The Importance of Belonging

Monday Author:  Susanne Skinner

“A person is a person because of other people.”
Ubuntu Philosophy

Belonging, Community, Downsizing, Moving, New HouseHumans need a sense of belonging. It’s important to feel we belong somewhere, to someone, in some place; part of something bigger than we are. Connecting with others builds shared interests, boosts our confidence and reassures us that we are not alone.

Being acknowledged as part of a community is intrinsic to personal growth and happiness. The importance of belonging is what makes each of us who we are.

A Sense of Community

I live in a two-stop-light town. It has been home to our family for the past 17 years. This month we sold our big (and empty) antique home, deciding the time to move had come. The kids are grown, the house was filled with space and things we no longer needed, and we wanted to leave winter behind.

But it also meant leaving behind our community; memories and shared experiences that make it hard to say farewell. Our kids grew up here and became the adults they are today. We put good people into the world and decided it was time to make the change we’ve been talking about.

A new home awaits us; it’s everything we hoped for in a forever home. We are excited and nervous. Starting over means establishing a new community and our sense of belonging has set a very high bar.

Home has been a small town, and we’re moving to a city. I will also make the change from working in a city to a home office. The feeling of being connected and accepted might be harder. A friend suggested we start with a neighborhood community of faith.  It is there you will find the friends you want to make, the social outreach you want to be involved with, and the feeling of belonging so important to us.

Saying goodbye to the community we have loved and been so much a part of is hard.  Saying goodbye to friends who have shared our lives for almost two decades is impossible.

Shared Emotional Connections

Life in a small town is intimate. Even when you don’t know what you’re doing, someone else does! The connections we share are many and varied. There is a twice-monthly local paper that showcases local activities, celebrates accomplishments, and helps local businesses advertise.

You Belong Here, Community, BelongingOur local coffee shop is not a national name, it’s our very own. When you live here long enough they remember what you like. The table in the back hosts a group of men that meet for coffee every morning; retired town fathers who know the history and the heritage of most residents; living and dead.

The postal clerk is also in my yoga class. The woman who sells me stamps and mails my packages has also seen me in spandex. She has taken an oath of secrecy.

The clerk behind the counter in the country store greets me by asking if I want the teriyaki steak tips, and I ask about her first year in college now that she is home for the summer.

My weekend walking group is the hardest farewell. These four women and I have known each other a very long time; enjoying early morning power walks and conversation therapy. We have walked ourselves through many joys and sorrows, sharing our deepest fears and hopes. These are sisters of my heart.

Making new friends is scary, even at my age. Making friends like the ones I am leaving is almost too much to hope for.

The Life You Live

Choosing a community where you can live your best life is important. When we made the decision to move were mindful about location, climate, opportunities for employment and cost of living. We are in the next phase of our lives, but by no means retired or checking out of it.

Finding a community where we can be ourselves means finding social connections with people like us. We don’t want to change in order to fit in. It is where we will find the continuation of activities we already enjoy and be invited to try new ones. It is also where we will find comfort in difficult times.

Community enhances the life you live. It provides motivation, inspiration and fun. It may sound clichéd, but we want to be part of a neighborhood of like-minded people who will make us feel welcome, uplifted, encouraged and inspired.

Welcome Home

A forever home takes time to find. We vacationed in quite a few states with a view to living there permanently. We did not visit anywhere we didn’t like, but none of them said Welcome Home.

Florida home, waterfront view, new home

Our new waterfront view

I resisted the idea of living in Florida, believing I would find communities filled with retired people who ate dinner at 4:30 and drove around on scooters. It was a preconceived notion that proved me wrong.

Like any location you are considering for a permanent home, multiple visits are required. We had the added advantage of friends and family already in the area who were happy to show us around. More than anything else, they facilitated a great introduction into what would become our new community.

During the last six months we made two extended visits and created a spreadsheet of physical locations and neighborhoods that drew our interest. While school systems were not a priority; shopping, entertainment, easy access to the airport and waterfront living were.

The process of buying and selling a home is intense. Once we downsized and sold our home we had to start the process all over again on the buyer’s side. You fear you will never find the perfect house, then suddenly you do and everything falls into place.

We are ready to embrace the changes we’ve made. It truly is the start of our Next Phase. #mortgagefree

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