Friday, April 4, 2014

Becoming Part of A New Community-in Retirement, or Any Time

When I was living in Texas, I wavered over a year, on whether or not to move to Colorado.  During all of that time I was involved in my regular activities, including a two time a month woman's small group. As part of the discussions in that environment, I shared my questions on downsizing in place, as opposed to moving, and other options. About a third of the way during that time, one of my group (who is older) said simply "Whatever you decide to do, you should do it soon-so you can still make friends:  I'm here to say that, in general, she was right.

While I enjoyed Texas and eventually developed some strong relationships, I had a base relationship with which to start (family).  I was fortunate that in my move to Colorado the same was true.  The truth is that even in church, I did not develop "friendships" immediately when I moved.  Recently, I was sitting in the Tattered Cover with my knitting group and realized that, after being here a year, I was finally, truly becoming part of a new community.

Many of us move, earlier or later in retirement. Sometimes making friends is easier and sometimes more difficult. One of the advantages, I suppose, of a retirement "community" is that there are many activities on site, and the chance to interact immediately.  Often however, business does not equal friendship or community involvement. For myself, I've chosen a different option in terms of lifestyle.  And, while I am no expert as such, I have moved a few times in my adult life and have learned a few things along the way.

For example, it took time. Time to make friends, time to become part of this community.  This is not to say that I was bored, or alone  as such. I was going to church, working out at the recreation center, and doing other things within a few months of my move (and others as well)  Making friends with whom I was joining at happy hour? Or call up and see if they wanted to take a drive?  Another story entirely. Don't consider your move a failure if you don't have a new "best friend" or lunch group within the first six months.

I also knew that the onus was on me. I was the new girl in town. More importantly, people cannot welcome you, invite you, talk with you, or get to know you in depth if you don't put yourself in their sights first (for lack of a better metaphor). In order to find my small quilting group, I first had to join the large quilt guild (where I knew no one and had to stand up and introduce myself, and left after talking to three or four people). I had to go back to that group multiple times and meet others and participate in discussions before and after, as I met people, before it was suggested that I might like to come to a group once a week.

When I found my knitting group, I had to go to the bookstore with my knitting-where I was welcomed and invited to sit.  I now have a group of friends with whom I paint on another day, go places with on the weekend, and share a few glasses of wine with on Friday afternoon-all because I was willing to sit and listen and knit in the beginning.  Most readers know that I am big on church as community. It would have been easy to sit on the edge of that community. Instead, even knowing just a few people, I jumped in to one volunteer and one social project immediately. Not only did I meet people and become involved, I found my outreach calling because I took that first step.

I have  "compartmentalized friendships" and that's okay and good.  While many of us have had that situation already, there are many folks whose pre-retirement relationships are primarily build around neighborhood. Folks whose churches and schools are in their neighborhood or nearby may be especially used to socializing with the same group of people.  While I know my neighbors and visit with them as I walk, most of my socialization is done elsewhere.  My church is close, leaving me with "church friends" "crafting friends" and "dinner and a movie" friends. Sometimes these groups overlap, often not.

In the same vein, I don't require friends who are necessarily "like me" in terms of income, politics, hobbies and habits or anything else.  Many of us live in communities where folks have similar interests as we raise our families, and relocation changes that. I live in a multi ethnic, varied income neighborhood.  The folks in my dinner group are retirees and early retirees-from places like Flint, Michigan, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Washington DC and other locations.  Our lifestyles prior to retirement were very different.  The fact that we  have one or two things in common (good food) is enough, and all the other things get worked out.

Retirement and relocation is a time for many of us to try new things, and to meet new people. Denver is a mobile society, lots of folks choose to retire here. So many of the kinds of groups I join have other so called "newbies"-folks who are not only new to the group, but new to the pastime as well. Rarely have I been the only new person in a group, the only beginner in an activity (or the only experienced one).

Finally, and putting this in words is not easy, I consider this to be my home.  Admittedly, I had reason to do so, but I can see the difference around me between those who have embraced this as where they live now as opposed to those who are still thinking about how things were better at home or who are wondering if moving was the right thing. This is my home, this is where I live, and I embrace it.

It's worked for me-living richly in retirement.

6 comments:

  1. Barb, your varied interests certainly provide an opportunity to make connections. I admire how you put yourself out there and accept that part of the responsibility of making connections rests with you. During my working years I saw many young people come to this rural community for employment and complain that there was "nothing to do". When asked what they were interested in, they couldn't answer which I think is the root of the problem. First, you have to know what your interests are then seek them out. Common interests and common goals are the ties that bind and build community. Even those of us who have lived in one community for a long time can benefit from expanding our social circles and exploring new interests.

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    1. Thanks, I agree that trying to new things and exploring new options is good anywhere..

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  2. Harvey and I are seriously considering moving to another location and the more I think on it, the more I feel it would be a great idea. We actually want to be closer to our sons and Harvey would like to be some place close to a fishing hole. Hopefully this summer we can make a decision that best suits us.

    God bless.

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    1. it sounds like that may work well for you..........its never an easy decision

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  3. Great post,Barb, and so timely for me..we just moved to a small town. I left behind a 30 year structure of friendships and activities in my previous town, though I moved only 2 hours away and do get back to visit. I have a small circle of friend sin the new town already, since we've been weekending there for years.. but it is time to branch out and get involved in the community now--I want to join a church, find some volunteer activities and joining the craft group that meets on Wednesdays.. there is a hiker's group and many ways to get involved.. now that the boxes are mostly unpacked,time to get hopping on all this--

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    1. Ah yes....................the boxes!!

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