A couple years ago when I was planning my move, I knew that somehow I’d have to figure out how I could make connections in my new home. At the time I didn’t know that my new home would be Cleveland – but I knew the list would be similar no matter where I moved. Connections are what bind us to a place.
I lived in Marietta for 30 years. And I had connections in all different sorts of ways. Raising children you make friends with the other parents that are sitting with you on the sidelines of your kids sporting events or selling Girl Scout cookies. I had friends from Marietta College baseball. The bunko group of my early parenting years, and in the past 5 years- Sew La Tea - my every other Friday quilt group. Co-workers at my job & community organizations. The family friends who have spent Christmas Eve with us and who truly are family. My two book clubs – each of which I miss fiercely. All of those relationships that I built over the years left me with a wealth of friendships.
So I knew that I couldn’t replace any of those people or their ties to me and my family. And you might think I’m foolish to have left all of them to strike out somewhere else. The thing I’ve heard most from people when I tell them my move-to-Cleveland story is “you’re so brave” Really? I don’t feel like I needed to be brave to move from the place where I had lived for 30 years, loved my job and coworkers, had amazing friendships to a place where I know a total of 7 people. Oh wait – now I see why people may think that. I didn’t really think courage was necessary, but I’ve been known to be naïve and not worry about things that I should worry about. I think that’s worked to my advantage. Know how sometimes you think “If something horrible happened in the middle of the night – who would I call?” I moved here already knowing that I could call any of those 7 people that I already knew. That was hugely comforting.
So – one year later, what’s my life like in Cleveland? Amazing. I’m so fortunate that I love this job too. I’ve got a work family that is smart, and kind and doesn’t make me feel like I ask stupid questions as I’m learning this job and this building. And those of you who know my penchant for entertaining will not be surprised that I hosted the after-work Christmas event at my apartment.
In my preparation for my move, I made a list of organizations that I could connect with so that I could – you know - connect. The Purdue Alumni Cleveland chapter, AFS, the YMCA, my sorority (AOII) alumni chapter, book clubs, church, etc. And I set out to see if any of these groups would be a place where I belonged. - Because that all we’re really looking for isn’t it – a place to belong?
Immediately some groups weren’t right for me, and some didn’t respond to my inquiries to get involved. (Seriously – who knew that organizations had the luxury of turning away the assistance of someone ready and willing to help – someone with years of community involvement? - And yes, I’m being snarky – I know that they don’t know me, but to be rejected when you’re offering free assistance?)
I really felt a connection with the women of my AOII alumni chapter. Who knew that all that “sisterhood” stuff we talked about in college actually does last your whole life? And my AOII association led me to the Arthritis Foundation – our national philanthropy – and appropriate now that I have arthritis in my hips. I’m on the committees of the Silver Spoon Awards and the Walk to Cure Arthritis – where I’ve met fascinating people who are fun and talented and committed.
And then there’s the book club I started in my building with a sign in the elevator. A sign where I asked if anyone would be interested in a book club. A sign that I thought about for a month before hanging up because I thought it screamed “loser occupant of unit #404 is pathetic and wants to start a book club with people she has met but doesn’t know well because she doesn’t have many friends here yet” Now I know that's really not true, but aren't we all are afraid of rejection? That may have been the only brave thing I've done - but also the best. Love my book club girls - and we have so much fun that we also have book club halftime – when we get together for wine one evening in the middle of the book club month.
So one year later I can report that I've found a lot of happiness in Cleveland. I've made connections in ways I've planned for, and ways that were totally unexpected.
You can call it bravery if you like, I'll just call it an adventure.
(photo above of my current home in the Warehouse District)