Some tribes you choose; and some you don’t. When we choose the members of our tribe, we usually find people in one of four ways: similar interests, things in common, in close proximity, and/or through referrals or third-party introductions. Or you can be born into one and others can be born into yours.
When my mom married my dad, she already had two kids, a son and daughter, from her first marriage. When I was born, my brother and sister were 11 years old and 15 years old, respectively. Although technically they are my “half” siblings, I never thought of them that way; they were always whole to me. As the baby of this family unit, I loved my people, looked up to them, and was fiercely proud of them. This was my first tribe.
Growing up in Brooklyn, I had a pretty tight group of friends. Although there were those who came in and out of my life, it was pretty much the same cast of characters from Kindergarten through 8th Grade. We went through some truly After School Special “coming of age” shit, and it was all awkward, but we stuck together. This was my second tribe.
Unfortunately, not all tribes are forever.
When I was around three years old, my sister left home to start her adult life. I don’t remember being affected by this change, but I see how Caroline is with Jillie. And if Jillie moved away, Caroline would be devastated. I have to imagine my sister’s move made me feel some sad sort of way deep down.
When I was nine years old, my parents got divorced. After my parents got divorced, I would lie awake at night replaying “the good times” over and over in my head. I would think about our Saturday evening routines, which involved church, a trip to the butcher shop, the most delicious homemade chicken cutlets, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. I recalled these happy memories and I would cry.
When I was around eleven years old, my brother moved to the West Coast. My mom and I flew out to visit him soon after he left. We spent most of the trip sight-seeing and Open House-viewing. The sun was always out and I was happy; we had an amazing time. But when we got back to New York, I felt empty, and cried myself to sleep most nights.
I missed being around my family. I missed being a part of something. I was angry that my first tribe had dissolved, and I was still grieving this loss.
When I was fourteen years old, my mom decided that we were leaving Brooklyn. I didn’t really believe it, though. She had teased the idea of moving to Long Island (closer to her job) or out to California (closer to my brother). But none of these ideas had ever come to fruition.
Even when she was selling all of our furniture and various other possessions, I still didn’t really BELIEVE it was happening. It was sort of like a “yeah, okay, whatever, mom” or “ya know what? sure! I even dare you!”
Then on August 20, 1998, we actually did it. We boarded a flight at JFK (probably) and landed in LAX (most likely). And that was that.
The move to California was hard for me. While I was initially excited for the adventure, reality quickly set in. Sure, the weather was great and all, but what then? What was I supposed to do next?
I suddenly realized that, despite having my mom and brother in my corner, I was alone in Orange County.
Looking back, I think that there was a subconscious separation anxiety growing inside of me—first because of the dissolution of my family unit, and then because of the 3,000 mile distance from my friends. It was a lot.
I felt alone. And it sucked.
So, I did what any smart 14-year-old girl would do in the late 90s—spent a lot of time on AOL instant messenger. I held onto my Brooklyn friends (and my past) for as long as I could. Letting them go meant that I really was truly alone. And I wasn’t ready to deal with that pain.
I spent almost two years with one foot in and one foot out. I would catch myself laughing at someone’s joke or excitedly talking about music with a classmate, and I’d feel guilty. It wasn’t until one day in my sophomore year, I realized that I had been in my own way this whole time.
I hadn’t been able to build a future in California because I was stuck in my New York past. I needed to cut the cord once and for all and allow myself the freedom to find a new tribe.
From that point on, I finally started developing solid friendships. My new buds loved music as much as I did, and I met other awesome people through them. (close proximity ✔️, things in common ✔️, similar interests ✔️, third-party introductions ✔️)
We started hanging out a lot, going to shows, and making memories. As happens, friends came and went, but the core group pretty much remained the same. This was my tribe.
High school is such a weird time where you feel like you live in a vacuum. So much life happened in those four years that it still blows my mind.
After graduation, we all went one way or another; some of the group stayed tight and others didn’t.
(It’s me. I’m others.)
Sometimes, it’s you who chooses to leave a tribe. Sometimes, you have to decide what the best path is for you. And so, despite it being the unfavorable opinion of my tribe, I walked away.
I left to start my own tribe. This one was made up of someone I chose and someone who was born into it. Four years later, another would be born into it. And we all did our best for a time, until this tribe, also, broke apart.
And once again, I felt alone.
It’s not easy… feeling alone… without support. You have to fight really hard not to just give up. You have to work really hard not to get crushed under the weight of your missteps. But it IS possible to dig yourself out of anything. The strength to survive is innate. We all have this power within us.
That being said, you DO NOT have to do it alone.
In fact, sometimes you SHOULD NOT do it alone.
Though we are ultra powerful beings, it is OKAY to ask for help. Sometimes, we NEED support. Sometimes, we NEED other people. Sometimes we just NEED TO ACCEPT THE HELP when its offered.
This is why tribes exist. This is why they are so important.
And sometimes you find yourself a badass tribe in the most unlikely of places…
To be continued…