Finding Community

Posted on Posted in Community Observations, Information, Personal Reflections

Sixty-six percent of millennials choose the city in which they want to live before picking a job in said city. This is drastically different from baby boomers who were more likely to choose a job and relocate to whichever city provided them said job. People are considering location more and more as a top priority, especially recent college graduates. When Melody Warnick, author of This is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are, spoke these words at the fourth installment of the Engage Alamance series this past week, I was left in awe. Recently, I have been heavily considering post-graduation plans, (I’m not graduating until next year), but the time will soon be here and I have not the slightest ideas of where I want to be and what I want to do. That’s the thing, I have been looking deep into the “where”. Where will I decide to live rather than where will I end up? When I do life planning sessions, I research careers in cities that I would want to live in. The other day I even wrote down every city in America that I would consider living in after my time at Elon comes to a close. That is why this information that Melody Warnick presented fascinated me so much, because I thought that I was the only one, or at least one of the only ones.

Warnick titled her presentation How to Fall in Love with Where You Live Now. “The now” is such a huge concept to consider especially as a college student planning for the future. The statistics that she presented were mind-boggling. Warnick expressed that the average number of times that the average American will move in their lifetime is 11.7. That is just the average, some people move far less, but also far more. That baffled me as going to college was the first move I had ever made. Up until August of 2015, I had never even moved to a different house in my town let alone a new place. My family has been rooted in Rocky Mount, North Carolina since about 1993 when my parents built the house that we still live in. I went to the same church since I was about 2, the church that I attended preschool at and where my mom was a teacher. In the fifth grade, I started at the school that I would attend for the next eight years. We were members of the same community pool from the time we moved to Rocky Mount until I turned 16. We were very rooted in Rocky Mount. It is understandable because my mom is from our small town. She lived there her whole entire life until she moved to Raleigh right after she married my dad.

Although I am not in love with my town and my parents will be moving when my dad retires, it’s our home. We have an emotional attachment to Rocky Mount. It’s where we’ve always lived. It’s where we’ve had a lot of firsts and some lasts. It’s where we made lifelong friends. This form of emotional attachment is what Melody Warnick explains as place attachment. It’s how place-making initiatives are born. The idea that people want to make their communities move livable. More lovable.

I do not particularly have a huge overflowing love for Rocky Mount. I have a love for all of the memories that have made up the town that I called home for so long. I have a love for the people that have touched our lives. However, I am left wondering if, when I make that decision to embark towards a town on my list next May, I will not only love what the place has to offer, if I can also memories like the ones that made Rocky Mount so special to me. If I will find a place that I want to be rooted in. Melody Warnick highlights 10 steps in her book that can help make you feel rooted:

1.     Walk more.

2.     Buy local.

3.     Get to know your neighbors.

4.     Do fun stuff.

5.     Explore nature.

6.     Volunteer.

7.     Eat local.

8.     Become more politically engaged.

9.     Create something new.

10.   Stay loyal through the hard times.

I think that the first eight can help to create a platform to help those memories form. I think that number ten is something that I will want to do for a place I call home. Number nine is special. Creating something special. I want for the place I live to be special. I want to create a culture in my own little community where memories can form and be kept. One of the things that describes our cohort this semester is that we are creators. We love to ideate and brainstorm things and then bring them to life. That is the hope for our cohort someday, that we can continue to be creators for our communities, just as Melody Warnick hopes for us all.

Written by: Claire Stanovich