I’m living in Lancaster, PA, now. It’s no secret that I have a moving disorder that requires I pack my things and transport them someplace else every 6 months. So please don’t feel bad if you’re behind. Just come visit me.
I work at a theatre where I share a cozy office with the director of my department. The view from our window is brick door brick, brick window brick. More brick. I can go all day without seeing a tree–except that I can’t–so I leave my office for dinner.
Usually, I walk home. I live in the smack dab center of this little, not-so-little Pennsylvania city. There’s always something happening, something to hear–construction around the block, traffic, people yelling. Twice, an excellent brass band. On Sunday afternoons, the apartment below blasts loud music with heavy bass for approximately two hours. It rattles my things, I try to ignore it, I get annoyed, it stops.
Having gone to school with a number of folks from Lancaster County, I feel less like I’m somewhere new and more like I’m just late on the scene.
I have discovered, though, that if you want to throw yourself into a new environment, working in community engagement is a pretty sure option. “I’m just here to engage in the community” has become my no. 1 line at all networking functions and whenever I’m in awkward conversation with strangers, which is often.
I attended an event for a community business during my first week at work. I went with a couple of coworkers. It should be noted that they used that same pick-up line to convince me to come. “You’re in community engagement, you need to engage with…”
When we arrived, we did the proper thing to do and avoided all people to stake out the food. While waiting in line for what we think was Doritos with hummus, we casually bumped into someone. My coworkers started chatting with her.
From my tag-along vantage point, I could easily watch as the casual chatter slowly died out, crept in my direction, and then, perfectly on cue, “Oh yes, you should meet Vanessa, she’s new in community engagement.”
“Ah,” the woman said, smiling, “we’ll likely be working with one another from time to time.”
“Really?” I asked, trying to seem sweet and also like a kick-ass business woman who stands up for herself and is older than 24. “That’s super,” I said. “And, sorry, you work at?”
Then there was this really long pause. Like something written in a play–but no, really. She cocked her head slightly to the side, lifted an eyebrow, and said through a plastic smile, “This,” she gestured to the band, the bar, the people, the sparkly hipster-shabby-chic hanging lights, “is mine.”
I apologized. I sort of half-laughed. She didn’t. I complimented her on a really super nice party. And that was the end of that awesome conversation.
So ‘engaging in the community’ has its road bumps and will clearly require a little more time until mastery.
Though there are aspects of Lancaster life that I’ve found take very little time at all. I’ve discovered access to new knowledge and a corresponding thirst for learning that, honestly, I haven’t felt since burning out a bit in undergrad.
There is so much to learn about education and Arts education and the way we learn and why we learn how we learn–and then just nonprofits in general, the business–and then just regional theatre–and oh, my brain is on a continuous buzz. I’m reading new books and constantly signing up for blogs that use hooks like ‘young professional’ and ‘cutting edge’ and ‘Arts education matters’ and I am attending live webinars, and all of this is such a delightful, delightful thing.
With everything happening in Lancaster–a growing Arts scene, a growing yuppie scene, etc.,–I feel like the city is just rooting me on. Check out this! Learn about this! Come to our event!
And along the way, I’m feel I’m (slowly) picking up the little stuff that makes living here living here. I can now tell you which stands at Central Market are worth your dollar (and which accept credit card) and how to pass an Amish buggy on the road. I can tell you a thing or two about tea, incidentally, and give you a great tour of an excellent (haunted?) theatre.
You’re invited to visit, or heck, just move here already. Test my knowledge (or please, please don’t). If you’re already here, we should say hi to each other. Why not? Let’s engage in this community! Just don’t interrupt my webinar.