Finding Your Tribe

Finding Your Tribe

I love the internet.

I know there is a seedy underbelly, but on the whole, I don’t venture in those parts. Instead, I worship at the altars of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Wikipedia.

As an extrovert, one of the hardest things about being a SAHM is the isolation. It’s not so much that I need to be surrounded by people and constantly in networking/party mode. (In true fact, I HATE those modes. Nothing is worse to me than the same vapid conversation over and over again and my face hurting from plastering a friendly smile on my face when I have zero actual desire to smile. I digress.)

I think I just don’t like being alone. What I love is the comfort of someone else being around me – but not talking to them or interacting with them unless I have something to share (which is more often than not). Once I have the security of guaranteed company, I am more than glad to ignore them.

As a result, even though I choose to be with my children all day, I crave and desire company. Unfortunately, it is not enough.

It’s not as bad as it used to be when Cookie Monster was first born. I didn’t leave my house for four months and it took me nine months before I finally sucked it up and ventured out to meet other first time mothers. I am grateful for that first playgroup – it gave me structure and I committed to going every week. But even though I enjoyed their company, it wasn’t the type of deep, soul-connection I was longing for.

I was still lonely.

Fast forward six years and I am flush with kindred spirits. I have finally found my tribe. (Well, tribes, really.) And it is all due to the internet.

I love you, Internet.

So, what do I mean by “finding your tribe”?

I mean, you have found where you belong. Your Cheers bar where everyone knows your name. Your home. Your people. Your soul mates.

You have found a people who are like you in the ways that matter to you – be it your passions, your hobbies, your interests, your humors, your loves, or your hates. Although, I would avoid the hates because I think that’s a sad and empty way to model your life. On second thought, commonalities in the stuff you dislike has its uses. But ultimately, a better way would be to find people who love the things you love, and might love it in similar enough ways.

So what happened? How did I get from being super lonely to happily belonging to several tribes?

I did mention that I love the internet, right?

I want to say the turning point came when one fortuitous day, I saw a post in our local Asian American Parenting Meetup Group about a Mandarin Playdate at an old elementary school friend’s home. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Until that moment, I had spent the first 15 months of Cookie Monster’s life just muddling through, wanting to find Chinese preschools and teachers but not knowing where to go or who to trust or ask.

All I did was speak to him in Chinese all the time (and that was really weird). I risked feeling uncomfortable in public, at English speaking playgroups, at the park, etc. It was very lonely and I was starting to panic. I only had a vague sense of what I wanted to do – but no real plans other than some vague “speak Chinese a lot” and “send to Chinese school.”

I was so lonely.

But because of that playdate, I reconnected with Irish Twins and met Tiger WooNot Another DB MBA, and Fleur. I felt an instant chemistry and for a blissful few years, we were nearly inseparable. Our husbands would complain that we were always hanging out with each other and never at home.

Because of these women, I found two amazing Chinese preschool teachers who have taught (or will teach) all three of my children. We have all chosen widely varying paths to Chinese fluency for our kids, (to varying degrees of success), and they have enriched both my life in general, as well as eased the lonely marathon of teaching my kids Chinese.

And thanks to my iPhone, even when we are not all together in person, it feels as if we are because we are constantly texting. We text so much that it is almost like we’re living in that commune we so desperately wish we lived in together. One day, I will have Varsity Jackets made with The Boba Ramen Crew embroidered on them and give them to each of us. We can wear them while trolling people we hate, sipping on boba, going to Korean scrubs, and slurping up ramen.

A girl can dream.

Also through pursuing Chinese fluency for my kids, I met one of my new besties, GuavaRama, through the Raising Bilingual Children in Chinese & English Facebook group. I basically am her biggest fan. In fact, I think The Boba Ramen Crew members are all her fangirls and eager acolytes.

Somehow, I’ve conned her into wanting to be my friend and now we have an art co-op for our kids at my house and we go on “Working” Mom’s Night Outs where we blog, plan curriculum, and discuss Chinese books and Mandarin immersion and language nerd stuff until 1am when they kick us out of a local Hong Kong cafe.

Plus, I have given her all of my money to support my drug addiction of choice: Chinese books. Seriously, if GuavaRama didn’t have her own blog already, I’d call her The Dealer because she is such an enabler.

Also, through friends of friends and constant commenting on each other’s posts and about my blog, I have met a few other women with whom we’ve all formed a loose sort of community based around our shared mediocrity. We have a lot of laughs over keeping each other accountable and on task for the things we have to do during the day. It also helps that we’re on board this Chinese immersion train.

And now?

Now, I stay out until 1:00am talking with old friends about books. I remember driving home in the middle of the night energized, a ridiculously goofy grin on my face. I could have geeked out all night.

We were there for a book club that I had started because I was sick of the run of the mill book clubs that chose books I was only marginally interested in. Our book club focused on science fiction, fantasy, and graphic novels. We’ve only had two meetings in the last 6-7 months, but I am certain it will be one of my favorite outings.

Now, GuavaRama and our mutual friends stay out until 1am talking about Chinese books, our kids learning Chinese, homeschooling curriculum, and Mandarin Immersion. I am always reluctant to end these gatherings and am bitter that the Bay Area doesn’t have more 24 hour options.

Now, I tricked a few of my fellow moms into playing monthly mah jong with me where we stay up until past 2 or 3am and nonstop smack talk in Chinese as I give all my pretend money to the other players. (Incidentally, that would be one of my children’s preschool teachers talking the most shit; she has been very educational).

Now, I have blogger friends that I met at my first Type A Con and have kept in touch through Facebook. This group of kickass women support me and my writing goals and understand my crazy life and choices. Plus, there are also a few who get me and my social justice leanings.

Now, I am finally known and no longer adrift and I am ever so grateful.

So my friends, if you are lonely, if you are feeling isolated and unknown, I encourage you to use the shit out of the internet and find your tribe. The world is much smaller and fuller than you think.

But We Already Read an Asian Book

At our Book Club meeting tonight, a woman said something that I can’t seem to shake off. Now, before I get into it, please understand that I’m not mad at this woman herself. I’m annoyed at the comment she made. Also – I don’t think she is any more or less prejudiced than I am and people in general. She is funny, a wonderful human being, and I really do love her. I don’t think the less of her and will continue to enjoy her company.

Ok. So enough disclaiming.

Tonight, we were throwing out books to consider reading for the second half of 2014. We all contributed several selections and I mentioned the book, When My Name Was Keoko, from my last post. “It’s about two Korean kids during WWII and the Japanese occupation of Korea,” I said.

“But we already read an Asian book!” my friend replied.

In shock, I exclaimed, “What? We’ve read hundreds of books about white people and I’ve never complained! But we can’t read two books with Asians in it?” I tried to keep my voice light and easy. Teasing. I wasn’t really mad – but I also wanted to get my point across.

“I read stories about white people all the time! I’m surrounded by white people! Hapa Papa’s half white! I don’t complain! Sheesh! But we can’t read more than one book about Asians? I also recommended a book where the main character is half black. Is that too many books about colored people?” We all laugh at this.

Realizing the pickle she got herself into, but also joking along, my friend says, “Well, we did read The Help a few years ago, so I think we’re okay.”

“Besides, it’s about the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII. I never knew about that, did you?”

Another woman said, “No, I didn’t. That sounds interesting.”

“Well, I’m sick of reading about WWII, too,” muttered my friend.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “I’m sick of reading about the Holocaust.” (We have read a LOT of books about the Holocaust in recent years.)

From there, we moved the conversation along. The whole time, no one was offended and there really was a lot of laughter and gentle poking fun. And to be fair, this woman has recommended several books with people of color in the past. But the incident still bothers me because it is indicative of our culture at large.

As much as I appreciate Asian American History month or Black History month, I often feel as if it lets folks off the hook. Like, “Oh, we have a separate month where it’s an anomaly to talk about people of color. But when that blip is over, we can go back to our regularly scheduled programming and talk about real people and real stories. You know, about white people.”

Stories about people who are not white should not be relegated to some “colored” or “very special episode” ghetto. Just because we’ve heard one “Asian” story doesn’t mean that we’re done with our quota for the year. I mean, for crying out loud. How many times have we heard the good girl meets bad boy story? Like, at least a million times. No one is claiming that we shouldn’t have any more of those. (Although, maybe we should.)

Look. Are white people’s imaginations so utterly pathetic that they can’t possibly imagine identifying with a character that is not the same race as them? I mean, millions of black, brown, red, and yellow folks do every single fucking day. Just because we’ve had more practice doesn’t mean our imaginations wouldn’t like a break now and then.

I know we’re always given complete bullshit marketing answers about how white people don’t consume movies/books/shows with POC main characters. I get that companies are in the business to make money. But seriously? Aren’t there billions of non-white people in the world? Have some gumption, story tellers. PLEASE.

In the meantime, I will go out of my way to actively buy and purchase stories with people of color. It’s the least I could do.