this. Yet consider my preemptive answers in each case.

The blogging community. I am in it, and have met some people through it. But I am not a powerhouse within it. My readership, though at times pleasing, is by no means impressive, and is usually without comment and anonymous. I appreciate all patronage, but without comments, or with comments that are anonymous, I can't really call that a "community". Plus the blogging community, like Twitter, is so nebulous, it isn't really defined by one set of rules, norms, or missions. So I am in the blogging community, but not of it, as it were.

The theatre community. It is a large part of my life. Has been for years. I blog about it even. (Did you know that?) I have been in many shows, often with the same people. Certainly in the same area. I volunteer for a theatre wherein I do most of my theatre work. It is not the same theatre where five years ago I did most of my stuff, and that is part of the point; I have never truly been assimilated as a full fledged, appreciated, loved and accepted member of a specific community theatre, or the community OF theatre in general. Don't get me wrong, I have made a lot of friends through theatre. Good friends. Lots of excellent individual people. Many fine individual productions. Yet meeting friends through theatre doesn't mean the community itself is a moving one, and for me it is not.

Now theatre can be that way. Supportive. Loving. Creative. And there are people in my group who are ingrained into the fabric of any given theatre in the area. Yet I myself am not. I don't know if it is because I lack networking skills, or that once I step off of the stage I don't make much of an impression on anybody personally. But I can't get my own projects off the ground, get boards and directors to collaborate with me very often, and in general don't feel overall warmth from the theatres of which I have been a part.

That is not to say there are no warm decent people involved with any of them. There are. Again, it is not so much the individual here and there, but the community as a whole that eludes me. In some cases, the pettiness, competitiveness, arrogance, fear of change, and other such negative traits in arts organizations tend to outweigh other aspects too often for me and my personality to make much of a dent in the way of "community".

I am a good actor, and have been in some great shows and met some great people. Yet in the end, I am on the outside looking in when I am not in a show, and sometimes even then. I move about within the theatre community, but I am not personally moved by it. (Though I would like to be of course.)

The writing community. People bristle at this the most, because they find it impossible that I could have been a blogger, writer, and tweeter for so long, and yet not have found at least some branch of the writing community by which I could be moved, loved and accepted. Yet again, like theatre, I have met some fellow writers, (all online), and even made some writer friends.

Yet the community itself is not "moving" to me. Not that it can't be, but once again, I am on the outside looking in. I have never been successful at breaking through the cliques so common on internet message boards. There are no local writing groups for in person contact, (yes, I am serious). I don't go to conventions and conferences because I know I would have a miserable time, and the one or two local magazines with whom I work semi-regularly have not given much of an indication that friendship is on the table. I socialize with none of them, and really only hear from most of them when it is time to pitch, and time to file a piece. (I did recently join the  Agent Query Connection  message boards. Perhaps I will have better luck there.)

In other words, I write where I can, spend most of my time hoping for more places to write and make money for it, and follow a few writers on Twitter. Yet I am not a full fledged member of the community, despite meeting some great fellow writers and aspiring writers.

Where I live. Two months ago someone in the apartment building I had lived in for three years said something to me for the very first time. It was a nasty comment about how I wasn't parked well. I ignored him. Then there is the fact that back when I used to believe in small town democracy and email city officials with questions, most would be ignored or answered with "thank you for your comments." No answer to the question, just thanking me for comments. Rubes. Also very common in all of the cities near here. That is but one example of why I have never felt connected to whatever neighborhood I find myself in.

So it is obvious that there are many communities out there that are moving to many people. Loving, supporting, interesting, fascinating, fun communities covering everything from art to hobbies, to sports teams and so on. Many of my friends are members of them, and I'm happy that they get so much from them. Yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

How can I not have found a stable, supportive community of some kind that moves me? Welcomes me? Honors my contributions long after they are made, not just when they are required? I have no idea. I know that it has usually been the case in my life. I hated pep rallies in school because I could usually give a shit if the team won or not. They certainly never cared if I aced my final or not. I have felt no loyalty to schools I have attended, and still do not. I didn't bother with clubs very much either. (The Young Democrats in college gave me the wrong time to meet them for an Al Gore rally on purpose so that I couldn't get a ride with them, though I saw them drive right by me on the street. They said later it was because there was no room. There was also no phone call explaining why the time and location of the meet up had been changed. I left the group after that.)

That kind of stuff is common when it comes to me and groups and communities.

The reasons could be numerous. That I am a quiet person, and nobody wants to hang out or invite the quiet introvert. It could be my intelligence and perspective intimidates a lot of people within communities. (Sorry for the horn tooting, but I take pride in what I am, and the fact is I am an intelligent person, and have been previously ostracized for being such.) I am not overtly handsome, charismatic, wealthy, or unique, and that may keep me out of some communities. Yet you find plenty of communities filled with outcasts and oddities. Those who cannot or refuse to meet the status quo. Those that are in fact Too XYZ. Yet I am a member of none of those either.

Plus, I expect to get something out of a community at some point, if I am to put something in. Even if all I receive is a warm welcome or a curiosity about my presence, that is something. Not silence, or begrudged nods and obligatory "welcome aboards" that become the first and last thing ever said to me by the group.

It may just be timing. That I have just so happened not to have found the right communities yet. However, I cannot help but wonder sometimes, when an actor doesn't feel moved by his theatre community, a writer doesn't feel moved by a writing community, and so on. It starts to feel like my own fault after a while. And if I have to abandon my principles, pretend I love people I do not love, or sublimate my opinion into group think in order to be a part of a moving, loving community, I suppose I will forever be without such a community. Yet if there is ever time or a way wherein I can take part in a community like the one described in the prompt while still being true to who I am, I will line up to get in.

There are suggestions. I am not a member of any volunteer service communities, and many swear by them. I have attempted it here and there, to no avail, however. I am amazed at the stories I hear of the loving communities so many people out there find through volunteering. That has never been my experience, and I have given up on the notion of volunteering in general. (Read this oldie but goody to understand how I got to that point. It is honest to God the number one Google return for the phrase "Volunteering sucks." Try it.)

Also a friend told me recently that I should consider finding a local Goth bar and frequenting it, as that community would appear to embrace personalities and histories of all types, black clothing and white make-up optional. Perhaps, though there is no such bar near where I live. (Another reason I am perhaps not a member of many communities: geographical area, though that doesn't explain the online problem, or the problem when I was at school.)

So there you have it. For whatever the reasons, despite knowing some great people, I can't claim to be a member of a community that moves me.


Amanda said...

I think it's really too bad you haven't found the community you are looking for with a theater group. Are there other groups you can get involved in? There are a bunch in my area - obviously the one that I've been involved with for 15 years, and others I've worked with throughout the years as well - in most I've been able to make connections that have lasted until now, even if I've only done one show with them. (This place is jam-packed with theater nerds, obviously!) Sounds to me like you should come up to CT and play with us instead! : )

But seriously - I really do hope you find a community that you love, whether it's through theater or writing, or online or in real life. It really surprises me - and honestly saddens me - that you haven't found this.

ourladybeth said...

I'm not the one to call BS on this. I actually get every point you have made. I have been there at one time or another... still am in many "circles". I am surprised you don't feel embraced by the theatre community but I do understand it. As for small towns... crap, I live in one. I have no sense of community here.

Becky B said...

I wish what you have been encountering would feel more like the community it should to you, whether writing, theatre or otherwise.

I never was much of a joiner growing up; we talked about "Gamma Wolves" before, but I had to grow into that role, or at least be comfortable with it. Mostly, in school, I just didn't know how to be a real part of something. College helped some when it mattered.

As I read your post, I started wondering if maybe the perspective you have toward "community" and "joining" just could use a little tweak. I'm not sure. I just don't want you to give up. You have so much to offer, and I consider you a viable part of the writing/blogging community, someone to look up to, someone to cherish.

Random Girl said...

Interesting take on community and being involved... not sure I agree or disagree with it completely but you feel how you feel and really gets to be the final word on it.

Ty Unglebower said...

Thanks all for your sentiments. I am sure it does seem sad that I have not found a solid, perpetual community. As well as perplexing, giving all of what I seem to have going for me. And to an extent it is. Certainly it is to me. I have wondered about it myself for years. But perhaps the solution is hidden within the problem somewhere?