The Vulnerability of Magical Thinking, & Doing
Walkable Wednesday this week is guest authored by Katherine Teague, a Partner at CityCraft Community Partners. It is not the typical article focused on a specific aspect of walkability. It is focused on the emotions it takes to create the places that allow humanity to thrive. As we all continue to create the places that allow for humanity to feel connected, this is a great resource. Working with Kat and her team over the past year has provided me with significant growth and understanding in my work. As walkable Wednesday continues our team will continue to share ideas and resources we hope inspires you to keep engaging in the community. Our communities are the reflection of each of us. As they continue to evolve it is so important the communication is open and as Kat put it, allow each of us to be vulnerable.
The Vulnerability of Magical Thinking, & Doing
I became a Joan Didion fan circa the early 2000s, my senior year of college, when I was simultaneously experiencing pain from my first heartbreak and my emerging impacted wisdom teeth. Similar in pain, both circumstances struck nerves in me swiftly and randomly throughout the day with panging reminders that I was in a vulnerable state - a season of change marring the end of my college days and the rest of my life as I knew it. Joan was honest and brave in her writing about her experience with grief and her new unknown. Following her journey as a reader, I was able to reap the benefit of what she had sown: I was given permission to heal, and not just to heal, but permission to think about my life magically. That philosophy had a profound effect on my decisions post-college: where I lived, who I fell in love with, and what I eventually chose to do for my life’s work.
CityCrafting brings a similar sensibility to the work of development I have been privileged to do.
Vulnerability is sometimes the state a community is in when we begin working with them, such as when communities have expressed participation fatigue, experience with broken promises and failed results from Master Plans that have left communities feeling unheard, unseen, and taken advantage of. However, vulnerability as a form of openness is also the magic that can result in enduring transformations in communities, bioregions, and watersheds. Being a partner with communities, to be trusted to help reveal emerging opportunities for growth and change, to walk alongside stakeholders in that direction, and facilitating what my good friend and colleague Brent Forsberg calls, connecting the exchanges is a privilege and deeply rewarding work.
Systems are run by people, and that makes authentic relationship building and trust foundational core values of CityCrafting that we do not take for granted. We understand their weight both for the personal and professional success of our projects. At CityCraft, we talk a lot about helping communities heal–we mean that environmentally, socially, financially, but also as (psychologically, spiritually, collectively, and culturally) humans.
In “The Year of Magical Thinking'', Didion's account of the year following the death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, Joan finds herself vulnerable in a paradox between finding a new normal after her husband’s passing and feeling like nothing can ever be “normal” again without him.
These moments in life of healing and growth, whether brought on by choice or chance, are profoundly significant and powerful. These are the moments in life when we find out what we’re made of and what we’re capable of. I have a rather different idea of vulnerability today. I no longer only associate vulnerability to opening yourself up to the possibility of what could go wrong, but CityCrafting has opened my eyes to what can go right if you allow yourself to be open and vulnerable to change, to revealing the chaos within yourself, your community, and being open to the possibility of magic - magical transformations that reconcile our past and chart regenerative futures within our communities founded on regenerative systems.
For example, CityCraft’s work in Noisette, North Charleston, South Carolina in 2001 spanned 12 years of integrated restoration and renewal efforts that included a prisoner re-entry program with strong results in reducing the recidivism rate and increasing alternative sentencing initiatives. And our healing work in cities emphasizes undoing mistakes made across systems, sometimes generations ago, such as residential segregation, redlining, and blockbusting.
Seasons of change are often messy and painful to navigate, but with a little vulnerability and trust in each other and our abilities, we can develop the bravery to dream big and forge the collaboration needed to make enduring change happen: we become a whole much greater than the sum of our parts. I know it’s possible because my life has been transformed by mantras of stronger women, the love of my husband, big dreams, and the healing nature of CityCraft. My hope with this post is to be as vulnerable as I can be in 800 words or less, to share a bit about CityCrafting each post, and invite you all to engage with our CityCraft team on our blog, CityCrafting Solutions. I hope to see you there.