July 6, 2020

Unintentional community

I used to live in a house with eight other people. We called it an “intentional community,” but I was always more interested in what happened unintentionally. For example: mornings. At any given time, someone was getting ready for work, and had the concrete task to make coffee and breakfast. There were eight of us, so we overlapped and crisscrossed in the kitchen, and the use of the cast iron pan or the electric kettle needed to be negotiated. Half-awake alliances were formed, oatmeal shared, an extra egg thrown into a scramble. In this environment, weird, funny, impromptu conversations happen.

There are similarities to an office. You are dropped in the same space with people who have things to do, and from there the stories, games, and laughter leak out around the work. It’s a way of getting to know people.

In a few weeks I’m moving to a one bedroom apartment, the first time in my life I haven’t had roommates in the city. On top of that, it’s not clear when we’ll be returning to the office. In this pandemic, my unplanned social interaction will be almost zero – if I don’t actively plan for it. How do I do that? The best I’ve come up with is having periodic walks, phone calls or remote movie nights. Setting aside time weekly is good: there doesn’t need to be a reason for calling, you just put it on the calendar and see what comes up.

I want to still be getting to know people through all this.