Belong to Yourself Before Community

belong to yourself
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For a micro-second after my crash I was stymied. By the time the dust had settled, I had a plan.

While the Good Samaritan I flagged down drove me ninety-minutes to a hospital, I emailed the only person I could think of in Calgary. I’d met him a week earlier at a gathering of adventure motorcycle travellers. If I could reach him, he’d help. His positive email response infused me with great relief and gratitude. I could focus on my medical treatment.

My friend’s kindness and generosity in the coming days and weeks were extraordinary, but not unusual. Riders who travel around the world recount amazing stories of kindness from ordinary people, but it’s not to the same degree as they’ll receive from within your riding community.

Humans are social beings and for millennia, our societal groups have provided the structure for us to survive. Communities arise from a common identity and shared values, whether it’s motorcycle riding, geographical location, or special interests. It’s within our communities that we find acceptance, support, and camaraderie. Membership can be involuntary, such as the one you’re born into, or voluntary.

In spite of the feelings of home and sense of belonging arising from being with your people, there are hazards to navigate.

Communities rely on structure, expectations, and unwritten codes. Conformity. This is particularly vital in times of hardship when events threaten the survival of the group, as my Mennonite ancestors experienced this during the Bolshevik Revolution, Civil War, and famine.

Your birth culture naturally tries to condition you according to its norms and beliefs. It becomes your identity. The biggest danger from a strong culture, whether it’s based on religion, motorcycles, or yoga, is that in keeping the peace you risk losing yourself.

We’ve all come from somewhere that’s molded us. Inner conflict arises when the group’s beliefs and ways of being don’t fit us. Then you need to figure out how to find resolution. Leaving isn’t necessary for everyone, but it was for me. Whether you step away or your nature pushes you away, viewing your culture from the outside helps you understand and value it better. Depending on the group’s significance in your life, it can be an arduous journey, and so worth it.

When we belong to ourselves first, we can explore the strengths and weaknesses of our heritage from a place of wonder and curiosity rather than hostility or judgment. Only then can we find our community and choose how we interact with it. Only then can we know the peace of mind and heart that comes from finding home.

Learn about my journey and how to map out your own in Crash Landing.

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