Connecting to my community

It’s been three years since I’ve been a tax paying Torontonian. In that time, I’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit. We have a family doctor and the girls have specialists. That alone is a victory, but wait, there’s more! We have a great first-name relationship at our local bank. We know most of our immediate neighbours and do nice thing for each other like dog/cat sit, water plants, wheel the garbage down the lane. We’ve mastered public transportation and can go just about anywhere in the city. We’ve learned how to take advantage of some cheap/free entertainment.

Still, there’s a huge gap for me. The gap is feeling connected to other people, and my community. Simply put, I don’t have any friends in Toronto that are my own. Sure, I have former colleagues and current colleagues. I have neighbours, and a few of them I could socialize with a bit more. There are some friends that are really friends of my ex-boyfriend. Very nice people, but they’re not my friends.

At some point a week or so ago, it became apparent that I would not be doing myself any favours by going into another winter in this situation. I’m already a homebody. Hey, I even work from home. My part-time gig does get me out of the house, but I’m not socializing – I’m working.

My personal mission right now is to connect to my community, get out, meet new people and hope that some new friendships will build.

Since I’m not interested in dating or finding a relationship, it’s challenging to find opportunities to meet folks, and not get into a meat market. With some guidance from someone who really gets me, I’ve done three things toward this goal, and I’m totally pumped about it.

1. I’ll be joining a life-drawing class at my local college in September, for 8 weeks. Cost $40. (However, I will also lose 8 weeks of revenue from my part-time gig). This is really exciting for me. I studied fine art in University and did quite a bit of drawing and painting and photography. I’ve totally let this creative expression slide from my life, and I’m missing it lately. I’m convinced I’ll have to work hard for those 8 weeks to even see the beginnings of getting my artistic mojo back, but I’m thrilled all the same.

2. Sent in my membership for the Toronto Naturalists Society, annual fee $40. This group organizes walks around different parts of Toronto, and experts will chat with you about the plants, or animals, or architecture in the area. Many of the trips are for photography or for drawing, and folks are expected to linger and capture the beauty in any media they choose. When winter arrives, they schedule events indoors, with slide shows and more speakers. This appeals to my need to know my community a little more deeply, and of course appeals to my creativity too.

3. Finally, I’ve also given $20 to the local Garden Club for an annual membership. I’ve already heard from them with invitations to a pot-luck dinner in a member’s back yard, to garden tours around the city where plant cuttings are shared. I am so excited to hang out with these folks. I expect their median age to be at least a decade ahead of me, but that doesn’t deter me. These are gardeners. I’m a gardener. Can’t wait!

In total, that’s a $100 investment toward my mental health, for a year. Pretty awesome rates if you ask me. No, it wasn’t in the budget, but it should have been. This $100 I could have easily blown in a night accepting an offer from somebody else to go to the pub. I wouldn’t have felt good about that $100.  This $100 does feel like an investment. I’m giving something to myself, and to a couple of community groups who are good deed doers.

The value of going through a debt reduction exercise like the one I’m on, cannot be understated. The outcome isn’t just reduced/eliminated debt, it’s really far greater. IF you stay the course, you learn all sorts of things that are difficult to learn just by having somebody tell you. My top three challenges this year have been in keeping a balanced perspective (you gotta do stuff that’s fun, it’s okay if you miss a few days entering your paperwork into your spreadsheet); not allowing other necessary commitments to lag just because you’re focused on paying off debt (savings aren’t optional); the budget must be realistic (don’t think you can do away with buying clothes just because you think you don’t need any).

I’ll let you know how my adventures in the community go. All I know for sure is that I’m going to be getting out more, and I can’t wait!

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by seenonflickr on July 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I think these are great activities to get involved in! (Is the Toronto Naturalists Society the Toronto Field Naturalists? I couldn’t find anything online for the Toronto Naturalists Society.)

    Have you read Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘The Happiness Project’? She talks about making new friends through common interests… (http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2007/07/one-key-to-ha-1.html)

    Good luck!!

    Reply

    • Hi seenonflickr, thank you for that correction! Yes, it is the Toronto Field Naturalists. Really appreciate the suggestion of that book too!

      Seems quite obvious, once somebody points it out, that there are lots of ways to meet folks. For some reason, it was not that obvious to me while I was just moping around trying to think of ways to meet interesting people without hanging out in a bar.

      I’ll order that book from the library! Really appreciate the suggestion.

      Reply

  2. Posted by seenonflickr on July 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    There are a lot of holds, you’ll be waiting a while! (But in the meantime, her site is very good, a lot of the ideas from the book, just not with the narrative structure of the book.)

    (I know we’re talking about budgets but it’s 14.99 at Amazon.ca – if you try a chapter or two at the bookstore and find it interesting, it might be worth the purchase.)

    Reply

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