Finding Your Tribe

I was thinking the other day how good it feels to find your tribe. It’s like stepping into a hot tub, you can relax and feel supported and comfortable. You don’t have to make excuses or be brave just to show up.

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It’s hard to be the only one like you in a place. The only Muslim, or Jew, or gay person, or transgendered person. The only brown skin, the only gray hair, the only tattooed skin. The only Dodgers fan in Giants territory. The only Democrat, or Republican, or hippie, or Wiccan, or devotee of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It can feel dangerous. It’s so much easier not to make waves, not to speak up, not to have everyone around you be against you.

And when you find your tribe, the people who are like you, and who accept you the way you are, and think the way you do, it’s so relaxing! You don’t have to be on your guard all the time. You can be more of who you are.

I think there’s a huge value in finding your tribe. It allows people to grow into themselves, to get the support they need to be authentically who they are. And, there’s a danger to it. Our country is very divided right now, because people don’t see the humanity and value of those who are in different tribes.

One of the unique experiences of living on campus in college was having long discussions in the dorm hallways about different points of view. Here were people I lived with, and respected, with beliefs that challenged mine. I had to figure out what I thought, separate from what I had been taught. I learned to agree to disagree, and I sometimes changed my mind. As an adult I mostly don’t have these late night discussions, unaided by alcohol, with people I might not choose to befriend and who might have totally different viewpoints than mine. But those conversations are very valuable. They teach us that the other person isn’t a Republican Asshat or a LibTard, the other person is a person who shares at least some of the same values I do.

So, maybe what we need is more town hall meetings, with no alcohol, where people can speak up about who they are and what they believe, in polite and respectful terms. Where we can hear other points of view than the ones we see in our social media stream. And where we feel safe enough to speak up, even if we are the only one that holds a given viewpoint. Maybe I should run one, myself. Would you want to come, if I did?