Thank you for the most loving, encouraging comments on my last essay. It was a difficult piece to publish, as Jordan and I are still very much in the middle of our faith story, but I have always found comfort in putting pen to paper, and publishing the essay provided me with a great deal of relief. "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." So said Flannery O'Connor, and so I believe. Thanks for allowing me to do that safely here.
When we moved to Thomasville a year ago, I thought friends would happen not only eventually, but quickly. We visited church after church, and I poured myself into work, and thanks to those avenues, we met some of the most lovely people. But because of time and energy and yes, I suppose, introversion, it's taken longer than I thought to really cement my place outside the store's walls. And I had begun to think of friendship in terms of my old life versus my new one, which -- when I think about it -- wasn't fair to either.
I think when we leave one life behind for the next, the past life -- the one we're done with, the one we're trying to get over -- grabs hold of us, like bubble gum on the bottom of a shoe. It's sticky and messy and memorable, and it's hard to let go. Our years in Tallahassee were precious and good. They were hard, but the past always looks a bit rosier than reality, and moving beyond those friendships and those memories has been more difficult than I imagined it would be.
Those friendships from my Tallahassee years? I don't have any intention of moving beyond them; they are still a big part of my life, even from afar. But I think I'd be making a mistake if all of my community was located away, out of my physical reach. We all do this, with the Internet and with the ghosts of our old lives, and although it's comforting, it's also a little less real. There's no mess, no real risk. No vulnerability is required to cling to the things we already know.
Last month, I worked up the courage to email some women in Thomasville about starting a book club. It should have been a no-brainer: I run a bookshop, and I love to read, and my Tallahassee book club was a huge success (and is still going strong, if I'm not mistaken). But for some reason, it took me months to become brave enough just to ask if there was any interest. When I'd finally dared to compose a draft email, I complained to Jordan I didn't know anyone to invite.
He came up with a list of ten.
Too often, we get in the way of our own successes. Fear stops us in our tracks and prevents us from moving forward. I thought I could come up with, at the most, five names. Jordan named 10, and I eventually invited 14. Twelve RSVP'd yes.
My success rate won't always be that high, I know. The book club hasn't even had its first meeting yet, so I have no idea who will come and who won't. But just the responses were reminders that life isn't nearly as hard as I make it. Neither is community.
I celebrated my 29th birthday this week. Monday, some girls came over to eat cake and ice cream and watch The Bachelor. They're all a little younger than I am -- one even made a joke about women in their 30s, the nerve! -- but it's fun. It's silly and ridiculous, and it's community.
Wednesday morning, I got up early to meet a girl for coffee and Scripture reading. And we don't go to the same church, and I'm far behind on the reading, but that's community.
Tonight, I'll get together with a few business women in town, women who I met through the bookstore but who have become -- dare I say it? -- friends. Some of them are older than me, and they all have children, and life is so crazy we can't get together on a regular basis, but that's okay. It's community.
This week, I've received cards and gifts and texts from all over this country, and I was reminded that the effort we put into friendship matters. It's worth the time and the vulnerability and the discomfort and the frustration. True friendships reap infinite rewards, and I'm so grateful I've got these little pockets of community in Boulder, in Jacksonville, in Kansas City, in Birmingham, in Chicago, in Nashville, in Montgomery.
But I'm grateful today, too, for the community I've started to build here. I'm grateful for Bachelor nights and business meetings, for book club emails and dinners out. I'm grateful for friends of all ages and life stages, for all the people I've met thanks to a little bookstore in downtown Thomasville I now call mine.
Tuesday, a friend stopped by the store to bring me a gift for my birthday. And I couldn't believe how much a small thing could mean. I couldn't believe I'd spent a year in Thomasville thinking I didn't have community, when -- wouldn't you know it? -- I'd been building it all along.