Community spirit vs. solitude

"Would you want to live there?" asked a colleague as we discussed Christina McCarroll's story on cohousing (see story).

The new homes in the Cambridge, Mass., development look nice, and the people who've bought into the community seem as though they would be wonderful neighbors.

But despite that, my answer would be "no." While appreciating the dedication to the common good that it takes to live in cohousing - where all decisions are made communally and the residents frequently eat and meet together - I can't imagine being part of it.

My workday overflows with people, decisions, and deadlines. The last thing I want when I go home in the evening is more of the same. Once I leave the office, I crave solitude. My desire for privacy even extends to vacations. I'd rather stay in an impersonal hotel any day than sit around a quaint B&B, trying to make bright conversation with strangers over breakfast.

That makes me sound antisocial, which I hope I'm not. I spend large portions of my time with people. I also freely participate in volunteer activities - although I have to admit that most of them don't require me to go out in the evening, or endure endless meetings.

Most of us recognize how important it is for every community member to pitch in for the good of all, and that we have to pay this ideal more than lip service. But how do we balance that with our desire to be alone to think and to dream?

Cohousers have found a solution that works for them. They spend time in their own homes, then gather frequently.

It sounds admirable, but I'm afraid my idea of utopia doesn't include any mandatory after-dinner meetings.

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