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Even My Inner Hermit Needs Connection


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Even My Inner Hermit Needs Connection

Commentary by Tracy Simmons | FāVS News

The pandemic affirmed my inner hermit.

Curling up with a book, or going on a solo hike or bike ride has always taken less energy for me than being in a crowd.

I once read that telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.

This proved true when I went to a party at my friend’s house the other day and found myself hiding in the kitchen, backed up against the side of the fridge, like a trapped mouse. Luckily my wife was with me, calming my nerves with her smiling eyes.

In the end, I’m glad I went. I had fun. I talked to colleagues and new friends and felt my nerves easing as the evening went on.

The Introverting Extrovert

Ironically, I chose a sociable career.

As a professor I’m in class all day engaging with students. Similarly, as a journalist, I’m constantly meeting new people and dialoguing with them.

I love what I do, but I’m drained by the time I get home.

In “The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside our Hidden” Jenn Granneman wrote, “Introverts live in two worlds: We visit the world of people, but solitude and the inner world will always be our home.”

It doesn’t mean I don’t like being around others. In fact, I need community.

Similar to motivating myself to workout in the basement on a cold day, it takes intention to peel myself away from, well, myself, and go to people. Afterward, I always feel better and am glad I did it.

Building Community, One Conversation at a Time

When I moved to this area to start FāVS, an online religion news publication, I wanted to find a way to bring people together, offline. I knew that meant stepping out of my comfort zone.

I couldn’t hide behind my notepad if I was going to try and engage readers and build community with them.

So I started Coffee Talks, a panel discussion held at local coffee houses lead by FāVS writers. We brought readers and writers together — all faiths and non faiths — to openly talk about difficult, but important things.

Our first Coffee Talk was in January, 2013 at Chairs Coffee (RIP) and was titled “Angry at God,” held in response to the Newtown Shooting. It was standing room only, including a room full of conservative and progressive Christians, Muslims and atheists. People cried, hugged.

I knew I had to keep these conversations going, even if it meant stammering an anxious welcome in front of a crowd full of strangers.

Over the years we talked about gender and spirituality, money and ethics, religion and patriotism and other challenging topics. In time, these discussions became so popular that we outgrew local coffee shops.

When Virtual Falls Short: Longing for Real Connection

More importantly, through Coffee Talks relationships were being formed — for me and for others. Jews and Christians were becoming friends, Evangelicals and Muslims were having coffee dates and I was getting to know FāVS readers in a meaningful way.

Then, like it did so many things, the pandemic came and shut Coffee Talks down. We tried organizing them on Zoom, but it wasn’t the same and we lost our momentum.

For many occasions — work meetings and webinars — I like being able to attend virtually with my camera off. But I miss my FāVS community. They inspire me, they teach me, they challenge me and I need them.

Reuniting the Community: An Invitation to Connect

So we’re re-launching our events, we even hired someone to help us organize them. We’re starting with a FāVS News Happy Hour, a reunion, on March 23 at 6:30 p.m. at ELEVAR, 1407 West 1st Ave. There will be live music, a cash bar (with non-alcoholic drink options) and plenty of people, like me, looking to connect with people who care about building community and bridging divisions. (There is a $10 charge for non-FāVS members).

I hope you’ll come. If you do, please find me and say hello. I’d like to meet you.

The views expressed in this opinion column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FāVS News. FāVS News values diverse perspectives and thoughtful analysis on matters of faith and spirituality.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of FāVS.News, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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