Happiness Is Being Recognized at the Store

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

I was meeting a friend for lunch, but he was running late. I stepped into one of my favorite consignment shops to kill time. A cloud of perfumed air smacked me in the face, and as I was trying to place the scent a strange sound reached my ears.

“Britt!” It was my name, called out in a voice ringing with excitement and familiarity.

My eyes turned toward the voice and recognized the dark hair, olive skin, and happy face of a woman I’d met while volunteering at the kids’ school.

“Melanie!” I called back. She hurried over to embrace me in a friendly hug, and I mentally made note of the milestone: this was my first neighborhood run-in since moving to Pittsburgh.

I’ve missed the run-in. It hasn’t been a part of my life for more than five years, not since I left my hometown of 1500 people. Not once did I meet a familiar face at the gas station or grocery store in the Florida suburb where we lived, and I had come to regard these chance encounters as something reserved for small town living or people who never left their birthplaces. When I hear others complain about being spotted out and about in sweats and dirty hair, a part of me is secretly jealous that they were connected enough to their communities to be recognized.

I’ve missed that community connection.

One of the reasons we abandoned full-time travel was because we longed for neighborly bonds. We hoped that trading the suburbs and the open road for congested city living would make it easier to engage with other people, but that’s proved to take a little longer than we’d anticipated. At times I’ve wondered if the only way we’d ever feel part of a community again would be if we headed back to Iowa.

And then I ran into Melanie.

Last weekend we planned a last-minute cookout with our neighbors and friends while watching our children play baseball; that too made me feel like we were starting to become part of this new home.

I know that roots take time to go deep. You can’t hurry the seasons and layers of dirt that create the stability and comfort of being known. But it’s good to see that the process is happening here.

Someone asked me recently what home meant to me now, after all the roaming and leaving and resettling. I told them there are two essential elements for home to me.

Home is:

  • where Jared and my kids are.
  • where I can be myself.

We moved to this city because we believed it would give us plenty of opportunities to be together, but also because we hoped it would offer fertile ground for us to keep being ourselves.

One of the things I’ve learned recently is that being myself means being part of a bigger whole. As I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own skin, I’ve become more eager to explore who I am beyond that boundary – and even beyond the security of my little family.

It comes back to connection, I think.

First I had to connect with myself, and then I was able to connect with those closest to me. Now, while holding tight to my ties to Jared and the kids, I can reach out a little farther and add another ring of connection to my life.

Another ring of connection is another layer of happiness, and I’m grateful for that.

What are you connected to?

  1. James White says:

    Yes, being ourselves is the most important thing. We have to be able to show those around us the best we can do, and community will let us know we are appreciated and can be even better.
    James White’s most recent post: How putting myself out there helped cure my anxiety issues

  2. i had to laugh yesterday when in the grocery store i ran into one of my aunts. we were standing in an aisle talking when i short, older man waved. thinking he couldn’t possibly be waving at us i sort of smiled and kept talking to aunt marcia. guy stopped and asked if i recognized him. when i said no he told me he was donnie’s uncle. donnie is my next door neighbor. i smiled and said hi, but in my head i flashed to this post. so thankful you are happy and establishing happy connections!
    hello haha harf’s most recent post: Question

    • Miss Britt says:

      I was getting on the plane to Pittsburgh last night and thought, “I bet when Becky flies home she knows at least one person on the plane.”

      And then… I was sitting in the same row as someone I’d met at Podcamp!

  3. p.s. this post didn’t show up in my reader (feedly). did something change with your feed that i need to adjust?
    hello haha harf’s most recent post: Question

  4. Megan says:

    I can go years without accidentally running into someone I know – and I have lived in the same area since I was 6.

    Anyway… connections… I am connected to my family – both immediate and extended and to my closest friends. Place is optional.
    Megan’s most recent post: Life On Hold

  5. Brigitte says:

    My daughter aNd her boyfriend moved to Pittsburgh four years ago and they love it. They didn’t have jobs or connections but they are doing great and have made friends and have attracted other friends to move there, I,lived there In the 70s and it is so good to see it looking so much better. I hope it is good for you too.

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