Who's Your Tribe?

Do You Have a Tribe?

There’s been a lot of talk in spiritual, motivational, and even advertising circles about our tribes – how to create and nurture them, the importance of them, their characteristics, and on and on. Whether referring to friends, fans, or customers, the term “tribe” has all the earmarks of soon becoming a buzz word.

Which is probably why the term came bubbling up to the surface of my brain recently as I was contemplating my current state of mind. If you remember awhile back, I apologized for being absent from my blogging because I’d been wrestling with my demons. Well just the other day one of those pesky demon issues got a name – “tribe.”  Driving home from work one day, it occurred to me that one of the things that is bothering me is my lack of a tribe. Let me see if I can explain…

There were four distinct periods of my life when I felt that I was part of what is now defined as a Tribe.

First, the tribe of my family. I grew up as one of a triumvirate of women – my mother, my grandmother, and me. My father was mostly out of the picture by the time I was a toddler. My grandfather passed away when I was 8.  From that time on, Mom, Gram, and I were the three musketeers. No matter how hard life was or how crazy one or the other of them got, we were in it together. I felt like an equal part of the unit. We each had our roles and responsibilities, we each contributed and participated fully, and I felt like I belonged and was a vital member.  My mother passed away in 1987 and my grandmother passed away in 1998. No more tribe.

My second tribe consisted of musicians. In junior high school I took up bass playing so that I could be in the orchestra. By the time I got to high school I played well enough to be in the high school orchestra. By the time I was a junior in high school I was participating in local orchestral and musical theatre groups, and all-state honor orchestra. I went to USC on a music scholarship as a music performance major, and by my second year there was also playing in YMF Debut Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony, and pick-up groups all over the southland. During these years from 1968 – 1977 when I was a muscian, I most definitely felt like a well-respected member of a tremendously hearty, thriving tribe. We all worked together, played together, and were vital elements of a greater whole. I gave up music as a profession in 1978. Lost another tribe.

The third and fourth tribes were dance-related. Tribe number three was Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association. I had the greate good fortune to discover PBDA when it was less than a year old. In 1984 I read an article about this sister-duo who were giving social/ballroom dance classes designed to teach people simply how to have fun on the dance floor (as opposed to ballroom studios focussed on teaching people how to compete). Well, these two sisters, plus their lovely mother and father, created a dance family. By the time I’d taken most of the classes and had been there for about a year, an inner-circle group of die-hard social dancers had begun to form. We all came early and stayed late to help set up and tear down for the big dances. We went to dinner after dance class, we went out dancing together, we went carolling at Christmas-time and attended the Rose Parade for New Years.  It was a great four years for that tribe! But in 1988 circumstances intervened, and I left my PBDA tribe.

It took me a couple years to find tribe number four – salsa dancing. Boy, what a fun tribe that was! It took some serious persistence to get good enough to be brought into the fold of the hot salsa dance tribe, but in the early 90’s it was a much more chivalrous environment than it is now. It didn’t hurt that I was a blonde gringa in my hot-thirties either!  By 1994 I had met a guy (isn’t that always the way?) who could dance but who didn’t like salsa dancing.  Foolishly, I chose the guy over the tribe. Adios to a very cool social tribe.

Interestingly, the guy – even though we were together (and engaged) for four years – didn’t become a tribe. Nor have I become part of, or formed, any other tribes since. And it is this lack of a sense of belonging to a cohesive tribe that has been on my mind lately. In fact, I find it very disturbing. I yearn for that feeling of being part of a tribe again. And yet, if you know me well enough, you know that I am persistently unconventional, I don’t follow the crowds or the trends. Given that fact, I suspect becoming part of a tribe is rather akin to finding a needle in the haystack.

I don’t bond easily. I don’t enjoy typical social activities like bar-hopping or sports-watching.  I don’t enjoy typical social conversation. So how do I find a tribe?

I’ve tried getting back into dancing, both social/ballroom and salsa and that failed to get anywhere close to tribe mode. I’ve tried going to church and even though I found a church whose principles resonate with me, after attending for 3 years I still didn’t feel like I fit in. I’ve been in the fashion industry for over a decade now and don’t feel part of any sort of tribe there.  My 1994 guy was the last “serious” relationship I’ve had, even though I’ve actively dated ever since. So I’ve never succeeded at creating a new family tribe.

So what, exactly, is a tribe? How does it form? How do you find one? And just how important is a tribe?

What are your tribes? Are you aware of how important they are to you?

Or do you lack a tribe? If so, how do you feel about not having a tribe?

This inquiring mind would like to know!  So please leave comments, tell me what you think…

 

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2 Responses to Do You Have a Tribe?

  1. Diane May 8, 2015 at 5:58 am #

    Just going to respond quickly, with unconsidered words, because this is such a deep thing and calls to me. I think that being older factors in, or perhaps I just tell myself that. But finding connections when others have them already is a thing. As you know, I moved from CA to MA in 1994 (that blurs it. I really moved from CA in 1994 or 1993 and lived in NY for 18 months and then moved to MA) and started to have kids. I met a lot of folks who had kids; the new mommy bond is tight. But now they are growing up – the kids! – and the moms are making new patterns in their lives. This means they are busy with jobs and not available when I would like connection. I do belong to a church and have some connection there, but nothing like the tight bonds I had in CA, and I am not sure why. I am hoping/expecting that the connections I will make when I eventually find the right job fit will help. There are two things I need, water cooler chat, and we-really-are-connected. The first I will find with a job, the second will be less common.

    Something like that.

    • Cindra May 8, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

      You mention not finding anything like the tight bonds you had with your tribe in California and it made me wonder if those bonds we had with folks we went to school with are ever as tight with anyone after that. I realize that not all your CA friends were necessarily people you went to school with, but you were all young and that made me think about those high-school/college bonds we form. After we’re done with school we are never again in a situation where we are thrown together with a peer group for extended periods of time where we work, play sports, participate in structured groups of all kinds, study and prepare, socialize, and in some cases even sleep together in the same room. It is circumstantially unique. Perhaps nothing else in life can really provide the same level of opportunity to form a strong tribe.

      I wonder. What do you think?

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