chatter

Thoughts on Belonging

In attempts to ground myself in areas that feel a bit lost to me, I have started making some changes in my life. One major one is that I got new head shots done so that I can start pursuing acting again! (So scary!) Another is that I’ve started attending a local Quaker meeting house. The service (if you could even call it that) is basically a group meditation: it involves a group of people sitting in a room together in silence. If someone feels moved, they can stand up and share a brief thought before returning the room to silence. The meeting I attended this weekend only had two people share (about what it means to belong in a community) and it felt like they were speaking directly to me and it got me thinking.

Since moving to London (from Washington, DC) I’ve really struggled to find a community that I can belong to. I have often found lovely groups of lovely people, but as welcoming as these groups are, I feel that I could never really belong to them. I know this because when it comes time for someone in the group to get married, I’m not invited to the wedding. Or when there is a crisis, I’m not on their list of who to call for help. Or when there is a birth, I’m not the one to take the kids. I don’t mean to feel sorry for myself, it is just the state of things. People have friends they’ve known their entire lives, or have gone through a major life event with (university, NCT, etc.) and I can’t rival those relationships.

I’ve tried to find community in my work, but I’ve had trouble getting my foot into the music world here. I’ve dabbled in other fields (concert planning, event planning, startups, blogging, social media management, etc.), but most of these jobs haven’t involved much of a work community. For years I was absolutely desperate to move back to America to be with “my people” and back in my work communities, but I’ve fairly recently decided (coughtrumpcough) to try and make things work here in London.

The most important community I’ve found here thus far has been on Instagram. I realise that can sound incredibly odd (and perhaps a bit sad . . . ), but having a community of like-minded women really saved me from the loneliness and isolation I felt for so long after moving here. Still, as important as my Instagram community has been (and still is) in my life, I also crave a more tangible community.

I’m not about to wrap up this post with a tidy little solution to my lack of community as I’ve not yet solved the problem. What I can say is that pursing a less isolated line of work (acting) and getting involved with a group that strongly believes in and encourages community (the Quakers) should help and that I will keep you posted. In the meantime, I would truly love to hear about the communities you belong to (or have belonged to) in your lives. What do they provide you in your life and what do they mean to you?

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Kate Prinsloo
    May 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    I agree that living abroad a finding a strong community can be very hard. I actually found London quite easy once I created an American group in my neighborhood and we went to the pub together and had cookie parties and did all the American holidays together. I find it much harder in Zurich, but again those expat groups and my extra activities have helped. Instagram has always been the consistent helper (thank you so much for telling me about it that day we met in the park with our kids!). I’ve joined two German classes and the tennis club here. But I remember the amazing community our high school had with the acting group. It was magical. I always hung out there before and after shows (since I was in the band…) because I loved the great vibe and inclusion of everyone. Keep being your honest self and writing these wonderful posts here and on Instagram. My favorite posts are these heartfelt ones from you. I love when your gorgeous personality shines through. Take care. xx

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks, Kate! It is so much easier to find community when you’re in school, isn’t it? Thanks for all your support. xoxo

  • Reply
    Louise hannon
    May 2, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    What an honest and brilliant post! Having moved around the uk a lot with my husbands job I have had similar issues but people are really reticent to share about feeling lonely (me included!) and I think there’s an expectation that if you have kids you automatically make friends through playgroups/ the school gates etc. I don’t think that is always necessarily the case, or it certainly isn’t as easy as that. Hope you get your community and feel at home soon, I’m still kind of working on mine too!

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 1:51 pm

      Thanks, Louise. I’ve definitely met loads of people through my kids, but taking those relationships to the next level is where I seem to have trouble. x

  • Reply
    Sarah W
    May 2, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    Oh, I so feel you! I love living abroad and wouldn’t change it for the world (Brit living in Switzerland with Swiss partner and 2 kids) but my circle is so tiny here compared to what I was used to in the U.K. I live in a small mountain village and have a few expat friends but expats come and go quite a lot and the locals are really hard to infiltrate as they have all their childhood friends and family around. In the U.K. There was always someone going to the pub, inviting a crew round for dinner, going climbing after work… now is a different season. I think being proactive like you are is key, and getting out of your comfort zone… in the past when I’ve pushed myself it’s generally led to some really cool stuff and opportunities. Good luck!!

    • Reply
      Kate
      May 4, 2017 at 9:32 am

      Hi Sarah,
      I just saw your comment that you live in Switzerland. Are you near Zurich?
      Kate

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      Good luck, Sarah. It can be so hard to find a community when trying to break into close knit groups. All we can do is keep trying, right? x

  • Reply
    Becca G
    May 2, 2017 at 8:44 pm

    What a brilliant post, I’m not normaly one to post comments but this struck such a note with me. We moved to a new city for my husbands work, a move I didn’t desperately want to make, and I’ve struggled hugely with finding a community and a sense of belonging. The city we live in is very much a place that people either don’t leave so have deep roots here or move back to to be with family. I feel incredibly lost a lot of the time, on the edge of things. I’ve been considering going to a Quaker meeting for some time. So good to hear how you got on and look forward to reading more and so hope you find your community.

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Becca,
      Try a Quaker meeting and see if it is for you! They are super welcoming and happy to answer questions you might have. They are also SUPER into community. I’ve already added quite a few social events to my diary!
      x

  • Reply
    Becky
    May 2, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Thank you for this heartfelt post. I have struggled with finding my people so much, not only since moving to a new state 5 years ago, but most of my life has been a struggle to find those I “fit” with. After having kids, I naturally wanted to fit in with other moms – but instead I found mom Meetups or play dates to be hit or miss. It was a lot like dating. I’m somewhat shy and more of an observer at first until I warm up, so I found it very difficult to make mom friends. I actually have felt so isolated sometimes from the community of mothers; if you work full time, you have a hard time finding anything in common with stay at home moms. If you stay at home, you have to go on several play dates to get to know each other, and sometimes it’s difficult to even have a conversation long enough to decide if you like a person when you have a baby or more than one child with you.

    What I found is that I only really enjoy play dates with 1-2 other moms; group outings are just too overwhelming for me with my two young children. So I decided to be okay with that. I decided I would be okay with belonging to the two decent friendships I’ve made in the last 5 years of living in Portland. And if I meet more women who I enjoy spending time with, that is a bonus. But I do feel lonely at times and definitely feel as though I don’t fit in with most moms (we have very little money or resources to do outings with other people). I’m not sure what my point is other than I know the feeling of not belonging, and I am searching for this as well.

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      It is at least nice to know we aren’t alone, isn’t it? The response to this post has been so overwhelming as women have messaged and emailed me to say that they are going through the same thing. I also find this all akin to dating. We are judging each other by the way we look and by each other’s interests (as that’s all we have to go on at first) and it is all so superficial!

      Best of luck to you. Some of my most favourite people in the world live in Portland and I would move there in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity! x

  • Reply
    Erica
    May 3, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Thank you so much for solidifying my thoughts into words in this post! As a fellow PNW native in London I still feel this way after 17 years, which may not be of much comfort or hope for a quick resolution, but at least you know you’re not alone. I have no answers but I’ll keep trying too. Good luck, keep doing what you’re doing and remember that love and friendship aren’t measured in distance.

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks, Erica. It really is helpful knowing that I’m not alone. Good luck to you!! xx

  • Reply
    NJ
    May 3, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    What an honest, brace and vulnerable post. I have moved around a lot in the last few years and can totally understand your sense of a lack of community. I will definitely be reading more of your blog. I’m about to move again. This time with my husband and two young kids, to Hong Kong. It’s totally freaking me out. It prompted me to write a post about leaving London and to create a whole new blog for it. You can read it here, if you have a moment. I’m planning to write about my own imminent dislocation! https://flightorwrite.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/19/

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      Just read your post. Yes, London can be such a funny city! The thing about living abroad (you mentioned Dubai as well) is that a lot of people living abroad tend to seek out their own people who are also abroad. While this is so helpful at first, I have found that meeting and befriending locals is also really important (though much more difficult!). Again, no answers here, but best of luck in your new adventure! x

  • Reply
    Sharon
    May 3, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    I hear you…I’m almost tangental to your situation (a Brit living in the US with my American husband and 3 very American teenagers). I worked on Wall Street when my children were young and whilst I found solace in my workplace with other like minded folks, none of them lived in the suburbs like me or had kids. When I left work 10 years ago (I had promised myself 15 years on Wall Street and done), I had a hard time connecting. Not sure if it was my accent, the fact I didn’t grow up with these folks in their formative years or that I hadn’t experienced a similar life path – I could never put my finger on it. I threw myself into volunteering at my children’s school and it definitely helped, but I finally came to the realization that what I have right now is OK, my husband and children, who are almost adults now, filled the void in big way. I have a few close friends, nothing like I would have if I lived in the UK, but that’s OK. I try to come “home” whenever I can and bring my children, we were lucky enough to establish a base in Europe (Italy) which has provided phenomenal memories and experiences. We also made an effort, when they were young, and not tied to sports (its coming!), to get out and about at weekends to a cabin in the country. Organic relationships developed as the kids have gone through school and joined sports teams. If I could look back on my former self, my best advice would be to live in the moment, enjoy the here and now, your German nanny, those beautiful little faces. You have it all, the rest is peripheral, and what is always incredible to me is, I may not have seen or spoken to my friends in 5 years but when we do see each other it is as if time has not passed and we relish the moment. You are not alone.

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks for this, Sharon. I have some really amazing friends back in America that are like family to me. When I’m feeling really down, I always reach out to them and the reminder that at least one person cherishes me as a friend fills me back up (and then makes me cry for an hour!). But your advice is absolutely what I need to do: enjoy the here and now. Life is very good, even if a bit lonely at times. x

  • Reply
    Sharon
    May 4, 2017 at 12:05 am

    Addendum..how could I not have included this..is that I feel whatever it was I gave up, I have given so much more to my children – lifestyle, global empathy, understanding that that they otherwise would never have had if there had been less exposure. No need to publish this and if you are passing the east coast give me a holler – if you want to see your life in fast forward!

  • Reply
    Emilie
    May 4, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    I feel you so much. I’m not an expat (at the moment, I was an expat a few years ago) but I moved to my boyfriend’s place a few years ago and left my place, my (very few) friends and my parents not far away. And to be honest I very often feel really lonely, even with my kids around, I miss my area and the feeling to belong. But it’s a decision I’ve made and we’re building a house so I really hope that I can call this place home!

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      The first few years can be so hard and kids don’t always provide the best company! A feeling of belonging can be so very difficult to find as many of us can’t even quite put our finger on what it is we’re looking for.

      Good luck on your new adventure!! It sounds like quite an adventure!!

  • Reply
    Kerry
    May 4, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks for this. I haven’t moved countries but having lived half my life in one city we’ve just my whole family to a different city where to we don’t know anyone. I don’t know where parks are to take my children to, I don’t know where to find good coffee! Some days I think that’s a good thing, it’s part of the adventure and others I just crave familiar. Interestingly my Instagram perusing has gone up of late! Thanks for encouraging x

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Hi Kerry,
      I feel you! We’ve been in London for six years, and have lived in four different neighbourhoods. It can definitely take a while to figure out where you place is in a new spot, but you’ll get there eventually. (Though we’ve been in this new neighbourhood for over a year, and I am still discovering new spots!)
      Best of luck to you!! xx

  • Reply
    Kay Underwood
    May 4, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I understand how hard it can be to integrate into a new country as I lived in Japan for a number of years. Despite all the exciting payoffs it can be exhausting to not have the level of friendship that allows you to just relax, breathe and be fully yourself.
    I’m not sure how I came to follow you on instagram but I live just down the road (Brockley) and go to choir in Dulwich. And I’ve also noticed you’re in some of the same murderino groups I’m in, so if you ever want to meet up for a local coffee and a chat about true crime …although I’m fairly sure that little old me doesn’t quite count as a community.

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Ha! A fellow murderino! Do you belong to the FB group text for the tickets? I’m always up for a coffee so shoot me an email! bethie@hungermama.com

  • Reply
    Rebecca D
    May 4, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Love this post!
    I would like to recommend a book if I may. It’s by Shasta Nelson and it’s called “Friendships Don’t Just Happen”. It really helped me put words to : the experience of friends, levels of closeness, how to gently leave a friendship, how to cultivate new friends intentionally, how to grow closer….
    Really good.
    Thanks for your honesty Bethie.

    • Reply
      hungermama
      May 10, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      I will definitely check this out. Thank you!! x

  • Reply
    Thoughts on Belonging: Lonely, but not Alone | hungermama
    May 18, 2017 at 4:50 pm

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  • Reply
    Argy
    May 18, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    So touched from what you wrtote. I am a Greek girl in a London world. I live here for 3 years snd it almost feel the same. I keep in touch with many communities but I don’t feel the contact that I need. The openness
    that I feel as a person that tries to find joy and what really matters in our life. Lucky though for some Greek friends that I found here. Also I created a blog called “Bloom in London” where 4 greek girls are trying to express how it looks like living in London. What we like and what we miss from our
    country and our culture. We are so many, trying to find a meaning in our new life here. It takes so much courage but you already know it. Keep working hard and if you just need a hug, send a note.

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