The Elusive Tribe
I used to be in love with the phrase.
“I’ve found my tribe.”
I’ve used that phrase a few times. And when I used it, I believed it.
I believed I’d found people who got me. Who shared my kind of geekiness. Who cared about the things I cared about.
There were times when I thought I’d found a home.
“Omigawd. I’m such a freak.”
I remember saying this to my partner, Jak, after a frustrating online interchange.
Or rather, lack of interchange. It was in a group that I’d been very happy about months before — one of the “tribes” I’d thought I’d found.
I had posted something earnest and heartfelt.
Nothing had actually happened. It was just becoming clear to me that, even within a group that I’d identified as my “tribe”, I was still an outlier.
It’s Not That Bad, Really…
Now, I’m actually okay with being an outlier. With being perceptibly different.
It’s way too hard to pretend to be something I’m not. Pretending just stresses me out.
I might be prone to beating myself up about my failings (that’s a whole ‘nother story) but I don’t count being different as a failing.
It’s just a truth. We’re all a little different. I’m happy being who I am.
But it’s nice, sometimes, to have a place you can call home. It’s nice to be amongst people who get you.
Can I Rest Here A Moment?
It can be tiring to think you need to explain yourself to other people.
It can be irritating when “one size fits all” seems never to fit you.
Ever wear underwear that’s too big or too small? Or socks that don’t fit?
It’s like that. Maybe nobody sees the problem, but you know it’s there. Things bunch up or move around, distracting you with the uncomfortable fit, making you wonder if anyone actually notices your discomfort — or worse, the fact that you really shouldn’t be wearing whatever you’re wearing.
Sometimes you get the double whammy — like bad underwear peeking out of ill-fitting pants. At those times, plumber’s butt can almost seem like a blessing.
Because at least people know what that is.
I don’t mind being different, but in some contexts I feel like an exotic animal in a zoo. An entry in the “Bizarre News of the Day”.
Sometimes I suspect I’m mostly a source of source of entertainment and amusement. Not in a mean way — folks just don’t know what to make of me.
It’s peculiarly lonely.
But I know I’m not alone in this.
Because if you’ve read this far, you probably know what I’m talking about.
Here’s the Thing…
“Sure you’re a freak. I like freaks. I like hanging around freaks.” That’s what Jak said.
I paused. And thought about all my favourite people. My friends, my family. My hockey family. My ulti family. My old Wing Chun family. Jak.
They were all such wonderful freaks.
Not necessarily in an obvious way. I don’t think they would call themselves freaks. Some of my friends are noticeably eccentric, but not all. They aren’t people trying to be freaks, doing everything they can to be different, and judging other people for not being different enough.
It’s just that most of them are quietly, gently, honestly…odd.
They are themselves.
The people I know and love are diverse. Some are quiet, intensely private. Some are visibly eccentric. Some are boisterous. Many are funny. I know musicians, accountants, mechanics, engineers. Techies, artsies, makers, dreamers. People who want to tick off the boxes of a “normal” life, and people who want to do things that no-one has yet imagined. Often my friends are a bunch of those things, all at once.
The people I love have their own interests and enthusiasms. I don’t necessarily know everything about them. I don’t always agree with everything they think.
Yet I know we can spend time with each other and hang out and have fun. I don’t feel out of place with them. I’m not like any of them — but I don’t need to be.
We are a family of freaks. We all enjoy each other for who we are.
These people — this oddball collection of people that I have mostly accidentally met — they are my tribe.
Finding my tribe wasn’t about sharing the same world view.
Or the same jobs.
Or the same core experiences.
Or even the same interests.
Overlapping interests may have brought us together, but there are plenty of interests we don’t share.
So What Do We Share?
I think it’s this:
- A willingness to accept each other for who we are, even if we don’t agree.
- A curiosity about each other, but a respect for the boundaries that each of us need.
- A belief that each of us has something of value to contribute, be it skill or expertise or perspective — or just our presence in a room.
- And kindness. For each other. For ourselves. Sometimes we have to help each other with the latter.
When we are together, we don’t need to pretend we are anything but who we are. We let ourselves care about each other. Make fun of each other. Stick up for each other. Make room for each other.
It wasn’t about “getting” each other.
It was about letting each other be.
And: appreciating each other for being.
It’s not always where you think it will be.
Sometimes — you’re already there.
Who is your tribe? Or, if you’re not sure you have one, who would they be? What would you share? What, in your opinion, brings you together?
Yep, space for your comments below. I wanna know.