The year was 2006. I was living in Manhattan. I had just finished an MFA program and had stumbled into a dream job as an assistant to a well-known playwright (insofar as any playwright in the history of playwrights has ever been well known). I was 24, and I did what any self-respecting, ambitious, and career-focused 24-year-old does: I moved to Martha’s Vineyard to work on a farm.

What started as an extended vacation, a chance for me to “work on my writing” and “take a break” gradually, and somewhat accidentally, turned into a permanent lifestyle choice. Now, a decade and change later, it’s a choice that many young people continue to make, leaving city centers, happy hours and corporate ladders for simpler, quieter lives. In a 2016 census, more than 2,500 young adults age 20 to 34 were reported to be living on the Vineyard year-round.

That was a surprising statistic for me to learn, especially when for most of my twenties it felt like I had met and re-met anyone remotely in my age bracket, either in line at The Scottish Bakehouse, post-savasana in a yoga class or dancing to bluegrass at the old Little Pete’s.

For some twenty-somethings (and often for the rest of us) the geographical and social limitations of life on an Island can feel isolating. For others, it’s a comfort to believe that the world begins and ends with the tight-knit group of people — family, friends from high school, the crew we collected when we first washed ashore — that make up our own inner circles. In either case, the shared perception among many young adults that “there’s nobody else here like me” is a falsehood, and a potentially dangerous one at that.

Aside from the obvious risks involved with social isolation and disconnection — the greatest hits of which include depression, anxiety and substance abuse — a lack of peer engagement can lead young people into an unrelenting cycle of self-doubt and, in some cases, shame. What am I doing here? Should I leave? Was moving here/staying here/coming home a mistake? For a generation that is developmentally predisposed to this kind of thinking — see: Who am I? What should I do with my life? — this extra layer of uncertainty can be downright paralyzing.

Early adulthood is a time for exploration, for building relationships, for throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks. Based on my own experiences and the stories of the poor souls I’ve cornered in focus groups (or the aisles of Cronig’s), I began to worry that the population of year-round young adults was struggling to find ways to connect, to explore new skills, or to simply be around each other in environments that — no offense to bars or basements — weren’t bars or basements.

In the fall of last year I started approaching a long list of Island organizations and businesses to begin a conversation about what more we might be doing, as a community, to support this demographic. In the beginning, I was anxious. I worried that people might be reluctant to understand that the idea was a worthy one. With so many groups here and elsewhere in need of services and support — children, the elderly, those with disabilities, those without homes — who was I to add twenty-somethings to the list?

The response I received was overwhelming and is the only reason this initiative — called Oyster MV (as in “the world is yours”…) — has gotten off its feet. Yes, the road from adolescence to adulthood is notoriously bumpy. Yes, we find ways to survive the journey — if we’re lucky — on our own. But what these organizations and businesses — from Martha’s Vineyard Community Services to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, from the Trustees of Reservations to The Yard to The Loft — immediately recognized was that living in this particular place, at this particular time, creates additional challenges for those facing the already immensely challenging prospect of growing into happy and healthy adults. We’ve started by forming partnerships and planning events, but more importantly, we’re asking each other questions: How can we create an environment where young people — embarking on the great adventure of adulthood — feel hopeful and engaged? In a seasonal economy, how can we connect the countless employers — tradespeople, business owners, Island institutions — looking to grow a young and vibrant workforce, with the hundreds of under-employed young people searching for year-round work? How can we encourage a generation of young people to consider life on the Island as a healthy, worthy and sustainable choice?

I don’t anticipate that hosting movie nights and hiking clubs will put a dent in the housing crisis or end the war on drugs. But I don’t think it can hurt. And I do believe in the power of bringing people together. At most, it’s an opportunity for meaningful connections, for new beginnings, a chance for us all to keep learning and growing.

And at least, it’s more to do in the winter, which feels like an important place to start.

Alexandra Bullen Coutts is a freelance writer and founder of Oyster MV, a social and professional network for young people living on the Island year-round. Follow along on Instagram @OysterMV.