How to Find Your Tribe

tribeMy last post talked about finding your tribe and what that tribe might look like. However, while it can get you excited about belonging to a tribe, it’s less helpful in the practicalities. After all, it’s all well and good for me to say, “Find your tribe!” But it’s an altogether different endeavor to actually find your tribe.

Unfortunately, sometimes even all the hard work you put into finding the right tribe for you might not pan out. In those cases, even though the work is a ton, I would consider forming my own tribe instead of joining a ready made one. (In fact, I did form a few just for myself. A lot of work but worth it.)

Here then, are some of my suggestions on finding and forming a tribe. As always, YMMV. Also? I really don’t mean to sound as if I’m giving bad dating advice but I end up sounding like that anyway. Sorrynotsorry.

1) Be Open.

First, you have to be open to the idea of meeting new people and all its incumbent awkwardness. Thankfully, not only can you meet new people in person, you can also meet them online (eg: Facebook groups, forums, fan sites, etc.) where at least you can take all the time you need to craft the perfect witty statement.

You never know with whom you may strike a lifelong friendship.

2) Be Promiscuous.

Join groups. Join lots of groups. In person and online.

Short of hating a person or group on sight, (and it does happen), hang out with people one on one or as a small group even if you’re not sold on them. If it’s an online community, comment and contribute to the conversation.

Chemistry is a finnicky thing and it’s a numbers game. Just like dating, the more people/groups you meet, the more chances you have of making a genuine connection.

I realize this will be easier for the extroverts, but hopefully the internet can be a great equalizer and maybe even limit actual in-person interaction for the introverts out there.

3) Be Inclusive.

Invite people to do stuff with you. Even if you think people will say, “No.” Invite often and repeatedly.

If you are invited to something, ask if you can invite other people who you think might also enjoy it. Then invite them.

One of the key reasons The Boba Ramen Crew came into existence is because Irish Twins started inviting all of us to random stuff and since we had nothing better to do, we joined her. Then because it was fun, we started to invite each other whenever we were going to do something, too.

It doesn’t matter if it’s something as mundane as going to Costco. Invite people to come along. The worst that can happen is that people say “No” to something you were already planning on doing anyway.

4) Be Bold.

It can be very difficult to meet people, online or otherwise. Know what you want and be bold about going after it.

You have limited time and energy. Take your desires seriously and see what happens. To quote the Bible, “You do not get because you do not ask.”

Or, if we want to be salesy about it, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always, ‘No.'”

5) Be Generous.

Be generous with your time, advice, resources, and affections. Be generous even in letting people go when they no longer fit in the tribe.

We are always evolving as people; sometimes we find lifelong tribes and sometimes, we find temporary tribes. They are all beautiful and necessary to our journey in life. (Wow. This post is getting a little too hippie woo woo for my liking. I apologize.)

6) Be Authentic.

It is exhausting to pretend to be someone you’re not. The whole point of finding a tribe is to be with people who will accept you for who you are.

7) Be Committed.

I know. Didn’t I just tell you to be promiscuous and inclusive? Do that.

However, relationships take time. Belonging somewhere takes time. Community takes time. So commit to a group for about six months. Go to every meeting or activity (or as many as possible).

It is only after giving it a good go that you will have a better idea whether these folks are your people or not.

8) Be Selective.

Make up my mind, already! Sheesh.

But eventually, when you have invested enough time for friendships to blossom or die on the vine, you will need to make an evaluation on whether or not you want to continue investing your time and effort in this manner.

Odds are, if you are having an awesome time and loving your new friendships, you won’t even remember to stop and evaluate. You will be too busy basking in your newfound tribe.

However, if it still hasn’t quite gelled yet, that’s when you have to decide whether you want to invest more time or cut your losses. Honestly, it just depends on your gut feelings. If you think you haven’t connected yet but eventually you might, stick if out. If not, then just move on. There are so many other people out there to meet. No need to stay with a group that you feel constantly on the outside of.

Friendships and acquaintances ebb and flow. It’s ok to thank people for the role they have played in your life however temporarily and let them go.

Think of it as Kondo-ing your relationships. Do they bring you joy? Yes? Keep them. No? Move on. Maybe? Give it a little more time.

Alright. Hopefully this post wasn’t as hokey as it potentially could be and doesn’t come off as a smarmy dating piece. I really hate those types of articles and would hate to commit the same errors.

Have a great Wednesday and Happy Hunting!

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.

What I Miss About College

Late Sunday afternoon I got it in my head to get duck. Not just any duck, mind you. The best Peking Duck in the world. Hapa Papa said I could go after Glow Worm went down for the night so I tried valiantly to get together a small group of people for last minute duck. As you would expect, no one could make it.

Of course I am not surprised. I am friends with people who have children and spouses and actual lives. But I couldn’t help but think that I needed some more friends with zero obligations. (Not that they would be hanging around waiting for me to call randomly on a Sunday night…)

Anyhow, I decided to go by myself anyway. But while I was driving the 45 minutes to get to the duck place (Great China in Berkeley), I was thinking of all the things I missed about being young and carefree. Free to leave at the drop of a hat to go get duck.

So here, in no particular order, are things I miss about college.

1) Living in community

I miss having my friends live down the hall or around the block or like one year, all in the same apartment building. Lonely? Want to go do something? Catch a late night movie? Grab shaved ice at 1am? Drive to Vegas for a breakfast buffet? There is bound to be someone who is up for it.

On top of the silly stuff, I was lucky enough to be friends with folks in the same Christian fellowship and the people were super awesome and supportive for all the drama I entangled myself in. I miss these people.

2) Gads of free time

Sure, if you actually went to class or had a job or studied, you were a bit busier than most, but even with those things, there was a lot of free time. Time to sleep, eat, hang out, read, watch TV, whatever. It was beautiful.

3) Deep conversations

Just by virtue of being in a Christian fellowship as well as being around college people, there were bound to be conversations that delved deep into our lives. Instead of the mundane, we had time and opportunity and desire to discuss God, poverty, money, race, sex, love, whatever. Of course I could still have these conversations now, but it is far fewer and far between. In fact, my brain is usually too tired to talk about more than my children or my husband. Mostly, I talk about the food I want to eat. 

4) The sense of possibility

Yes, yes. I know I am not dead yet so clearly, there are lots of possibilities out there. But I am married. That automatically shuts out possibilities (in a good way, I might add). I have children (THREE), so there go a few more. I want to live a certain lifestyle and POOF! There go the rest! 

I am okay with this as I tend to be the type of person whose future is set and pretty much planned out. But still, every now and then, I miss the exciting sense of “anything could happen!”

5) The ability to eat ANYTHING and have very little consequence

Now, YMMV on this one. But my metabolism was AWESOME until I hit about twenty-five. After that, my cholesterol went up, my waistline let out a bit, and my body broke down. So of course, I took a bit better of myself. But man, I truly miss heading out to Norm’s (a 24-hour diner) for steak and eggs at 1am to “study.” Those were the times!

Ok. Your turn. What do you miss about college?