Should I Invest in My Local Community Instead? (Part 1)

This past week I went to a memorial service for a venue owner I’ve worked with for over a decade.  

Alongside his beautiful wife, he provided first-rate food and an excellent atmosphere for live music.  The last time I saw him was a few weeks ago at their place while our boy was dancing joyfully to a live band.  

At the memorial service, I stood amongst hundreds of others.  I thought about his sixty-seven years devoted to this community.  And I reflected on the countless memories I have of the magical space he created.

At this establishment... 

  • I met my sister-in-law for the first time.
  • My other sister-in-law’s ex drank too much and embarrassed us.
  • My husband and I danced in a moshpit of friends as wood-chips flew everywhere (this was pre-baby).
  • We ate pasta in a downpour right after getting married.
  • I played one of my first gigs when we moved back from Austin, TX. (The kids who tipped me in the below video are probably high schoolers now.)

While experiencing a reminiscent blur of the above moments, I looked around at all the faces I knew.  

A Few Realizations Crystalized Inside Me

  1. This community is my family.  We help raise each other (and each other’s children).  We bury each other too.  
  2. This is our time.  We will all be erased.  Soon ancestors with new gadgets will stand in our place.
  3. I have found the point of life (for me) - to love these people, serve them, and contribute to the energy that makes this such a great place to live.  
  4. I wasn’t a mentally robust person when I moved here.  I am fiercely mentally healthy now (is this a thing?) - and while I did a lot of work on myself - mental wellness is largely comprised of a carefully chosen environment.
  5. Knowing this, how can I contribute more to this environment?  How can I help these people be healthy, happy, and better off than if I didn’t live here?

I know I’m lucky to be able to say this.  My community (for the most part) is an awe-inspiring place. 

It dawned on me more than ever - I’m less involved than I would like to be.  The biggest way I’ve been involved is as a teacher, but there are so many other activities, organizations, fund-raisers, book-clubs, musical events, etc. that I miss out on (or would like to start). 

Why am I so distant?  

This is Where it Becomes Tricky

I’ve always had side-hustles.  When I missed Saturday morning parades in the past, it was because I was giving guitar lessons.  When I missed out on weekend festivities and gatherings in the past, it was because I was traveling to play live music in other areas.  (When my husband misses out on a friend’s potluck, it’s probably because he’s installing a cat door.)

This past week I missed out on the annual CAKE PARTY with hundreds of cool people.  Don’t get me started on the square-dancing, troll-hunting, clothing swaps, fat-bike races, and author-visits I’ve missed out on.

It’s the final straw.  I live in a town that could feel like a permanent vacation if I just stopped hustling ALL THE TIME. 

Weird problem to have, eh? How do I fix it (or at least create some low stress side-hustles integrated with my local community again)?

SKIP THIS if You Don’t Like TMI

I have a young son (a job in itself).  Breast-feeding, in particular, has been an isolating endeavor.  

How have I stuck it out?  Social media.  

Yep.  If you’ve been interacting with me online, it’s probably while I’ve had an odd device hooked up to me (or my child has been on my lap swatting at the phone).

I’ve heard discipline can be aided by pairing a difficult task with a vice.  Difficult task? Breastfeeding. Vice? Excessive social media use for my pie in the sky ideas consisting of frugality, music, and weird history stories.  

In this half-built hypothetical fairyland, I indulge in alter-egos and half-baked ideas.  I could go on forever like this because I enjoy my online communities, but something new is stirring in me.

Do I Need to Keep These Worlds As Separate As I Do?

I’ve struggled before with the idea of anonymous versus public bloggingIt took a lot of thought for me to arrive at my lazy solution of being “semi-anonymous” for this blog. 

And for good reason.

I’ve made what I consider a lot of mistakes in my first months as a blogger. I’m glad I can edit those mistakes, reflect back on them, and narrow (or diversify) my focus.  

I’m also glad to practice my writing skills in a network of experts who are also strangers.

What I didn’t expect when I started all of this was how incredibly close I would feel to some people I’ve met online!  There are about a hundred people I feel very well acquainted with and will always want to keep track of.  I love these people.  

If she visits here, she will love it. If she visits here, her magical presence will make me faint.

(I consider these people to be a community… inside my phone... like I’m living in two different worlds or something.)  

Oddly, I don’t have any idea what some of them look like.  But I would love to meet them someday!

An Example of Merging Worlds?

Tread-Lightly Retire-Early walks an interesting line where she is unapologetic about how much she loves her job, she is unapologetic about how much she loves frugality and sustainability, she blogs showing her face, and she works at a place where coworkers are happy to frame a New York Time’s article she’s mentioned in.

This situation makes me think, “So… I write online once in a while.  I try to keep it tactful.  What’s the big deal?  What could go wrong if a few people find out?”

Don don don.

Her approach, along with the moving memorial I attended, has left my head churning.  Could this blog (and it’s future music) be opened up to a local audience with just a few tweaks?  Most importantly, could it be made more useful to others? What would that look like and how can I start on some future changes?   

Also, can I batch my use of social media in a different way to make sure I still have time for live events in my town (and stay connected to local friends)?  In addition, can I start some service ideas for my local community (and talk about them in a more general way on this blog for people around the world if they are interested)?

(It’s funny to think - if I have another baby, I’ll probably become really close with my online friends at the opportunity cost of my local friends because I’m not comfortable breastfeeding in front of others.  What a fascinating time we live in...)

Well, this concludes another personal finance article… that wasn’t about personal finance.

I’ll talk about this conundrum a lot in Instagram stories over the next few weeks… 

In Part 2 I will discuss a couple of ideas I have about serving my local and online communities at the same time.  The solution may not be an either/or in this case.  It might be a yes/and.

I’d love to know what you think.  How would you take action in this situation?  Would you let your online worlds mix with your local community (especially as an artist)?  Would you let online communities know where you live?  Why or why not?



7 Replies to “Should I Invest in My Local Community Instead? (Part 1)”

  1. One of the most wonderful things I ended up doing was to “hustle locally” with Satire’s Sudsworks, my soap-making social enterprise. I initially thought I’d set the world on fire, but it ended up being my local community to supported us most and made us successful. As part of this, I strengthened relationships and met “strangers” who lived down the street. Looking forward to doing it again when we move.

    I’d say keep the investment close to home. It’s where people care and will always support you. It’s also, for me, what being a part of something local is truly about.

    1. Thank you for the input Mr. Fate! Well said! That’s a thoughtful way to look at it. I didn’t know about your soap-making enterprise. That’s pretty interesting and good for you for making it work.

    1. Thank you for stopping by the blog Millennial Boss! So excited for you as a new mother. I’ve really appreciated your “slightly less anonymous” approach lately.

      Today Andy from Marriage, Kids, and Money posted on Twitter asking for overlooked parenting hacks. Doubling up breast-feeding with social media time is certainly an overlooked one:) My son didn’t notice there was a phone around until about now (he’s 16 months).

  2. Don’t sweat it, infant kids and breast feeding are just a tiny blip in your lifespan. Being less involved with the outside world while you are raising kids is normal, most people find friends with kids the same age so they can still have some time together where being a mom seems completely normal. Trust me those rug rats will be grown and living clear across the country from you in the blink of an eye. It will be important to have a life completely apart from your kids, who will no longer be a daily feature of your life, but you’ll have decades to build that later. This time with little ones is fleeting, enjoy it!

    1. Thanks for stopping by the blog, Steve. I can already tell it is going by so fast. It’s hard to imagine what 20 years can do, but I know time will go by quickly based on how this past year has been! I’m so grateful for my summers with him. It’s hard to know how to balance family time, community time, and work. I suppose that is why this topic has been a common source of books, articles, and movies over the years (but I didn’t really notice these reflections with depth until now).

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