Friday, June 20, 2014

Becoming Part of the Community

How I Found "Home" in my Community

As a Realtor® I talk to a lot of people making a move to a new community.  I've been there with big moves as both a child and as an adult.   I know firsthand how intimidating it can be to start over in a town where you don't know anyone.

I moved to our small town 15 years ago, but continued to carry on every aspect of my old life working in a city and spending all of my time still in my old suburb with my friends & family. The move "to the country" where I didn't know anyone other than my husband and his family was an adjustment I wasn't making very well and to be honest I had a hard time at first.  This wasn't home to me.  As a (kind of) Third Culture Kid who had split my childhood between two different countries, I was used to not being sure which place was home, but now I was an adult and looking for something concrete.  I had to jump in head first and discover what would bind me to this town and find my place in the community.

First I left my job in West Hartford to start a new career in real estate in East Hampton.  I couldn't think of that many jobs at the time that would allow me to work in this town, other than working from home but that would defeat the point.  Real Estate was the perfect choice - I learned so much about the town and explored every street and neighborhood.  It wasn't long before I knew the area better than even some of the long-time residents, and a gained a new group of work friends who would eventually feel like family to me.

Next I looked into several community groups based on my interests.  The most exciting group I belonged to was the Junior Women's Club, an amazing group of women who organized so many community events and were deeply committed to doing good things.  I tried out the Gardening Club, which I was really looking forward to joining, but at that time in history the group was a little too clicky/catty for me and after just 1 meeting of feeling completely unwelcome, I decided not to go back.  (For the record, I heard it got better a few years later.)   Joining the historical society was something my husband and I did together, and we were welcomed by a sweet group of mostly senior citizens and a few historians who shared their knowledge and stories and artifacts to help give me a sense of my town's past.  They're a wonderful, dedicated group and a fantastic resource to this community.  My husband also got involved in local politics, where we got to know other families both old and new to town and all passionate about making a difference.

Then babies came along, and I met a whole new group of people in playgroups and at the public library where they had wonderful children's programs.  Pre-School meant more new faces, then later elementary school, and later soccer and theatre clubs, etc, etc.  Joining a local gym meant bonding while making silly faces during pilates class with other women struggling to do "just one more rep," giggling through a Zumba class, and all of us participating in a super fun flash mob event!

It was perhaps finally through my children being enrolled in the school system, being involved in PTO events, in school sports, in the many excellent arts programs we are so fortunate to have here, and also through all the friends I've made along the way, that I finally feel completely at home in the community.  It was days of walking down MainStreet to our weekend-long fair "Old Home Day" to manning booths and holding my child on the carousel, evenings spent on picnic blankets at the town gazebo listening to live concerts, welcome home ceremonies for returning soldiers where we held signs of support while I wiped away tears, early mornings at the farmer's market, freezing nights cheering on the soccer field, watching parades, standing backstage helping 50 kids into costumes with other theatre parents, neighborhood Christmas caroling parties and visits from Santa on the fire truck, Earth Day cleanups in the village and at the lake… it's through so many little things that I found my sense of community without having any previous roots of my own here.

So thanks to all of the wonderful, friendly people of this little town who helped to make me feel welcome and who continue to do the same for other newcomers.  These people aren't unique to East Hampton - they're everywhere, and they'll help you feel welcome in your new hometown as well!