Reverb 10: Community.

On the last day of November, I signed up to participate in #reverb10, a month-long challenge to blog every day of December based on prompts provided here. Here’s hoping it keeps me honest. Today’s prompt: December 7 Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

I went to the grocery store tonight after my workout — my first workout since before I came down with the plague flu. I bought frozen peas, Kraft macaroni and cheese, brownie mix and two kinds of baking chips. (I mixed the butterscotch chips in with the brownie batter. Just what the doctor ordered.)

On my way back into the cold, I spotted the familiar grey peacoat and lightly gelled coif of a former coworker, who happens to live in my neighborhood. I followed him at a safe distance until I knew it was him, then I all but bowled him over in the parking lot. We exchanged awkward pleasantries and small talk, teeth chattering, until he finally moved to unlock his trunk, pack his groceries and head home. The company holiday party — complete with Yankee gift swap and awards ceremony, unless all of upper management were brainwashed between last year and now — is in a few days. Go ahead. Guess how excited he was about that.

I don't miss that forced merriment and camaraderie. I don't miss the winding drive up to the golf club restaurant, the soft drinks watered down with melting ice, the choice of grey steak or fish of mysterious origin. The festering angst that the money spent on those festivities could likely have been put toward hiring another employee to alleviate some stress during the rest of the year.

But I do miss my coworkers. In a way. That community was built around solidarity. We were united against a common foe. Fumbling toward Friday together, every week, for three years. I miss that connection a little. But ultimately? That's not the kind of community I signed on for anyway.

When I signed up for Twitter in June 2008, it's safe to say I didn't get it. I'm not sure anyone did. (Well, I'm sure there are plenty of "gurus" out there now who would love to claim that they've always gotten it.) But two and a half years later, I've written 25,500 tweets. Most of them are worthless crap. I've somehow gathered almost 2,000 followers, three-quarters of which are bots or spammers. I follow an even 1,000 people who live all over the world, most of whom I'll never meet. This is where I live now. This is my community.

I spend most of my time physically alone, but it rarely feels like it. I'm surrounded. By people who have been in my shoes before, as freelancers or entrepreneurs, eager to share vague encouragement or their own success story. By people who can cheer me up when I'm down, with a kind word or a YouTube video. Or a baby animal. By people who are game to meet me for dinner or drinks — or the promise of them, next time they're in town. By people with far too much time on their hands.

My contemptuous corporate community has been replaced with a community of faceless friends. Which…sounds profoundly sad. With a community of friends that I take with me everywhere I go, then. Better? Well, if you don't get it, you probably never will.

2011: Writers.