“What you seek is seeking you.”
The Persian poet Rumi wrote these words more than 700 years ago. He was an immigrant, whose ideas brought together diverse communities around the world.
I’m an immigrant. Raised by a Pakistani father and Malaysian mother, and having spent the early part of my life in the Middle East, I wasn’t always sure where I belonged. I wasn’t sure how to define my identity or community.
I grew up as what’s known as a third culture kid—raised in a culture other than that of my parents, part of a group often developing an identity rooted in people rather than places. For those who aren’t familiar, you might recognize us as the ones who, when asked where we’re from or what we consider home, struggle to figure out if we should share the short or the long answer. “What do I say?” Or, when asked to list a permanent address on a simple form, we might briefly start sweating or break out in hives.
It really started hitting me after moving to New York City to start my first full-time job. As the friends I’d spent the last four years with at college moved away to distant cities to make new discoveries, I found myself finally feeling at home in a city bursting with diversity of all kinds. Before I knew it, the energy of the city welcomed me in with open arms.
What you seek is seeking you.
As circles expanded socially and college friends met up less often, I became determined to bring together diverse groups in my life. I started what I called the Burger Tour. Burger Tour was a monthly event, where we’d go from restaurant to restaurant, trying new burgers and pouring over ingredients and critically important details, like the bun-to-beef ratio, to cheese or not to cheese, and whether or not veggie burgers even count (FYI, I’ll allow it). It became a great way for friends across boundaries to gather for a meal, get to know each other, and stay connected.
More recently, I’ve thought a lot about those first few years in New York and about the importance of community. How it boosts our health, what it means to each of us, how to find mine, and how to help others find theirs.
When I launched Hue, a digital community connecting people of color across the country in the midst of a world-changing pandemic and rising social movements, I discovered just how far-reaching the idea of community can be. Since then, I’ve asked more and more people what the idea means right now, how they define it, and how it helps them understand themselves. And I’ve come to some answers for myself.
Community is family. It’s our people—the ones who share values and common ground. The people we’ve known for years and the ones we meet who feel like home. They’re the ones who make us feel stronger together. The ones who recognize that something as simple as breaking bread—sharing a meal—can build a bridge to connect us.
Community is having supporters cheer you on like fans. It’s our people—right there by our sides, so we know we’re in it together. The ones who keep us energized and eternally optimistic as we celebrate highs and propel ourselves forward through challenges or lows.
Community is focused on the future. It’s our people—coming together to savor the daily moments that matter most. The ones who cooperate and collaborate to make the best things come to life today but to also make things better tomorrow. Those who do this not just for ourselves as individuals but for all of us as we look ahead toward what’s next.
As many of us take the time to reflect on the past twelve months and plan for what’s to come—albeit with smaller gatherings than we’ve had in the past—let’s all take a moment to pause and ask ourselves: how will I connect with my community in the year ahead?
And if you’re still searching for yours, fear not.
It may just find you.