When I first started this project, I had this real desire to get involved in my community. I'd been living in Kirkland for a year, and I pretty much don't run in to people I know there. Maybe this is nostalgia from growing up in a small town, but I couldn't feel like my surroundings were familiar until the faces in it were too. Of course, what counts as 'my community' seems to be in flux a lot. The lab is across the lake, my old office was in Queen Ann, my house is in Totem Lake. Some of the things I have been working on have really helped a lot. For starters, getting my family and friends involved with me has been really cool, whether we've been running 5Ks or making meals. Learning more about these causes has also helped me to feel grounded in this project. I don't think of those punks at the mall as punks, I think of them as homeless kids who need my help. My homeless kids.
As always, having a real life does get in the way of my fantasy. This is in part because I don't have infinite time to be attending meetings, meeting with people and building relationships, even when the cause really matters. I've been to various Friends of Youth Offices several times, but I 1) don't know anyone's name there, and 2) don't run in to those people elsewhere. I don't know the names of a single person who I've served dinner to. This is fair, considering how little time I actually spend there. The point is, now that we've passed the halfway mark, and I've got a bit of momentum and some time to think about what this whole crazy affair is about, I feel like the real, personal connection is still missing.
This might be because opening the lab took a heap of time, and a lot of effort that involved either working alone in the lab, or sitting at home on my computer. I can rationalize that I think this is important, long term work. But man, I'd really like to spend more of my time with other people. Another crunch on my time has been working. I can't pretend I was working more than most full time people, but with an hour commute on both ends, it really takes a bit out of the day.
The update that I am choosing to view as good news for now is that I have completed my contract, so I suddenly have a lot more free-time. Yes, I will be spending the bulk of it looking for my next job, but the last time I was looking for a job, I felt terribly isolated and unimportant. Making phone calls and submitting job applications that never get answered can do that to a person. These are both feelings that charity work can help to alleviate, so I'm hoping to dedicate some of my time to moving along this lofty goal while I have more time than money. This can hopefully help me to get in touch with the people in my community, which will help me to feel like I belong here.