What's Your Beef? I Get by With a Little Help From my Neighbors

The growing housing market in Bozeman creates tension, and we need one another to make it through the changes.

Emily Lewis  |   Thursday Jul. 1st, 2021

Some of us have memories of nights spent walking around Bozeman near the old Hardees and Blockbuster, with close comforts like curly fries, friends, and hot asphalt. We look at spots around town and feel the energy of old spaces. In our nostalgia exists fear of letting go and stepping into anew. Few people in town expected our community to grow quite like it did. Time does keep going even when it feels everything stands still, when construction stops on the roads, and when summer clothes get put away for the winter season. Still, Montana lacks a certain permanence. Reasoning through this time of growth means ceasing our need to control, it means accepting and realizing the seasonal environment we already live in. We are constantly embracing change in the valley. Yet, all change requires some adaptability, no matter how used to it you are.

When people ask me where I’m from, I say Bozeman. I stray away from calling myself a local. I know we can be from, a place but the stewards of the land we reside on are and have always been Indigenous people. Sometimes we lose sight of this in Bozeman. We have a tendency to see what is ours and control it, name it as our own. While over the past year Bozeman has experienced more growth than ever, I watch with awe and curiosity. Our community feels like a pressure cooker waiting to explode. The pressure comes from the stress of worrying if everyone will make it through the growth we see happening more and more every day.

The seasons we experience in the Gallatin Valley remain a harsh, but dependable foundation for us. The dependability we have on our seasons gets us through times of uncertainty in our lives. Understanding the certainty of ebbs and flows of hot and cold helps us process why many people’s lives revolve around nature here, not only outdoor-enthusiasts, but farmers and ranchers. We live inside a foundation of constantly needing to adapt in Bozeman, to whatever weather pattern is coming next. Even if we feel like we’re prepared for seasons, likely we get a rude awakening. The forced adaptation always keeps us at the mercy of Mother Nature.

People of Bozeman feel loss with each familiar place that closes, with every new foundation or property getting built, and with greed put over our environment and human lives living in it. The loss is felt at home. Our sense of belonging gets rocked every time we lose a place that meant something to us in our town. Or, maybe when a friend needs to leave town because they can’t afford the housing market anymore. The grief we feel over our losses hits us every time we lose something close to home.

Grief over what we thought our futures and homes would look like in Bozeman leaves us in unfamiliar mourning. We mourn a future we never experienced, for ourselves and our families. Moving through this period of growth and pressure in our town in healthy ways requires people to begin processing their grief. Grieving doesn’t need to happen at an individual level. We can move through our grief as a community, and find common ground with one another in our losses. Empathy and compassion for other people helps us understand where our own feelings come from. During times of chaos and upheaval, we need other people and a strong sense of belonging.

Everyone in Bozeman experienced some sort of loss over the past year, even if the housing market kept growing. Our sense of belonging can feel shaken through loss. We need connection and reconnection throughout. When the community we live in changes dramatically, especially in a short amount of time, we need other human beings helping us. We can attempt rebuilding our sense of belonging with one another through compassion, empathy, and the understanding of other people’s experiences. Acting like a community will help us get through this time of tremendous, and sometimes painful, change.

We cannot control one another within our community, but we can keep remembering we live in a community. People get through tough times by guiding one another and providing support. We must realize, although our backgrounds are different, in Bozeman many of us relate recently through the loss of pieces of home. We may feel alone in our loss as our town grows bigger and the places we love become less of a secret, but we aren’t alone as individuals. I believe we have each other in our community.

About the Author(s)

Emily Lewis

Emily Lewis is a writing student at Montana State University. She grew up in Bozeman and she values all humans of our community; She advocates for human rights awareness; She believes we all have the right to peacefully enjoy where we call home.

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