The World According to Rachel: On Community


Rachel Ruecker

Senior Editor Rachel Ruecker reflects on how popular culture revolves around community.

Rachel Ruecker, Senior Editor

Have you ever noticed that the crux of any sitcom worth its salt is an ensemble cast of attractive people, who don’t seem to have any other friends beyond the six or so that receive main billing?

All TV shows — and movies, plays, musicals and just about any other piece of popular culture, really — revolve around this weird, constructed semblance of community and this contrasts with NYU’s notoriety as a school where community is hard to find. This ever-present trope makes it even harder to adapt when you’re constantly bitter that your life hasn’t turned into “Friends” yet. We hunger for that beautiful image of coming home to your friends who know everything about you — the ones who become your family.

We are surrounded by pop culture products that remind us of our shortcomings. The “Friends” building. Katz Deli. The Carrie Bradshaw apartment. The “Seinfeld” restaurant.  Glamorous contrivances of community.

Or maybe it’s just me. Regardless, this past Sunday, I had maybe the greatest day of my life.

I did not win the lottery, nor did I pen the great American — er, Canadian — novel. In all honesty, nothing particularly miraculous happened. If anything, on paper it had the potential to be a worse-than-average day, what with an 8 a.m. wake-up call as opposed to my usual 10 a.m. one. I had rehearsal from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — on top of the noon-until-God-knows-when timeline when I am supposed to be at the fine establishment that is WSN.

So there I was, running up and down Third Avenue, almost as a metaphor for the two worlds I am constantly teetering between. Okay, even I’ll admit, that was cheesy as hell. But even still, I was enriched by the fact that I have two worlds, two passions, two families that I love so much I am willing to get up at an ungodly hour on the Lord’s day for them both. At rehearsal, while we were setting up to run our show, we just played music and danced while lights were being hung and chairs set up. I was taken back to my high school theatre, to our all-day rehearsals on Saturdays when we came in and spent more time sitting around doing nothing than actually rehearsing, but in those moments of doing nothing, we became a family. And that family was what motivated me to continue with my theatre education after high school. Family has kept me spending far, far more of my life at the WSN office than I really have time for. I joined because I like to write, but I stayed because of the friends I found here. You know in the finale of “The Office” when Andy gets all emo and reflective?


Well, at some point that Sunday, I became cognizant of the fact that these are my good ol’ days, and I have to live each moment fully and realize every opportunity. Wow, that was so sappy even I want to vomit.

Last week, Deputy Opinion Editor Andrew Heying and I embarked on a physical, spiritual and emotional journey. We went to Midtown. And wait — there’s more. We saw the new musical “Come From Away.” How was it, you ask? Um, the words transcendent, mystifying, perfect and inspiring all come to mind.

That is to say, it was pretty good.

Mind you, it sort of appealed to my interests, given that I am Canadian, have roots in eastern Canada, my whole family has been involved in the world of air travel in some capacity and I am an Irish dancer. Community, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, is the central thread of my entire life.

Allow me to explain.

“Come From Away” is a musical about the 38 planes that were diverted to the small Canadian town of Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11 and how the citizens of that small community took all the scared, stranded people from those planes into their homes and hearts. It’s heavy on heart but also on of-the-moment subject matter, with the Americans as the displaced ones in this tale, relying on the kindness of another nation to take in its own kind of refugees in the face of a national crisis.

Long story short, the folks who ended up in Gander that day due to the most horrifying circumstances found — for the most part — something they’d been missing while stranded. Tragedy brought clarity. Devastation brought triumph. What a tale. What an important and relevant tale. At its core, it was about community. But like I said, most shows, movies and other pieces of cultural capital are too. Everything is about connecting with others. How incredibly human. Parenthetically, I also went to a show with a friend I met at WSN. Worlds collide again. Feel free to roll your eyes.

I guess my point is: when you find a community that feels like a special one, latch onto it. It might become your major and consequently, your entire life. You might even get your own column out of it. No promises, though.

Email Rachel Ruecker at [email protected].