Thursday, May 15, 2014
In Search Of Community
As of late Glenn and I have been talking a lot about our future. First we were talking about our summer travel plans and our intent to spend a few days back in our old stomping grounds of southern Virginia. This inevitably raised the question of whether or not we would drive by our old house and neighborhood and how we would feel about what we saw. This segued into our talking about what we really liked and now miss about the Norfolk neighborhood. But the root of the conversations largely stem from the elephant in the room of where do we go next--as in after Belgium. We left Norfolk and headed to Albania via a short stint in Washington D.C. thinking Glenn would most likely retire out of that position. Instead we found ourselves (in a very good way) in Belgium for the next three years. But after that? Is the world our oyster? And if it is, what do we want and where do we want to go?
Some details are pretty clear. Although w don't know where it will be physically located, we think we've mentally designed our dream house. Over the past few years we've lived in houses that have been good, bad, and somewhere in between. We've figured out what is important to us in terms of space and design and where we would be willing to compromise. Some features that we had thought were really important we have since learned are no longer on the top of our must have list. A large kitchen is nice but layout is much more important. Green space is a must but too much of it simply results in a lot of yard work and we aren't gardening people. But what is really important is location and a sense of community. Ironically we had that when we lived in Norfolk yet at the time I didn't realize quite how special it really was. Our neighborhood had a true sense of community that we have been longing for ever since we left to go out and experience the world. In our old neighborhood we were surrounded by friends and neighbors; it was a place where we supported each other during difficult times and celebrated during the happy days. I always knew that if we ever needed something, anything, our neighbors would be there to help us out in a heartbeat. It was truly a special place yet we left, hoping to see and experience the larger world. Since then we've experienced communities where we heard but never saw our neighbors, where kids played amongst the speeding cars in the street yet everyone else stayed behind their tall walls, and now a cute neighborhood where we neither see nor hear any of our neighbors. These are all communities yet for us they lack that sense of community we are missing and longing for. I'm feeling as though the question of urban, suburban or rural isn't what is most relevant. What is important is the physical sense of community of the neighborhood.
Then there is the physical location- as in state and or country- of where we will land next and perhaps even settle for good. We are all over the map on this one. Playing the choose your own adventure game we concoct every scenario imaginable. No place is really entirely off of the table although so places are more desirable than others. But what we really want is that sense of community. Without being immersed in it, how do you know if a real sense of community exists? You can change a house (we've done that), but if the ideal house isn't in a great community is the house really that great? I'd argue no. So what do we want? Ironically, so much of what we think we now want we actually had back in Norfolk. We don't necessarily want this southern city per se but rather we want what it represented. Was our Belvedere neighborhood where it was at? Can you go back? Does life come full circle? Only time will tell........