Courtney Farr: How bowling one Sunday changed my life (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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We are often oblivious to the tiny decisions we make that reshape our worlds. The big ones are obvious: we decide to move, start a new job, or exit a relationship. But sometimes opportunities develop from angles we’re not expecting. We pop into a bar on a random night. Take a walk in a dog park. Drive a different way home. Attend an event on a lark. And our life turns around us before we’ve even realized it.

In the summer of 2022, I was in a period of major transition. I had moved back into Lawrence after separating from my spouse. I knew I wanted to find ways to be involved around town, although I didn’t know what form that would take. But the pandemic had left me severely isolated for more than 2 years, to the point that I had anxiety just being around more than a few people at a time. A way I re-adapted to the world was to stop into Henry’s Upstairs once or twice a week for a glass of wine, sit around people, and read by myself. 

One night while getting my wine, I saw a handbill for a queer bowling social sitting on the bar. I love bowling and desperately wanted to connect to more LGBTQ+ community. Seeing that flyer changed the course of my life.

When I went to the first social, I was welcomed with open arms by this group of mostly younger drag performers and queers. I began finding the community for which I’d longed. The connections and friendships that came out of that day formed much of the next two years of my life.

That bowling social ran weekly for a few months before it faded away, but the friendships persisted. A few months later, several of the regulars from it were among the first people recruited to form a new nonprofit to organize LGBTQ+ events in town: Lawrence Pride.

Initially, I offered to volunteer at events. I’m great at picking up heavy things and setting them down somewhere else. With all the life changes I’d had in the previous year, I wasn’t sure I wanted more responsibility than that. But as I heard about the ambitious plans my new friends had, I knew I needed to be more involved. I agreed to join the board of the nascent organization. 

The rest is history. Much of my time now revolves around organizing or attending queer events; supporting other queer organizers and activists; and a life filled with queer community.

A handbill in Henry’s reimagined my life. If I hadn’t popped in that night for a glass of wine, does my life take some other path? Maybe I would have inevitably become a queer organizer, activist and performer in some other way. Impossible to know. 

What I do know is that one tiny domino two years ago inevitably led to Kaden Nix, our chair of fundraising, and I hosting a new Queer Bowling Social recently, now under the banner of Lawrence Pride. More than 50 people showed up, far more than the smaller socials Nix organized in 2022. Our community is bigger and bolder than ever. The new social will be every month on second Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Contributed photo

I was asked in an interview at this new social about the mission of Lawrence Pride. I gave my stock answer, that “the mission of Lawrence Pride is to host and organize events for our community, bring people together, and provide spaces of joy and connection for all our people in town.” What that means to me is that I believe our work changes the world, in tiny ways at first, that snowball and grow over time.

Every time we have an event, I wonder if this is the day that alters someone’s life for the better. A future board member might have been bowling this weekend. Maybe an important new friendship formed. Perhaps someone found the first building blocks of a foundation of community upon which they will build something new and wondrous. If nothing else, someone felt a little less alone in the world. There’s power in that too.

Every event kicks off a series of stories, most of whose resolution I’ll never see. But I love knowing that all those possible threads have been weaved into the world to find their place.

— Courtney Farr (they/them) is the chair of community engagement with Lawrence PRIDE, hosts the Queer Voices storytelling night, and reads weird poetry on stage too often.

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