As an introvert who craves deep connection, I find myself thinking about the concept of community a lot. So often, I feel like retreating to my corner to write and think and be by myself, and then I get this crazy pull to get out there and connect and learn from other people. I am always after what makes people tick and can’t handle much small talk. Instead of saying “how are you?” or “nice to meet you” I quickly want to get to the questions like “what gives you hope?” “what makes you smile?” or even “what breaks your heart?”. Most of the time though, I think these questions would send people running for the hills and I’m never one to put people in an awkward position on purpose.
Wherever I have lived for the past 25 years, I have had a community based on sport. Locker rooms, pools, gyms, neighborhood running partners and, now that I have lived in the South Bay for the last five years, the beach, is where I find these connections with people who find passion and purpose in similar ways. No matter what life has presented me, whether it was homesickness in college, the challenges of raising little kids, marital strife or divorce, these settings have provided me people to connect with with like mindsets. These are the places where I feel most understood. Locker room talk has always provided me with the most wisdom and clarity. I attribute that mostly to the endorphins and the presence of like minds.
This weekend in Manhattan Beach, the Charlie Saikley 6 Man Volleyball Tournament is being played. It’s a fantastic time complete with costumes, music, high level volleyball and, above all, generations of people who have bonded over a sport that they love. For the past 8 years, I have been able to be a part of it, and it leaves my heart full of gratitude every year. The funny part is, every year, before the start of the tournament, I think, I don’t want to do this. It’s too many people, I have too much to do, I’m not one for costumes…I can come up with a million reasons in my head about why I shouldn’t be down there. And then I go anyway…and play a game I love, (even though it was a little rough this year, 8 weeks post knee surgery) and experience the kind of conversations that I crave, with people that I don’t know as well, or that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, all while we take in the beautiful scene of the MB Pier on a perfect day or the sunset and the fun night that follows. I come away with the deepest sense of connection with people that, when I moved here, spent a lot of time telling myself I would have little in common.
What comes out in these conversations is my realization that we all have a lot more in common than we think. We all have things that break our hearts, that we struggle with daily, and present us with challenges that on the surface we would rather not face. I have learned though, that the key is not to avoid the struggle, but to embrace it, and find the days, the conversations and the relationships that bolster us through the inevitable struggles that are part of each of our journeys. It’s up to us to find that place, that perfect day, that deep conversation and connection, even when we think we don’t have time for it. When we get to, soak it in for all it has to offer, be real and enjoy it. It’s food for the journey, it’s the memories made that carry us when the tough stuff comes to pass. Thanks 6 Man for being that day for me. Can’t wait to be back next year.