Yako, I know you’ve been around the world enough to be able to relate to different types of communities. You can probably relate to this — when it comes to the direct relationship to the communities we all live in, there is sometimes a feeling of social imbalance between the connections of our respective communities to: personal relationships; professional life; collaborative life; political views; and community resources.
For me, coming from another community and basically living the second half of my life in a city that differs from my hometown has taught me things that I wouldn’t have learned in the small town I was raised in, had I stayed there. However, things have began to feel familiar to me here, in the same way they felt familiar back home — one being that feeling of obligation to those you have become close with in your community — even if it goes against your personal preferences.
I won’t exactly call it feeling tied down, because there is always a learning experience to be had in any level of society. What I feel is the challenge of continuing personal growth while sacrificing enough to contribute fairly to the environment I’ve chosen to stay in.
For now, my solution has been to keep silent about the pull I feel between how things in my environment are and how I want (and may one day need) them to be. Do you ever feel closeted or obligated to neglect your inner self based on the unequal yoke to your community?
That’s actually interesting. I think that everyone probably feels this is some way or form. When I moved to New York from the Netherlands, everything was new to me and everyone was awesome and interesting. That was 10 years ago. I first moved to Inwood (Upper Manhattan), then to Bed-Stuy, and now in Bushwick.
The first couple of years, I felt as if I was on an enduring vacation because there were so many new experiences and every day felt like growth and personal development to me. But of course, I also starts to get used to the people and things around me and the novelty goes away. At that point you don’t even remember what it felt like to experience everything with the excitement of a child. In short I have become a jaded New Yorker, who knows his way around and doesn’t need anyone to tell him what to do.
As far as the neighborhood I live in now — I know my neighbors, I know the streets, the businesses, but I don’t have a particular obligation to any. If I would be gone tomorrow, Bushwick would not really miss me. I’m not saying that to out of self-pity, but merely as a matter of fact.
I do love Bushwick, where I live now. But I also loved Inwood, Bed-Stuy (where I work), and The Netherlands (where I grew up). For now I choose Brooklyn, because Brooklyn’s neighborhoods have a lot to offer and I want to be part of that.
What you are referring to, I do feel in small things. For example on my way home from Broadway Junction I always walk the same route and always there is this one man sitting on a stoop, so I started to greet him. However, I never really spoke to him and he does not always greet back so I do not feel particularly inclined to engage in conversation with him.
That being said, after a while of just greeting each other, it becomes a bit awkward, so I started to walk another route. I guess a similar solution that you picked. I stay silent in the way that I do not really address the issue and now I’m limiting myself because I have to be conscious about which route to take back home. A better solution would have been to start a conversation with him.
If the conversation turned out to be pleasant, we could have continued greeting each other. If the conversation was not pleasant, that would have been a reason to stop greeting and I could still have taken the same path home if I wanted to.
However, you are also referring to a more deeper sense of connecting to community. Yes, I sometimes feel guilty for not giving myself fully to the community I live in. I should contribute more — for example by joining the community board — but I don’t.
The community board! There’s a thought. Maybe even the block association. By the way, I agree, the feelings I have probably stem from personal goals that have just become more complicated due to non-communication. Sadly, I’m very big on non-communication, mainly because I love being left alone, it helps me define my individualism. It feels like it’s almost impossible to be private on our own terms while maintaining growth in community relationships. But there’s something about the challenge of finding that balance that interests me enough to care at all.
Perhaps the key is just as you mentioned — finding the courage to just start a conversation with others more regularly, and not just in our own heads when it comes to our social environment. That’s when the “what ifs” begin to disappear and answers that we hadn’t considered begin to blossom. It’s sort of like laundry … the thought of the act can be paralyzing, and we keep putting it off as long as we aren’t forced to do it, or we just let someone else do it.
However, once we’re hauling the fresh clothes back home, we’ve forgotten how much laundry sucks because it’s fall and there’s a clean, warm blanket to wrap ourselves in. I mean, except when the laundry didn’t dry long enough and has that mildewy smell. Ugh, the worst. But it’s like you said (and I’ll paraphrase) there’s a chance you take in anything you decide to do, but inactivity has only one outcome … dirty laundry.
Krystal & Jako