As a kid my family had relocated a couple times. The first, I was too young to be affected. When I moved during my formative years, it sort of forced certain aspects out of my character. I had always been friendly and talkative, but it certainly vamped that up a bit. I suppose this was a form of own social survival. Either way, I hope you like analogies… follow me!
As a Clinical Research Scientist, I often think in terms of biological mechanisms. In this instance, I’m going to take us to a microbiology lab like the Magic School Bus lady. The central dogma of Molecular Biology is DNA -> RNA -> Protein. This is happening in every cell in our body. It’s kind of like DNA is a library full of books you can read but never check out of the actual building (nucleus). You can, however, scan a copy (RNA) of a book (a gene) and take that home to make a recipe (Protein). A protein is a functioning unit that is expressed from DNA. Proteins help a cell function and survive any given environment, like little tools or machines. The flow always goes from the blueprint to finished product; from the inside (DNA) -> out (protein).
When bacteria cells, for instance, are plated and put in an environment to support its normal functions (like a body temperature incubator) it will yield normal/expected growth. However, by even a slight change in its environment, (perhaps a different temperature or change in salinity or pH), rather than the cells just dying they can and will produce different/ specialty proteins to help the cell survive in its given environment. The potential for these proteins to be made is always right there written in its DNA, but to produces these special proteins (that are like weapons for survival) it requires environmental pressures for those genes to be expressed.
In this case, my life was the experiment. I was the bacteria cells and my ever-changing life circumstances were synonymous with changing environmental factors. The unveiled parts of my character were, too, written in my DNA but only came out when I needed to cope or survive. I later realized that these specialized tools I once used for survival were truly a gift that I would one day share with the world.
Growing up I experienced difficulties like lots of people do; some trauma and instability. Very early on I naturally found solace in writing poems, songs and free writing. When I was almost 14 my family moved 700 miles away from family and friends. For me, this was a month before starting high school. It was definitely a shock to my system. Getting involved with the sports I was interested in wasn’t an option, since lacrosse and field hockey don’t exist in the Midwest. Instead, I clung to my musical instruments. I also continued to turn to a pad and pen, my weapons of choice, when I needed to get by. It bled into the music I would then create. Music was my escape from the world. Whether writing it, listening to it, creating it, playing instruments, reading other’s lyrics… It was my therapy. My coping mechanism. My specialized proteins used for my survival. Most people knew I was big into music, but I kept my sacred songs to myself.
Being in a new town/region I also felt the need to socialize more, not just for the sake of it but to get by in life. Making connections often brought more social opportunities with which I would use to escape from instability in my home life. But no matter how many connections I made, no matter how many crowds I mingled with, I never felt like I was in the right environment or community. Sure, it certainly and painfully brought out charming & diplomatic parts of personality. Perhaps it sharpened my ability to communicate with those around me. But I never felt like I had found my niche. I always felt like “what’s going to happen next?”. I often felt out of place, like I didn’t have a home. I turned to drinks and substances as a means to numb any pain I was experiencing. Unfortunately, this led to mixing with some bad crowds and was hurt as a result.
My life continued to get more difficult.
I was my mother’s caretaker until she passed away when I was 20 years old from an 8-year battle with breast cancer. After that I decided to move back to the east coast to get out of a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with a former boyfriend.
I knew I had made the right decision for my safety and sanity, but I was very much alone. I had one close family member locally but still no real sense of community. I enrolled in school and worked full-time, had hobbies but still felt very much like I was rolling solo. All my classmates were younger than me and I couldn’t have related to them as I was light years beyond their maturity and sense of responsibility. I would make friends with co-workers but in them I often found drinking buddies and not profound connections. I experienced plenty of unfulfilling dates... I got to the point where I would rather take myself on a date than go on a bad one.
I stayed numb from my life experiences. For a long time, I made myself be too busy to write creatively or make music – I was far gone. I covered up pain for years with overworking, drinking/drugs and other reckless behavior. Essentially, I was killing myself slowly.
A decade went by and I finally had made a few close connections, but for each positive/healthy interaction came many, far more toxic relationships that I had to continuously pruned from my life. I decided to start taking better care of myself. As I began to heal I eventually began to write and make music again. Creative expressions were a much more fulfilling mode of survival than what I was putting myself through at my lowest moments.
By opening up creatively, I finally found myself in a community that truly helped me to revisit my greatest passions. This community was seemingly great, and I felt like I was finally starting to find my place in society again. But as some years went on I realized that although the scene consisted of individuals that were greatly inspiring in many ways, the community as a whole were only out for themselves. It was competitive and cut throat, not truly as supportive as I had hoped. Though I no longer felt completely alone, I still didn’t feel like I had been living life to my fullest potential.
Since I was so used to being alone, it didn’t faze me much this time. I just kept my healthy distance. When life started to get me down again, I threw my hands up. One day I just decided to become the best version of myself so that I could attract my own tribe. I worked on myself financially, health-wise, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I thought, why should I keep wasting my time by waiting on the right crowd of people around me to become better myself? Why not start from the inside out and make myself who I want to be. It’s in my DNA. Let ME create my own environment.
Part of becoming well included finally believing in myself, owning my abilities & gifts. I finally started sharing my own music and art with the world. It’s wild how once you start to take yourself seriously, everyone else follows suit.
And then one day I stumbled upon CityFam.
The first social event I went to was like plenty of others I’ve been to in Baltimore city. The attendees all seemed like normal people, though I suppose a bit friendlier than what I’m used to.
The second event I attended was for New Year’s Eve. I was personally invited by Rob, the founder, in exchange for volunteering a bit that night. I went expecting to maybe make a few topical friendships, perhaps a professional network or two and have a mediocre night (considering I didn’t really know anyone). What I left with the next morning was an actual family. I recall contacting Rob on my way home January 1st, while ugly crying my face off, thanking him for following his calling in creating this amazing group.
During up my ups and downs in life, never have I ever made such profound connections with so many people in such a short period of time. CityFam isn’t a faith-based organization at all, but as a relatively new believer it was like a breath of fresh air. Ever since, I have found it to be like the home environment I have longed for my entire life. The people are inspiring, genuinely supportive and loving. I seriously had given up on the idea that a community like this could even exist and it utterly humbles me that it does. It’s actually overwhelming sometimes how abundant the love, encouragement and support is in this group. One of the founding missions of this group is to encourage its family members to reach their full potential, whether it’s connecting them with resources, moral support – whatever it takes. This has allowed me to reach much further past the growth I had started on my own.
In such a short period of time I have gained an enormous support system and I have finally started to realize the extent of my self-worth. Being in the right soil has been vital for me to fully blossom. With the support of this community, all the gifts within me that I discovered long ago I am now able to perfect, refine and share with the world - with confidence. And even greater, I now have so many people standing by my side, ready and willing to lift me up.
Allow me to leave you with one more nerdy science analogy. In order for an electrical current to flow it needs two points. A series of these currents yields greater power. If you think of one person’s heart (which has 500x the electromagnetic field than your brain) as one point, an electrical current can actually flow to another person’s open heart. When there is a network of people who are genuinely opening their hearts to one another, this is where you will truly see power in numbers.
Forever grateful for my CityFam.