My name is Shaylyn Romney Garrett, and I’m dedicating 2019 to reconnecting.
I’ve had a strange and wandering experience during my 38 years in this world, but if I had to pick a single theme that seems to tie it all together, it’s community. I’ve studied it, experimented with it, been fascinated by it, been frightened by it. I’ve reoriented my life around the dream and promise of community more times than I can count.
And yet, for me personally, a deep sense of connection has always been more a dream than a reality. I’m not one of those people who seems to have more friends than they know what to do with. Or to just naturally belong wherever she goes. The opposite is true, actually. I often struggle to build meaningful relationships, usually feel like the odd one out, and have long wondered how to build real and lasting community in a culture oriented almost completely around self-actualization and hyper-individualistic pursuits.
Since 2015 I’ve been on a healing journey, following a life-altering, heart-rending encounter with failure, disappointment, and loss. In experimenting with nearly every (and I mean every) form of healing under the sun, I have succeeded in finding my physical, emotional, and mental footing again, but have also come to understand that healing isn’t a path I can walk alone. Healing happens in community. And the hard truth is that community is something I have thought more about than almost anyone but, in reality, have less of than almost everyone.
So I’ve decided to spend 2019 engaging in a series of challenges that will help me break out of an individualistic, self-focused mindset, and walk my way back to community, connection, and relationship. Each month I’ll take on a new challenge, and explore in this blog what it is in our culture and our daily lived experience that makes it so hard to connect. I’m hoping I’ll find answers for myself, as well as for our deeply lonely, atomized, and divided nation.
If, like me, you feel that it’s time to reconnect, join me by following my journey, engaging in the challenges, and sharing your experiences in the comments. I’d love for you to be a part of my community!
Who am I?
I’m a writer whose work includes the uniquely revealing portraits of religious communities across America published in Robert Putnam and David Campbell’s award-winning book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. I am now co-authoring a second book with Putnam, a leading public intellectual who has been dubbed America’s “poet laureate of civil society.” I am also a staff writer with New York Times columnist David Brooks’s initiative Weave: The Social Fabric Project.
I have also had a successful career as a social entrepreneur, and am the cofounder of Think Unlimited, a social venture working to catalyze social innovation in the Middle East. I lived in Jordan for six years while running this initiative. In 2011 I was honored with the prestigious Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship and was a finalist in the global Echoing Green Competition. I have worked in partnership with Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, was twice awarded a coveted complimentary membership to the Clinton Global Initiative, and have been a TEDx speaker. I hold a BA magna cum laude in Government from Harvard University, and am a returned Peace Corps volunteer.
I’m also a certified Holistic Health Coach, as well as a permaculturalist who loves to get my hands in the dirt, and thinks a lot about healthy soils as a metaphor for healthy human communities.
I now live in the beautiful red rock desert of Southern Utah with my husband James Garrett, our five year-old daughter, Sophie, and our loyal dog Dewey (named for John Dewey, one of my favorite philosophers!)