Craving an Authentic Community


Photo by Isaac Ochoa

This is the road near communications senior and Editor-in-Chief Isaac Ochoa”s house. This is the fifth home where he has lived in the last five years.

A thin, rectangular lake extends from the community playground to an edge of the street and to both sides of the water, there are rows of pastel-colored houses. Most homes have fences enclosing each family; plants shield the unprotected few. I’ve only lived here for the summer of 2016, much like I’ve lived in three other homes for at most a year each. Nonetheless, all neighborhoods that I’ve inhabited have shared the same characteristics: a lack of history and widespread introversion.

The homes are all bland. Four windows cut into the rear facade slightly below the tile roofs, and barbecues rust in patios with sliding glass doors. Never have I seen these barbecues in use. Surrounding the homes, the grass remains bright green even when it doesn’t rain. Its blades instead grow higher with irrigation water from the sprinklers, bringing weekly landscapers to our neighborhood. God forbid the greenery sprouts unrestrained.

The air tenses with a desire for perfection. The neighbors never introduced themselves, and neither did we. When we moved to our first home in the U.S., we presumed the folks in our community would bring pies and treats like we had seen in American television, specifically in “Desperate Housewives.” In retrospect, maybe we should have taken initiative, knocked on a few doors, shaken their hands, and said our names one after the other. But this is our fourth home in four years; introductions seem unnecessary. However, every time we pack and shove boxes into moving trucks, my stomach growls at the thought of apple pie.

It is as if everyone wherever we move is too preoccupied with his or her little microcosm of a home. Every family lives in isolation from the other, and the community fails to function as it should. The pink house down the street should ideally be known by the family inside it, not by a weak description. That’s the downside to Florida. Because the manicured communities have been so perfectly constructed by a third-party far removed from the actual homes, the people who live inside each concrete box never have the need to interact.

A neighborhood must interact. I must know the people who share my street, view me through my bedroom window, and bring their dogs to defecate on my lawn. We all hold the same need for care and love. We must all be there for each other, and never have I craved a community as much as I have in these recent years of loneliness. Although anything but cheerful, the homes where I have grown up have only been a driving force for me to seek something better. I want a life in which every person within proximity is interwoven in the lives of many others nearby. For far too long I have needed to abandon my neighborhood to find a community, which is why I yearn for my college career to begin. There, I will not be inside of my dorm, regardless of terrible weather. I will be found by the lawns, libraries, classrooms, and dining areas, conversing with all strangers as I create for myself an animated and real community.