The Lessons of Living in Community

The Lessons of Living in Community

My post-graduate living and working experience differs greatly from the standard “You’re on your own now! Go find a job and become a responsible, respectable adult.”  Though a majority of my college friends have moved off on their own for jobs or school, I chose to live with a bunch of random people I’ve never met in a city I’ve never been to before.

Since August I’ve been living in intentional community with five other individuals. Through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps we were all placed in various schools and agencies across Tucson, AZ. We are provided a communal budget each month for rent, utilities, food and personal stipends. We do almost everything together; eat dinner at the table nearly every night, ride our bikes to the grocery store, attend street fairs and play vicious games of UNO. 

When applying to this program I thought I was this incredibly self-aware individual who might potentially be able to grow from this experience. I knew myself and was sure of what I wanted. I also knew I didn't need others to be happy. I could do that all by myself, thank you very much. Needing others was a sign of weakness. It made you vulnerable. But the more time I spend in this house, the more I’ve realized it is okay to be needy.

That statement shouldn't come as a surprise to me. I’m aiming to work in the social services field where opening up and letting others into the chaos of your life is absolutely necessary. There’s a TedTalk I stumbled upon recently by Brene Brown entitled “The power of vulnerability.” Toward the beginning of her speech, Brown mentions the phrase “lean into the discomfort.” This statement particularly struck me as it was mentioned several times a day during JVC orientation. (It’s honestly one of my least favorite phrases as it implies I have to do something I don't want to do.) There have been so many days when I’ve had to push myself harder than I ever wanted to just to be a part of this community. No, I don't want to sit though a spirituality night after spending eight hours with small children and talk about my past. But did I do it? Of course.

I think humans are wired to seek out community and connections with others. True connections come from being vulnerable and being willing to put yourself out there. The potential to be hurt or dismissed is always there but you have to be courageous enough to face that fear head on. This JVC journey has become way bigger than I expected. It has shown me characteristics - both good and bad - in myself I never knew I had. But changes all start with vulnerability. Embracing your own vulnerability is certainly not an easy task, but it’s something I’m willing to try.

(Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.)


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