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On Jesscamp, learning to group hang, & healing in community
an interoceptive reflection
Jesscamp2 was a weeklong tpot meetup at a hotel in Germany's Black Forest. The majority of the ~70 attendees are the weird nerdy kids from high school who grew up, got tech jobs, and now spend too much time on Twitter.
I attended figuring that if I just made one good friend at Jesscamp it would be a win, as I’ve found that friendships make life worth living, and cultivating them is worth time and effort.
Learning to group hang
Jesscamp is unstructured—it's just bringing everyone to the same place and letting people figure it out. In most other large group situations, there's some activity that you orient around that helps you figure out how to co-be. But at Jesscamp... nothing. Though people organized some activities, most of it was people standing around talking in groups.
Being a shy introvert who strongly prefers 1:1 over group conversations, I initially didn’t like this. I also realized how much I depend on being alone to regulate my nervous system. Being in group conversations for hours on end was beyond my skillset.
In the beginning I escaped back to my room a lot to re-center. But at some point I tired of this escaping and began observing what was happening in my body. What made me want to run away? I noticed tension arise in my body when things felt discordant (e.g., a few people dominating a group conversation), when I failed to connect with someone, or when I fumbled a social interaction.
As the week progressed, I learned how to hold this tension. I wrapped my awareness around it, holding the tension without trying to change it. It felt uncomfortable, but I could hold it. It was ok! And that ok-ness became a spaciousness that brought ease.
There were things that eased the tension or made me more capable to hold it. Some people made me feel calm and grounded, so when I felt overwhelmed I'd go hang out with them. 1:1 interactions are easier and rewarding for me, so I tried to orient to more of those and save group conversations for when I felt well-resourced. And then there were positive interactions that seemed to dissipate the tension—they were like gaining health in a video game.
You can hope to luck into positive interactions or you can figure out how to generate them. Sometimes I could sense the crest of aliveness and ride that wave in interactions, and it would be magical.
A favorite game was deeply noticing what is lovable about someone and figuring out how to reflect that love to them in a way so they really felt it. This is a beautiful infinite game; I hope to play it more. :)
Healing in community
I'm on a sabbatical where I’m trying to focus on self-development, and I was critical of myself for signing up for Jesscamp (ugh really, spending a week partying with Twitter people? What am I even doing?). However I felt Jesscamp was as useful to my self-development as e.g., a meditation retreat.
Reflected in the eyes of the group mind, I was able to see some blind spots and expand my ability to be (or vibe, as the twitter kids say).
When I returned to the normal world I discovered that everyday interactions were easier; taking space in conversation and being forthright with the entirety of my being felt normal. Yesterday was a procession of deep, honest, and satisfying conversations. What changed?
I think the healing was:
Being held in the arms of community, I realized that even with all my shortcomings and shadow, I was still accepted. I am ok. I can just be how I am.
And maybe this feeling of belonging in a community is necessary for us? After all, we were not always filter-bubbled individual consumers. Before we were Wal-Mart shoppers, before we nursed on glowing screens, before we learned to see value as money, we were always a part of a tribe. We were not I but we.
Have our brains received the software update that we are now to be happy as long as we have a nice house and a shiny car? Have our brains received the software update to interpret every tweet as a hug from someone who cares about us? Have our brains received the software update to interpret being alone every day touching nothing but smooth keyboard keys as success?
I have not received these software updates.
The other day I was at a healing session where I was asked to imagine what it is that I want. I imagined beautiful gardens, deep connections with people, and using my time to build beauty to share with others.
It looked a lot like Jesscamp.
A big thanks to Jess and everyone who showed up and made the event amazing, and everyone else doing the oft-unsung work of building and maintaining flourishing communities.
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