The Gathering

Inspired by Bruno Pirecki’s debut novel Town Lawe as well as Ben Franklin’s Junto (which later became the American Philosophical Society), I decided to start my own communal gathering. Both the examples listed depict people coming together to discuss ideas and pursue wisdom. And that’s what I wanted to do.

As someone who naturally resonates with the lone wolf archetype, I am often drawn to self-sufficiency out of fear that the need for community is based in weakness. But ultimately humans are communal creatures, and the cultivation of a healthy community can be incredibly life giving. I reached out to some friends individually to pitch the idea to them: I wanted to start a weekly gathering to build community and to pursue wisdom through the discussion of various topics.

Some people attend once and others come every week; I usually provide a charcuterie board of sorts so no one needs to leave hungry. Through my commitment to set aside this time and space on a weekly basis, a small group of about three or four of us meet to talk, often late into the night, about our questions, observations, frustrations, and celebrations in life. Sometimes the conversation doesn’t go very deep; other times I find myself revealing vulnerable truths I wrestle with as I search for growth and healing. The whole process has felt like a necessary part of leaning into what it means to be human, at least for me.

And as I have sought to offer value to others, I have found that blessing returning to me as well. There have been times I felt exhausted, and a friend furnished and prepared the snacks for me so I didn’t have to. As I have attempted to cultivate an environment of trust for others, so I have found I am able to express more vulnerable parts of myself and allow others to speak encouragement into my insecurities. This, I believe, is part of what it means to pursue wisdom.

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“I Said Yes!”

“I said yes!” The all-too familiar phrase flashes across my screen. My first reaction is joyful surprise at another of my friends accepting a marriage proposal. My second reaction, almost simultaneous with the first, is a pang of grief. My friend enters a new stage of life, never to be the same again. I am losing part of her.

Perhaps I feel some jealousy when a couple gets engaged; I would love to be married someday. But not yet. I am called to a different destiny for the time being. What I do feel is a form of nostalgia for the girl I used to know – the one whom I’d stay up late with, talking about our dreams, our insecurities, our sexual frustration. No longer would we share the kinship singlehood provided. She has found her calling to be a wife, and I do not wish her to neglect that calling. It is as it should be, but it still hurts.

The challenge of saying yes to something is sometimes it requires saying goodbye to something else. We will not cease our friendship simply because she is getting married. In fact perhaps our friendship may take on a deeper meaning because she is following her calling, becoming more the person she is meant to be. But our friendship as I once knew it will be no more. Something has shifted, grown, evolved.

The woman I described above is not just one friend, but multiple of my friends who have evolved, one by one, to meet their calling. I, like Jo in Little Women, question “Why does everyone have to go off and get married? Why can’t things stay the way they are?” But just as I would not wish children to remain children (when they are meant to become adults), so would I not wish for my friends to remain single when they are meant to be married.

Strangely enough, the engaged women I see on my social media feed are often people I have lost touch with. I have longed to connect with them, but our paths have taken different turns over the years, and the closeness I once felt with them is but a memory. I cherish those memories, I grieve them, I hold them close to me. Most of them may not even know how deeply I valued our connection, however short a time we had it. Through life changes, our individual communities changed, and it was no longer practical to share the same closeness we once did. Oh, but I miss that closeness.

As I say goodbye to the parts of these women I once knew, I find myself saying yes to something else on the horizon. Not a marriage proposal per say, but a calling nonetheless. A deep stirring within my spirit, beckoning me to move. I will not neglect this calling, much like my friends will not neglect their calling to marriage. My soul whispers, “It is time.” And I am ready.

Social Life After College

I’ve often reflected on humans’ basic need for community, and tried to brainstorm how I can best develop my own community of people around me.

I hear it’s easier to make friends in college than post-college because you’re going to class every day with people you have things in common with, be it age, major, etc. I can see truth in this. Personally, though, I felt pretty lonely in college because there were very few people I felt I could really connect with. Yes, several friendships I have today are ones I cultivated in college, but most of them are with people I didn’t even share classes with.

In the south where I live, the “thing” to do as an adult is join a small group or Bible study. I am definitely a fan of being active in one’s faith as well as finding like-minded people. Many times, however, a Bible study is not where one feels they can connect with people on their most personal level. I have experienced social relationships from work, game nights, or other contexts where I can reveal different sides of myself to different people. Not in the sense of being deceptive, but in the sense of being a human with multiple dimensions.

The challenge is finding a community of people where you can be your most authentic self. And that evolves over time, especially during big changes such as a job transition, moving to a different location, etc. It’s always frustrating to be in a transition time of any sort. Because transitions can coincide with a lack of depth. And lack of depth is isolating.

Creating an Ideal Day

I often think of things I wish I could accomplish in a given day if I could only muster the motivation to do them. Sometimes they are even things I enjoy doing but haven’t developed the discipline for turning them into regular habits. Therefore, I have decided to list tasks I would love to accomplish in my ideal day:

  • Write in my blog/practice writing in general
  • Read 50 pages or so in any given book
  • Devote time to a yoga practice
  • Practice harp/work on reading music
  • Draw
  • Work on quilt or some craft project
  • Write to a friend
  • Create (bake) something in the kitchen
  • Practice singing
  • Clean/organize something around the house
  • Devote time to spiritual reflection/reading/prayer
  • Bask in sunshine

Last year I had made a list of goals (resolutions, perhaps) which I did not accomplish in 12 months time, other than reading 15 books and cleaning out my car (for I had to get rid of it). This year I want to focus on furthering my self care routines. Since one of the most common New Year’s resolutions this year is to “become a better person,” which is ridiculously vague, I have decided to create my own goals to strive for and grow into.

My list above is not one I can realistically expect to complete daily; however, it helps to outline my ideal day. Because of this, I have something tangible to work toward in making every day an ideal day, whether I complete the list or not.

 

 

Dear Mentor

Dear Mentor,

I am hoping and praying for your presence in my life, and the sooner the better. Yes, I have plenty of mentor-like figures who have influenced my life, and yet I am desiring one to whom I can reveal myself more fully and openly on a regular basis. While I used to see a therapist, I eventually concluded that I did not want to pay money for someone to be my friend, to do life with me. I wanted to build a more personal relationship than that which is healthy in a therapist-patient connection.

I fear I may be too picky in the kind of person I want. I want God to give me a mentor, and yet I want it to be the kind of mentor I would like. Although I don’t know for sure exactly what I want, I have some ideas on what I don’t want, and I fear that might be just the thing God places in front of me.

I guess I want someone who will take the time to understand me and my background. Someone who has an understanding of and appreciation for mental and emotional health. I don’t want the vomiting of proverbs without the process of digesting them first, in order to make them concrete, applicable. Even the deepest wisdom is useless to the ears of one who does not understand the language.

I prefer someone who has a sense of humor, and doesn’t mind an occasional curse word here and there. Debate the morality of each if you wish, but I believe one must be genuine in order to experience growth. And sometimes being genuine entails exposing the crudeness and less reverent side of life.

I have begun every paragraph so far with the word I. I want to have a healthier view of myself and also of others. I possess a yearning for growth and for someone to help nurture me in my journey. And I need you, mentor, to challenge me while I challenge you, in hopes we can both become better versions of ourselves.

I, Songwriter

I thought I wanted to be a songwriter until I realized what went into writing a good, popular song.

As a child, I grew up in a religious (and sheltered) home, so I patterned some of my first songs after hymns, which could have up to seven verses. Not until I was older did I realize most songs have only two verses, because that’s all that can fit into a song most people will listen to.

As I wrote more, I became more creative with beats and instrumentation, but my songs were still overtly religious. The famous saying goes, “Write what you know,” and that really was all I knew. But my musical tastes began to change, and I listened to more mainstream music. My eyes opened to a vast world waiting to be explored. I had had no idea just how big and diverse the world was until I entered college.

A lot of songs you hear these days revolve around love, breakups, sex, and going to clubs, among other experiences, many of which I have never encountered. I have learned much just by listening to songs many deem shallow or cheesy. Songwriters will say they write from their experiences, and people relate to them. I desire to relate, not because I want to be just another crowd-follower, but because I want to understand the people around me. I want to understand what public school was like, how young people learned about the world around them, how they experienced pop culture.

I cannot write mainstream music because I do not have mainstream life experience – whatever that is. I have been in love before, but I have never had a boyfriend, or gone to a club. Not that these are the only things I need to do to “fit in,” but I still feel very naive about the world. I yearn to grasp the way people interact with each other, what they do on weekends, how they have fun, what gives them meaning. Every person is different, but some life experiences are more common than others.

My lack of common experience limits my ability to write catchy songs. I am not denying that I have something of value to offer the world, I just haven’t figured out what that is and how to do it yet.

Woolen and Wonderful

I have had the pleasure of rediscovering a favorite hobby of mine: spinning. After running out of my last batch of wool, I was hesitant to buy more (I do try to live frugally). However, when a friend of mine announced that she was going to a sheep and wool festival, I couldn’t resist asking her to get some wool for me.

That spurred a conversation about how fun it would be to create a blog series on the journey of the wool. As she lives hundreds of miles away from me, she had to send me the wool, after which I would spin it, send it back, and she would knit something from it.

The first adventure in this journey involved the festival itself, which I will link to here, my friend Dorian’s blog (she speaks of this specific wool toward the end of her post).

The second adventure rests with me, the spinner. I was overjoyed when I received the wool in the mail, and could not wait to begin spinning.

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She had sent me a bundle of both black wool and white, and I set out to work as soon as I could. I was fascinated by the different textures of the wool; the white was smooth and easy to spin rather quickly. The black wool felt a little more coarse, and it was more difficult to spin a consistent thread.

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The string that resulted is called single-ply yarn, meaning it is one strand. From here I took the black yarn and the white yarn and spun them together, creating two-ply yarn. Two-ply will be much easier to work with because it is less likely to twist back on itself, and it is also stronger than single-ply.

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I had some leftover white wool, so I spun a little bit of white two-ply yarn to finish it off. I am proud of how it turned out, and of how my little drop spindle has held up all these years. Now I get to send it to my friend to see what she makes with it. Back to you, Dorian.

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Chronic Guilt

Of the many difficulties women tend to face, one that I particularly wrestle with daily is guilt. To quote a woman I once knew, “I came out of the womb apologizing.” Different women may struggle with this to different degrees, and some may not encounter it at all, but it is a very real thing, regardless if it all seems to be just in your head.

Regardless of how many times we tell ourselves that we don’t have anything to feel guilty about, that nagging feeling that we’re doing something wrong never fails to wheedle its way into our subconscious, contaminating even the most innocent of intentions. If I say such and such, it might come across wrong. But if I don’t say it, I’ll be wishing I did. Just recently, I was talking with a friend of mine about this, and we were surprised to discover that we both feel guilty spending money. Buying food is perfectly logical and necessary, but saving money is essential. Buying clothes that fit well is important, but we can survive without – no use wasting money. The problem with this mindset is that money in and of itself isn’t really worth anything, but is rather a tool that we can use to help us obtain what we need to survive, and perhaps even splurge on an occasional treat if circumstances allow.

No matter how many times I hear the saying, “Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s an investment,” I still think that I am inconveniencing someone just by existing. So to all the women (and men), who battle with this, I want to tell you that you’re not alone. Let’s be friends, and then we’ll feel guilty together.

The Intricacy of Intimacy

“Had a great talk with a friend of mine last night. We conversed until well past midnight about life, relationships, and our personalities. We got to talking about Myers-Briggs personality types, and how my friend’s personality is complimentary to mine, mine being INFJ, and hers being ENFP. With our two middle letters being the same and the outside letters being different, our personalities work well together. We joked about how it was a shame one of us wasn’t a guy so we could marry each other.

Later that night something clicked while I was lying in bed: I almost began feeling less lonely. Yes, I still longed for intimacy with a guy as well as sarcastic banter, but I realized that I found it really refreshing to be with someone whose personality complemented mine and who was aware of her mental health. I realized that while my loneliness didn’t go away, she is someone I would feel comfortable being lonely with. Not in a weird, romantic way, but such that we’ve been able to develop a friendship over the years that has allowed us to share personal things with each other. And that realization makes me happy.”

That was a journal entry of mine from back in April of this year. I was visiting a friend whom I hadn’t seen for awhile, and I loved how we could pick back up from where we left off despite not having talked in who knows how long. We have been friends for several years, and if the saying is true that says if you’re friends with someone for longer than seven years you’re friends for life, I guess that means that she and I are pretty much stuck with each other, no matter how many miles are between us.

I share this to express my reflections on the human desire to bond, and how that desire has affected me. Often I would describe myself as being lonely, no matter how often I spend time with people. I have realized that loneliness cannot be cured by another person, and while socialization does help to remedy it, becoming dependent on other people for our own happiness is unhealthy. This is why I say that I don’t want someone to take away my loneliness, but rather I want someone to be lonely with.

A few months ago when I visited my friend, I realized that she was someone I enjoyed feeling lonely with. We were able to share with each other things we struggled with, things we dreamed about, things we thought were funny. While we couldn’t solve each other’s problems, we could offer our friendship to each other, and that has been an incredible gift.

Our personalities are not the same, but that allows us to learn from each other. It is through my friendship with her that I realized that intimacy comes in many different forms. When I hear the word intimacy I automatically think of physical closeness, but it is so much more than that. When conversing with this friend, I have felt somewhat of an intellectual intimacy, if you will, because we would explore philosophical topics and life issues in a way that people don’t normally do in everyday interactions. Other times I have felt an emotional intimacy because I would share with her a personal battle that I was facing.

My realization of the complexity of intimacy is important because it has helped me to understand that loneliness is often very complicated, but that does not necessarily make it a bad thing. Sometimes I crave emotional or intellectual intimacy in the form of something mentally stimulating, while at other times I just flat out want to cuddle with someone. Knowing this helps me to better understand how to take care of myself, and hopefully will help me be able to better care for others.

Questions to Ask on a Date?

While I don’t know much about dating, I do enjoy looking at articles with fun date ideas – because sometimes the activities mentioned seem like good ideas whether you have a date or not!

We know that a first date can be awkward. What do you talk about? I especially don’t care for small talk, so the conversation would probably become uncomfortable for me quite quickly. In my thought process, I don’t really care how many facts about you I can recite, because knowing about you isn’t the same as knowing you. That’s  partly what distinguishes our relationships to our friends versus our celebrity crushes. Learn as much as you want about Jennifer Lawrence, but unless you take her out for pizza and spend time with her, chances are you won’t really know her that well.

That being said, I came up with the following list of questions that will guarantee success on any first date you go on.

Actually I have no idea if these are any good; these are just questions I’ve thought about in my spare time when my brain has nothing better to do.

If you were granted three wishes, what would you wish for?

If you had a completely empty day ahead of you, how would you spend it?

Were you to pick any job besides the one you have, what would you want to do?

Do you like sweet, salty, or spicy foods?

What is one of your favorite places to go in town?

If you could pick any era to live in, past, present, or future, what would you pick?

What is something you don’t want to live without?

What is something you’re thankful for today?

What, if anything, do you want to change about the world?

Who do you want to be in the future?

When is your favorite time of day?

Where do you go to relax?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie pop? (answer: the world will never know)

What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked on a first date?

*Disclaimer: Katherine Hill is not liable for any rejections or failures that result from using this list of questions, so please do not sue her. Side affects may include queasy stomach, palm sweating, frequent trips to the bathroom, and uncomfortable silences.