Sunday, June 20, 2010

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

To be a part of a community means to be present in multiple social circles at once, to have ties that bind across each of these circles and connect you to these various individuals and groups in multiple ways. For example, you know you are part of a community when you and a colleague discover a mutual friend or when you find out that your husband's friend is dating your colleague's cousin's friend's sister. In other words, when you can successfully play "Six Degrees of Separation (or Kevin Bacon)," you're in.

But getting in is tough work -- especially when you have no blood relatives or former classmates or childhood friends to call upon to help you tie those knots onto each circle. In the beginning, I was just me (or us, depending on whether or not my husband was deployed). But now, seven years later, I can say that I am most definitely part of a community here in San Diego. I can also say that being a part of that community is my single proudest life accomplishment.

I suppose I feel so proud because of the sheer determination that it took to make my place. I mean, quite frankly, making new friends is awkward. There are long silences to be filled between sips of wine, and I am wholly convinced that it takes more moxie to ask someone out platonically than it takes to ask someone out romantically.Asking someone out romantically is easy -- TV and movies have provided us countless examples of methodology and approach. In asking someone out platonically, however, you're definitely treading new ground.

" you want to get together for lunch sometime...or drinks...or something? I mean...not in, like, a lesbian way, but...just, like, to hang out?"


I am also not a naturally outgoing person. In fact, for most of my life, people thought I was a snob because I was so quiet. (Since my dad is an aspiring truck driver and my mom is a dental hygenist, I'm going to go ahead and rule out the possibility that it's on account of my wealth that people made that assumption.) But coming to San Diego as a new college grad with no friends or family within a 1000-mile radius helped me to become outgoing. The learning curve was steep, but I climbed it, and I am so thankful that I made that climb because when I look at all of the different human connections I've forged over the years here, I know that I have grown and changed as a result of each one. I am not quiet and shy anymore...thanks to my community.

My husband and I threw a little farewell picnic in Balboa Park yesterday, and I could not have been more moved by the turnout of friends, neighbors, colleagues, and teammates who came to wish us well. When people think of making "Bucket Lists," I think they tend to imagine backpacking across Europe or skydiving or swimming with dolphins, and while I don't doubt that those sorts of exotic adventures are fulfilling  and exciting, I have this piece of advice for Bucket List writers: Move far away, at least for a little bit, and make a community. It makes for the most exhilarating adventure and the most incredible sense of accomplishment this world has to offer.

So, here's to making new circles and to rediscovering a place in the old ones. We'll find you yet, Kevin Bacon...


  1. As our mutual friend walked me to my car yesterday after your picnic, I said to him, "The range of kinds of people at that party is a testament to S and D--the kinds of people THEY are." You will be missed. Thank you for bringing us together.

  2. Yay! Keep the posts coming, please. I am so looking forward to vicarious enjoyment of a cross-country drive and house-hunting in Manhattan. Meanwhile I'll share all the exciting details of MY life--you know, the shade of polish I've chosen for my toenails: stuff like that.

  3. Shannon--you will be missed by this community. I look forward to staying in touch via the blog and hearing about your NYC adventures. Keep us posted on the teaching position!!!!!!