Sunday, March 3, 2019

Find Your Tribe; Love Them Hard

I've never been one to have a "tribe." 

I used to - and still do, honestly - envy those people who seemingly have this large circle of friends upon which they can give to and take from on a regular basis. I just assumed I've never been a tribe kind of person, I guess.

Growing up I had my close couple of friends - my BEST FRIENDS IN THE WHOLE WORLD FOREVER, you know? Though things didn't necessarily work out that way, I at least still know where they are today (thanks, Facebook).

In high school, I had a group - I guess that's the closest thing I had to a tribe, but it helped that I was dating someone within the circle, as was my bestie at the time. That's probably how a lot of young people find their tribes - intertwined relationships become long-term commitments/marriages and voila - instant tribe! 

Attending four colleges in four years didn't really allow me the time to find a tribe, nor did I have any interest in one - I was just trying to get through an agonizing four years of school. I figured (probably wrongly) that any tribe I became a part of would be short-lived anyway.

Motherhood did allow for a tribe of sorts - wonderful people you may not otherwise have anything in common with other than you all have kids the same age. We bonded over kids' ages and stages, birthday parties and the PTO. But middle and high school brought changes in the kids' friends, different interests, and moms like me who returned to the workforce. 

Though I didn't realize I may have had a tribe per se at the time, looking back, I wish I would have nurtured it better. I wish I would have appreciated how precious it was to have at least a handful of people you could call for advice, comfort or to share the latest awesome (or awful) thing your kid just did. A tribe who knew where you were in life and could relate. Once your kids are grown, I find, unless you've established your tribe, it's pretty hard to find one. We're older now, and our routines and patterns - including friends - seems a lot more set. It's hard to find a group of people who have common interests. I'm not married. I don't have kids in college. In fact, I still have a kid at home as opposed to many people my age who are becoming empty nesters. 

Though I was always envious of those who had a tribe, I realized that I never considered myself the tribe type. As much as I love being around people I enjoy, I crave my alone time. I'm old enough to also know that when my mood takes a dive, which it sometimes does, it's best I remove myself from any sort of potential tribal interaction. In fact, I'm very likely to push people away who may attempt to even invite me in, which I figured was best for all involved. 

But I'm starting to realize it kind of isn't. 

I've figured out I need a tribe. It doesn't have to be a big one, like you think of when you think of the word "tribe." It's going to be small. And it's going to be diverse - my friend circle consists of people from a bunch of different tribes; in fact, I'm not sure I could ever get every member in the same room at the same time. 

And that's OK. 

This realization hasn't happened suddenly, obviously, since I'm 52 years old and just figuring this out. Last year, I lost a lot, it seems. One of my good friends (who had a HUGE tribe) died of breast cancer at the young age of 42. My son was in a devastating skiing accident that as a result has changed him physically and mentally - it's been a journey I didn't anticipate it's a lonely, exhausting one at that. I was in a relationship that I wish I could have continued but I just couldn't get my shit together - plus he already had a tribe (that I loved, by the way) and he just didn't need me - and I have found that I need to be needed. (Fun fact: Even if you love a tribe, when you end a relationship, you lose the tribe, too. Don't believe it when he says you'll still be friends. He doesn't mean it.)

All this, along with a couple of personal crises early this year, made me realize that I needed to try to piece together some sort of tribe. I had backed away from so many people because I didn't want to burden them with my shit (thinking: we ALL have our shit - who wants mine?) but in a moment of desperation, reached out to a good friend I had kind of lost touch with. I told her what was going on with me and my reasons for not reaching out like I should have and it was like no time had passed. She told me she had missed me, she was there for me and hopped on board the tribe train. I reconnected with a friend who I hadn't talked to much due to us both being in a relationship (word of advice: don't dis your friends when you're in a relationship - what a stupid move.) I found that she and I were going through similar situations and we were able to commiserate and help each other through. I made more of an effort to talk to and get together with a very dear friend who is quite a bit younger than me - realizing that WHATEVER is going on in her life or mine, she never stopped reaching out. I was introduced to a couple of new friends due to some similarities in our lives right now and they have been my lifeline. And I'm slowly trying to let more people in - people I trust and people who I can try to help in return. Hell, most of my tribe doesn't even live in this town. 

It's a slow process, but I need a tribe - and I need to be needed as part of one. My tribe may not get together for weekly happy hours, and we may not all be on a huge group text, but I guess not all tribes are cut from the same mold. I've found people who may have their own tribes that maybe they consider me a part of, maybe they don't, but they're a part of my motley crew and I'm fine with that. I hope they know I'm here for them and I know they're here for me. And according to this definition, it looks like I got me a tribe after all. 

I'm finding my tribe, and I'm loving them hard. Thanks to all of you who are in my corner.