I don’t tribe well.
I really don’t. That’s the ugly truth right there in pink and white.
As a young girl, I would sometimes run around with the neighborhood kids playing Hide ‘n Seek or walking the creek until the streetlights came on. I would also sometimes spend an entire afternoon reading the latest R.L. Stine novel or making mixed tapes in my bedroom.
I was just as comfortable playing with my friends as I was hanging out alone in my room; however, as the years went on, and I got older, I began to prefer being by myself more and more. By the time I graduated from high school, I only had a small group of acquaintances and one best friend.
I don’t know what it was about my freshman year of college, but things seemed to change for me. Maybe it was some kind of freshman magic? Maybe I had somehow developed a self-confidence I had never known before? Or maybe it was that everyone was new and looking to make connections. Whatever it was, I found my tribe, and I found them fast. And we were inseparable. Of course, as the years went on, I again found myself drifting away, preferring to be in my own company.
When I entered the workforce, it was like freshman year all over again. I found friends with whom I clicked, and we bonded. We shared laughs and career woes and drinks and shoes, yet just as it had before, after a few years, I saw my friends less and less. And I, once again, began to hang out with myself (and now my husband) more and more.
Then, I became pregnant!
As I looked toward motherhood, I had grandiose dreams of finding a tribe, my people. And then…my tribe never showed up.
It’s not like I have never had the opportunity to cultivate a tribe. Looking back now, there were boundless opportunities to find my people, and for awhile I did find them–absolutely amazing people who loved me and supported me and laughed with me through my teenage years, college years, adulthood, and into motherhood. Yet, as was my way, I would soon find myself pulling away from others. Again and again and again.
The truth is, though, that I never found my tribe, not because they didn’t show up, but because I didn’t.
The problem lies entirely with me.
First off, I genuinely enjoy being alone. I find myself pretty fun to be around. I have a quick wit that sometimes only I can appreciate. I can think for hours about the world’s problems and how, if I could just get in there and do things my way, I could solve them all. I’m always up for doing all of the things that I want to do. I buy myself the best books and the cutest items from Target.
When I’m with myself, I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing, what I’m doing, or what I’m saying. I accept me, and I love me. Well, most of the time, anyway.
When I’m around others, though, I have to worry about whether or not they think I’m fun to be around. Am I funny enough? Did that joke go over the way I hoped it would? Did I say that right? Did I do that right? Do I look alright? Am I being a good friend? Is my advice good enough? Do they want to do this, as well, because, if not, what would they like to do instead? Are they having fun? Do they enjoy being with me as much as I enjoy being with them? I hope so, but I never really know. You know?
I spend so much time wondering if the other person is accepting me and loving me for me that I get inside my head and down on myself. So, sometimes, it’s just easier to be alone because I don’t feel I have to impress anyone. I can be myself when I’m away from others. When I’m with others, I never really know where I stand. It’s hard for me to trust others so completely, to allow them to help me and to take on my burdens as their own, when I’m not even sure they really like me. Like, the real me.
The me that eats ice cream for breakfast. The me that yelled at my daughter last night because I was tired and at my limit. The me that doesn’t wear the right clothes. The me that delivers the joke in the most awkward way possible. The me that gets so annoyed when people don’t do things the way I think they should be done. The me that talks a little too loud or complains a little too much.
And, then, sometimes…sometimes people just let me down. When my friend tags another friend in a post instead of me. Or when I find out that two friends went somewhere and didn’t invite me. Or when my friend cancels plans with me at the last minute. It hurts every time.
And, the thing is, these are no one else’s problems but my own. My friends do not say or do anything wrong. These are my worries and my thoughts and my feelings, and there is nothing that anyone else can do about them. Only I have the power here. I realize that. Only I have the ability, as the keeper of these thoughts, to rise above them or to let them overtake me.
Most of the time, it’s easier for me to just let them overtake me and to close myself off for a while to heal. And, when I’m ready, when I’m feeling just a bit more sure of myself and I’ve built up a little bit more confidence, I’ll open myself back up again.
And, maybe, just maybe, the next time around I’ll make a different choice. This time, I will rise above the negative thoughts and self-talk, and I’ll open myself back up again to finding my tribe.