I walked into the Camp Creek LA Fitness today for the first time in months. Six months ago, I moved 45 minutes away and just didn’t see the point in taking the 30 minute drive from work— until today. Today, I decided to do something that makes me happy, a Zumba class with the one and only Neeco B.
I ran into the group fitness room 15 minutes late and caught the eye of an older Jamaican woman who was my dance partner when I first began taking the class over 4 years ago.
Her face lit up.
“Oh wow. I haven’t seen you in a long time!” I smiled at her and said “I know, it’s been awhile.”
I picked up the rhythm and dance steps like no time had passed. I looked around the room to see a few foreign faces among the strong, vibrant, older women I’d known for the past four years.
A song came on. I recognized the beat but had forgotten the steps. “OOO This is your song!” My Jamaican friend said. I smiled really big. “To be known and loved,” I said to myself.
Neeco showed us the first few steps and within seconds, I was in the swing of it, grateful she’d reminded me this was my favorite. When it was over, we laughed together and she said “You are the only reason I know how to do that dance. It’s my favorite song now too!”
A few moments after class, another Caribbean mother came to me. Her eyes wide. “Ohh is this you? I haven’t seen you in so long.” I explained to her that I’d moved far away. She asked me about my son, who was in my belly when I started the class. I was the only pregnant woman back then, moving my hips and keeping up with the steps; and postpartum, I was back again, working to lose the baby weight.
I saw them every week these people. They were my community.
On my way out the door, I stopped to say hey to our instructor, Neeco. I had a new confidence that I was known and wouldn’t have to bear the pain of reintroducing myself to people I’d met before.
“Heyyy girl!” She said with a huge smile, “I played that song just for you! I saw you back there!”
My heart was full at these words. I was known by these people. Known & loved.
Days later, I attended a Plywood People event, a grand opening party for their new event space.
The building was filled with people. There was music playing, drinks, and desserts everywhere. A friend I’ve known for about 10 years spotted me and said hey. We chatted for just a few minutes before we split, her going to feed her daughter, me going to find the friend I was meeting.
Within minutes, I’d found my friend and then a few others who had been in an entrepreneur cohort with me. It was nice to walk into a room of people and not feel alone. I talked to several people that night. Some I knew, some I didn’t know; yet the feeling was the same.
I felt loved…and I felt known.
For those of us who struggle to find community, this is a reminder to you that you can find that in some of the most unorthodox places. A room of older women shaking their hips recognize me; know me and remember the songs I like to dance to. The people at Plywood remembered my name and the project I’m working on. These small moments remind me there are, in fact, people who are happy to see me and hear from me. There are people who value my presence.
Community isn’t always about the people you’ve known the longest or the people who look like you. It isn’t always about the people who know the most details about you. It’s about the people who help you remember you are important, and needed, and valuable — even if all they know about you, is that you’re here.