"People are people through other people/ I am what I am because of who we all are"
- meaning of the Bantu word, Ubuntu
In high school, I was a hardcore basketball player. I played on my high school team, I played on a year round "select" team, I worked out 8 hours a day. When I think back on that time of my life, I don't think about the endless hours of drills, practice or even games. I can't remember which important shots I made or missed. I can only vaguely recall any of the details I felt were so incredibly important then. I don't miss basketball at all and I am a completely different person now then I was then (though who I am is hugely informed by who I was). What I look back to, reflect on and miss about that period of time is my teammates.
My teammates from my select team and I were a community of like minded individuals, working for a common goal. We pushed each other to be better, we lifted each other up and supported one another. Even though we each were trying to develop our own careers, we were partners in each others success. We raised each other up, knowing that we could all succeed and helping one another did not change that. In my entire life it is those bonds that we shared that define for me what it means to be a part of a community. I was who I was because of who we all were.
Those girls and I unconditionally, and sometimes blindly, supported one another. To this day, I still consider some of them my closest friends. Britt, Natalie, EP, AB- all of those ladies and I have weathered more than just well played hoops and basketball dreams. We share a bond that goes far beyond time and distance. It goes beyond powerful individual friendship to a space of power group conscious. That community is something I long mourned. It was such a powerful thing to be a part of- people working together for the betterment of one another, depending on one another, supporting one another completely, unconditionally and selflessly. In my adult life, I searched for that kind of community but found it lacking. I started to wonder if being disconnected was the way of modern adulthood and that I would never experience a community such as I did then.
This year I feel the tides of change. I suddenly feel like the tipping point has been reached and I tumble, laughing head over heels, into the depths of an amazing, special community. I know that this community that I am wading deeper and deeper into is something that all of us have been cultivating for a long time. I feel connected and I feel inspired. Waking up at 4:30 am or psyching up for a 30 mile run is easier when you know that you will have 10 friends in the trenches with you. But it goes beyond having running buddies. I have been a part of the "ninjas" for almost two years and for a while it was a rag-tag bunch of runners who wanted to sneak in a trail run before work or have company on the trails on the weekends. In recent months, I feel like it has transcended that. We have grown in size but I think things have changed. Our lives, both off and on the trails, are becoming intertwined in a way that has all of us partnering in each others success.
I have long felt that the word "network" and "networking" were dirty words that described that act of trying to cultivate something strict for yourself. That someone how knowing the right person might be your ticket. I have long refrained from actively "networking" for my business or for my brand or for myself. As I see this community develop, I realize that I have a new definition of "networking". That is - "community building". Every day my community is expanding in the most brilliant and unexpected ways.
Our running community is built out of a huge spiderweb of 1st and 2nd degree connections. I invite someone who invites someone who invites someone else and each one of those individual is folded in to the community and loses that tag "you are so and so's friend". The group expands exponentially in every direction and there is room enough for everyone. This community that we have built absolutely inspires me. Instead of being afraid to "network", I am learning to put myself out there and connect with others for no other reason than to meet inspiring rad individuals and in an incredibly short amount of time, I went from feeling lost and confused to daily inspired and motivated. And motivated not just for myself, but for the betterment of all of us. It is not even a conscious move for any of us. We are pushing each other to be better, in life not just running, we are partnering in each others success and supporting one another. We are sharing our skills with one another and infusing each other with passion. It has been an incredible thing to watch- someone says "I want to do this" and the group responds by saying, "here's how I can help", "I have someone who you should meet", "I have some experience with that", "I think that is a fantastic idea, I am fully supportive".
As I watch the community that I am a part of grow and change and build momentum and I am reminded of my time in South Africa. A community philosophy I learned there is known as Ubuntu- "People are people through other people/ I am what I am because of who we all are". I always believed it was a beautiful idea and something that I wanted to have again (after basketball), but I honestly had not felt it. Until now. And I am deeply, truly grateful for that. Human connection and community is one of the foundations of all of life's joy and happiness. It costs nothing and only exponentially enhances our lives. Share, love, build, connect and be happy.