I am the world’s pickiest eater. I am also the person who comes up with all kinds of border regulations on her plate so that certain foods don’t touch other foods. And when it comes to trying new things, I am known to play it safe. So I was just as shocked as everyone else to find out that I actually love sushi.
The first time I tried sushi, I let some friends guide me through the process. They ordered a few different rolls and let me try each one without allowing me to see the menu to read the creepy details. I can’t say the experience was enjoyable because of the staggering level of trepidation involved in every bite. To my surprise, the third roll I tried won my heart. This one was definitely strange, but as I awkwardly chewed each piece, I was certain I would grow to love this particular bundle of nutritional oddness.
After dinner my friends lowered the boom and informed me of the fateful ingredients that had been given full romp of my insides—eel, avocado, seaweed, cream cheese. Did I mention the eel? Did I mention cream cheese and avocados disgust me? I felt as if I had betrayed my own digestive system, and I was prepared for the backlash that might haunt me into the early morning hours.
I laid my head on my pillow that night, awaiting the nuclear consequences. I stared at the ceiling already plotting how I was going to survive the day after. And after a few hours of worrying and flipping channels waiting for impending doom, the nausea never hit. I couldn’t believe it. However, my stomach most definitely gurgled a few comments through the night, which sounded like, “Um, yeah—we don’t really know what to do with this stuff, but we’ll give it our best shot.”
So I woke up the next day, insides intact, to the strangest urge. I was craving that sushi like there was no tomorrow. I absolutely could not shake the taste from my mouth. There was something so right about something tasting so absolutely foreign to me. Every morning that week, it was all I could think about. That disgusting eel thing.
In the next month, I must have hit that sushi place five or six times to visit my newfound culinary love interest. And with each New York Roll I conquered, the fear factor started to fade, and I began to scarf down the elements as if they were as friendly as french fries.
The first time we try to embrace community, it is extremely weird and uncomfortable. But there’s something about it. Just something. Our earliest induction into the blessings of community lead to immediate cravings, to the point that we can no longer stand to live life in a silo. Everything within us pleads, “What are you doing to me?” while at the same time slightly nudging, “I think I might grow to love this.” It is a wacky mix of unsettling satisfaction. It frightens us and yet disarms us at the same time.
Living in community awakens new desires and needs within us that we never knew existed. I never knew that I needed to coexist with others until I made an effort to choose community. I never knew I had a desire to live life alongside others until I forced myself to get out of the house and roll the dice. The choice has to start with us, no matter how lonely or isolated we feel. We choose community and then the beautiful thing is that, in turn, community chooses us. It’s a risky bite of something strange that could lead to a great reward with every attempt.
Sharing life with others also takes us to the very edge of our comfort zones and then lovingly pulls us over that edge time and time again. And so we begin to let our guard down in the foyer as we talk about life with people we’ve just met. We begin to call our friends when we need a ride to the airport without feeling like we’re an inconvenience. We show up for board game night, even though we feel like a deer in headlights when we have to read anything aloud or act anything out. Because there’s something healing and gravitational about sharing space with others, even if the trek is a bit clumsy.
The time has come for me to up my sushi game and try something new, and the mere thought is slightly terrifying. There’s no telling what unruly sea creatures I might develop an affinity for next. Odds are the experience will once again be a reminder that what seems awkward and intimidating at first can be strangely beautiful when it is allowed to show us a thing or two about what we really want, what we really love and what we really need the most.