Sunday Brunch: Thoughts on Community

Suunday Brunch

Once I month, I write a column called Sunday Brunch at Modern Creative Life. Going forward, I’ll be doing weekly Sunday Brunch posts here, as well.

It’s day twenty-seven of the Dog Days of Podcasting, an annual event where twenty or thirty people attempt to post a podcast episode every day for thirty or so days. Originally founded by Kreg Steppe, it was his attempt to get back to the old-school days of podcasting, when it was very much an indie – even underground – hobby, and shows weren’t as slick and commercial as they are now.

I was not involved in that first year. And I wasn’t invited into the project by Kreg, because I didn’t know him. In fact, at the time, I barely listened to podcasts at all, though I remember attempting to – unsuccessfully – several years before.

In any case, this is my fifth year with the project – challenge – whatever. But it’s only my third year truly participating in the community that has coalesced around the challenge.

And that’s what I want to talk about in this piece.

Community.

We all have several communities that we interact with during our lives. When we’re very young, we have the community of our family and immediate friends. For me, that community extends to people who aren’t biological relations, but who have been in my life, my family’s life, since before I was born. Helen, Robert, Tess, Cheryl, and Alisa you represent the core of that group. I don’t tell you enough – maybe not ever – but I love you all.

As we get older, we have the community of our school friends. Sometimes that community is an extension of the first, but for me, it really wasn’t, and honestly, I haven’t kept in touch with most of my friends from school – from any of the schools I attended (there were many) – but Jennifer from USF,  Geoff, Joy, Juliette, and Robert from Fresno, and Toby from Modesto – even if we don’t talk a lot, even when we don’t agree on everything – I’m glad to have the contact we do.

Our lives often go in directions we never expected. Our interests develop, fall away, change, and grow. In my early twenties, I started playing online roleplaying games – MUSHes – and found a new community among other players. Some of them I only know online. Many I’ve met in person, shared meals with, cried with, laughed with, and hugged (but never enough). I met my husband that way – in fact, I can legitimately say I met Fuzzy on another planet, since we met on a Pern MUSH (but not the PernMUSH).  But Elana, Jeremy, Clay, Veronica, Julia, and Victoria are all in my life because of that kind of gaming.

More recently, I’ve found another game-related community in the Klingon Marauders fleet on Star Trek: Timelines. I’m using their handles because while I know some of their real names, I don’t know them all, but Stones, O Captain, Deli, Rowden, Admiral Scarborough, Khalessi, Videm, Grease Monkey, Q, McCracken, and the much-missed Worf – I don’t think any of you realize how much you mean to me.

Communities come in various forms. I’ve had church communities and choir communities, and a community of fellow improvisers. I have a small community of writing friends – Debra, Becca, and Roxanne among them and I have a group of friends that began as fans of an epic fanfiction series I’m still writing, and have become close friends, advisors, and even, when needed, a sort of Brain Trust: Berkley, Elizabeth, Caroline, Clariel, Fran, Hannah, Karla, and Selena you have been my supporters, my cheerleaders, and my friends, and I’m grateful for all of you.

Sometimes, communities overlap. Clay introduced me to Tabz, and through her podcast dramas in the Buffyverse, I met Kim, Heidi, Robin, Crystal, Brian, Jancis, Mark, and Nuchtchas. (Yes, O Encaffeinated One, we met through Tabz before I was part of DDOP). It was Nuchtchas (and Tabz, but somehow, I remember it being more Nuchtchas) who invited me into the Dog Days of Podcasting, who gave me pointers, and encouraged me until I’d figured out what I wanted BathtubMermaid to be. (I’m happy with the content now.)

Clay and Brian, on the other hand, introduced me to Sage, and it’s through her that I got to know Jancis better, and actually interacted with Kymm (that’s Kymm with a Y) whom I’d been crossing paths with for years doing Holidailies.

And then there’s the Dog Days Peeps. I can’t name any of you without wanting to list all of you, but Kreg and Chuck have been incredibly welcoming since Day One, so they get special shout-outs. You’ve never made me feel stupid for not knowing how stuff worked, or unwelcome because I wasn’t an original member of your circle. Thank you for that. And Jay, thank you for coming to play in my sandbox.

As is the nature of living organisms, Communities ebb and flow. Sometimes you’ll have intense relationships with only a few members of a community and more casual ones with the rest. Sometimes you’ll feel like there are people who don’t ‘get’ you, or you don’t really understand. I’ve come to learn that this is normal. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just life.

The vast majority of the people in my most frequently inhabited communities, I’ve never met in person. But this doesn’t diminish the connections we have. Together, we’ve been through marriages, divorces, births, deaths, successes, failures, hopes, fears, dreams, and brutal realities. We’ve watched storms together, and prayed for those in the center of those storms to be safe. We’ve mourned the loss of cultural icons together, and shared opinions on new projects (I’m talking about you, Star Trek: Discovery.) The fact that much of this happens online isn’t relevant.

We don’t always agree on politics, on religion, on whether or not Tecate really is the best beer (though the first sip of the day – of anything – is absolutely the best), but when one of us is in trouble, we reach out.

From all of you, I’ve learned, or been reminded, that the only stupid questions are those that go unasked, and that accepting help when you need it is just as important as giving it when you can.

Thank you, all of you, for being part of my communities.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Sunday Brunch: Thoughts on Community by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.