Evan and I went to see David Rakoff and Ira Glass last Sunday night at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. It was the culmination of a lecture series they had been running on the topic of Freud. They thought it would be perfect to bring the host of NPR’s This American Life, an often confessional radio programme, and the man who played Freud in a Barney’s window for Christmas.
They started the program with a live version of Rakoff’s Freud piece (if you haven’t heard this episode of TAL, it is great…Rakoff’s piece is melancholy, but Sedaris’ is wet-your-pants funny). This was followed by a round table discussion with Rakoff, Glass and a rabbi. The discussion was not on Freud exactly, but on life (their own as well as TAL’s), therapy, friendship, etc.
The particular setting of the event made me really think about how much a sense of community can really impact all these other aspects of your life. Growing up, I never really had any association with either organized religion or communities associated with a particular cultural background. Before moving to the Olympia area in seventh grade, my family (my mom, brother, sister and me) lived in a low-income housing complex while my mom struggled to make ends meet while putting herself through college. Despite being poor, my family really liked living there because there was a real sense of community. There were other single moms, going through what my mom was going through. I had a “second mom” two doors down, and my sister and her daughter have been friends since they were three.
We moved from Bellingham when my mom got a job with the state, which moved us up a bit socio-economically, but we gave up that sense of community. In Olympia, most families were middle class, with two parents at home, and being a single parent family we didn’t exactly fit the mold. My mom still struggles to find her social identity in that community, despite the fact that she has lived there for over 15 years. When we gave up some of the struggling, we also gave up some of the community that it builds.
I feel that same way now. In graduate school, everyone was going through the same struggles and that really built a community. Now that we’re in a normal job setting, our co-workers are settled and happy, busy with their families and their established social networks. I miss my old community, despite the fact that it was built on the stress and challenges of getting through graduate school. Now that I have developed the tools I need to be a successful scientist, I need to figure out how to find my new community. With all the people that live in this part of the world, I’m sure it’s here somewhere.r