How to Create Community After College
When I was in college, preparing myself for a career in the music industry, I always assumed that whatever job I got would be my life. I never thought about what I would do with my time outside of work, other than spending it drinking beer with my friends and binge-watching crime shows. I was involved in extracurricular activities like the school newspaper during my time at MTSU, and even though I did enjoy it, the main incentive there was that I knew it would help make my resume sparkle. I didn’t expect that eventually I would crave having a project purely out of enjoyment with no ulterior motive.
Fast forward to a year into my full-time job. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy my work as a concert marketer, because I do. But eventually I knew I had to challenge myself to get involved in something outside of my paid gig in an effort to meet new people and continue learning along the way. The problem was that I didn’t really know how to do that as an adult without using school as a resource.
It may not be something we realize at the time, but in addition to, ya know, giving us an education, being enrolled in school is one of the best ways to network and become part of a community. If you’re involved in anything outside of what’s required, from being on the soccer team in high school to forming study groups for copyright law classes in college, you’re meeting people with similar interests and forming bonds with them based on that time spent together, and the best part is that the access to it is right there at your fingertips. It’s not quite as easy when you get out into the real world - or at least I didn’t realize it yet.
Around this time last year, I got a notification on Facebook that I had been added to a group called “Nashville Riot Grrrls.” I had no idea what it was at first, but after reading a few posts, I learned that it was a budding feminist community that was inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement of the 90s. I didn’t know anything about punk music so I was a little intimidated, but I’m definitely a feminist so I was intrigued by that aspect. I vaguely knew the founder of the group through the music blog I write for, so I decided to take a chance on it and go to their first meeting.
It’s been a year since that first meeting, when we had maybe five people show up and maybe 50 people in the Facebook group. Now, it’s not uncommon for there to be 20+ people at a meeting, and we have over 600 group members. We’ve organized house shows, sold feminist-themed crafts and raised money for Southern Girls Rock Camp, among several other things. But most importantly, we created a community of strong, smart women who do nothing but love and encourage each another. It’s something I had no idea how much I needed until I look back on my life without it.
This isn’t just me plugging NRG and advocating for feminism. It’s an example of how you can find a community of like-minded people around you no matter where you are and of how social media is one of the best ways to do that. As a millennial, I feel like we’re constantly being blamed for technology destroying our culture, and while it can do that if you let it, it definitely doesn’t have to. If it weren’t for social media, I never would have met the girl who brought me to NRG and changed my life, so I have to cling to the defense that it isn’t entirely bad.
There is a Facebook group for almost anything you can imagine in Nashville, and I’m going to go out on a limb and say there are in other cities, too. Are you into hiking? Check out the Nashville Hiking and Outdoor Recreation Group. Do you love to write and/or tell stories? Look into the Paper State Writing Club or True Stories: NSFW. Are you an artist? Check out Drink N Draw. Are you an animal lover? Look into volunteering at the Nashville Humane Association. Do you want to network even more outside of your day job? Join Young Entertainment Professionals and take advantage of their mixers and events. Want even MORE opportunities to get involved in the feminist community? Join Nashville Feminist Collective (after you join Nashville Riot Grrrls, of course). There are so many ways to get involved in things you’re passionate about, and finding the right one can be as simple as doing a quick Internet search.
The hardest part of this process is, arguably, finding the courage to immerse yourself in a completely new situation that is likely out of your comfort zone. It seems daunting at first, especially if you weren’t the best at making new friends in high school, like myself. But the most important thing to remember is that this isn’t high school. People eventually grow up, and the chances that you’re going to walk into an unwelcoming environment are pretty slim, because these people are there voluntarily for the same reason you are. It’s natural to feel nervous about being the newbie in a group where people are probably already connected, but don’t let that fear hinder your chance to grow with them.
The beauty of being an adult, amidst all of the harsh realities and inconveniences that come with it, is being able to align yourself with whatever cause you choose. So don’t confine yourself only to the opportunities that your job offers if that isn’t all you want out of life. Start looking for the kind of community that you want, because I promise you, it’s out there.