community / love / relationships

Day 19/28: What does your tribe look like?


“The test of an adventure is that when you’re in the middle of it, you say to yourself “Oh now I’ve got myself into an awful mess; I wish I were sitting quietly at home. And the sign that something’s wrong with you is when you sit quietly at home wishing you were out having lots of adventure.” – Thornton Wilder

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That quote by Wilder was prominently scrawled on the wall of my friends’ apartment in Anchorage. This was the summer of 2001, and I had just quit my job and had time before I started my new job. I decided to take a short trip out to Alaska to join my friends who decided to spend the summer there doing temp work and have an adventure. But, that quote didn’t really resonate with me until I caught up with my one of my fellow friends from that Alaskan adventure a few months later.

For whatever reason, we happened to be in the same town. I was in Dallas for a dental school interview, and my friend was in grad school. We made a pit stop to see his parents. They were very kind and sweet, but once we got back into his car, he screamed in frustration, “Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!! If they spend another evening in their living room watching Law & Order SVU, I am gonna lose my shit. They never do anything.”

As we drove off, it hit me. I finally understood why he had that quote in the apartment. I looked out of my window and smiled. He may not have known it at the time, but from that moment, he was part of my tribe.

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What is a tribe? What would that look like for me?

1) People in my tribe spend their free time pursuing their passions.
I get along best with people who are always tinkering, learning, and diving into new projects. It’s the kind of friendship where if I’m at a cafe with you, you are deep in thought, quietly reading a book in a foreign language or you’re making mad crazy doodles in a sketchbook. While we are working side by side independently, you pop your head up and blurt out your latest insane idea for a new art project and then I get so pumped up I start telling you about this crazy party I went to where everybody was dancing in a forest listening to music through wireless headphones.

Somehow and very quickly, we end up being the loudest table at the cafe, and people are slowly praying for us to shut up and get back to work.  I’m a creative optimist who oftentimes craves the energy of seeing people unapologetically dive deeply into the things they love.

(And, look, I get it. I have a netflix account, and I completely agree. Sometimes we need to just zone out and watch some shows. What concerns me is if the majority of your free time is spent wasting time in front of a television or if I look around your place and I don’t see a bookshelf filled with books.)

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2) People in my tribe are open-minded enough to understand the importance of personal growth, courage, and truth.
I admire people who know when they need to face some fears and change. I also admire people who are there to support me through my own struggles and encourage me to continue growing. I’m lucky to have a very small circle of friends who I can turn to with my struggles, and they don’t walk away in horror or disgust. They patiently sit there, listening, and encouraging.

The alternative can be pretty bleak. I’ve been in relationships that feel like I’m holding my breathe and waiting for growth and change to happen for the relationship and for us as individuals. It’s painful.  I’m just slowly watching us avoid the real conversation that needs to take place or the other person just want to keep things status quo.

3) They know how to have fun and on the other side of the coin, they also possess some depth. The fun and depth elements reflect the range of experiences I have with my closest friends. My closest friends have always been the ones who are able to create their own fun. They aren’t afraid to bring up conversations with strangers. They are comfortable with dancing almost anywhere, even at places where we aren’t even necessarily at a club. The dance parties just spontaneously happen. They are engaged and alive in life.

When it comes to depth, I’m happy when we connect past this superficial level. I’m grateful for the conversations that touch on a random assortment of topics. I want to know their perspective about the world, what do they value and what do they hope to share in their community.

Not only are they there for the good times, they are the kind of people who have my best interests in mind and take the time to really listen. It could be anything from helping me when my keys are locked in my car to checking in on me during some emotionally dark and painful days.

For a good relationship to occur, there has to be an element of hippie along with an element of nerd. The yang (the nerd) has to be there. There has to be some structure or else nothing would ever get accomplished. It’s one thing to talk about going on a trip with your friend, but if nobody was responsible enough to book the tickets, then it ain’t happening. The yin (the hippie) also needs to be in there, too. Can you imagine a relationship with two nerds? They would never explore the world and have any fun.

4) Sometimes I have to be my own tribe.
As an introverted extravert, I need time on my own alone. Time for me to think. Time for me to reflect on all the social connections, random ideas I have come up with, and all the meaning behind the experiences I have had. In order for me to truly be comfortable in my tribe, I must constantly think, question and challenge about my own individual growth. I must learn what makes me tick because when I know what lights me up it’s only a matter of time my passion and vibrations reconnect me back to my tribe again.

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