In the time of our ancestors, the tribe was as essential to life as food, water or shelter. Because they were more than just our family, they were our teachers, guides, our community. They were raised the same way, had the same beliefs, had the same goals. A perfect support system of common understanding. Tribe members were there to stand side by side as they fought for the survival of their way of life. Lessons were appreciated because you knew they were relevant, essential information that you would apply to your own life.
Our tribes have been disbanded.
In a world with a wealth of options to suit every whim, we have grown apart. Individualism is encouraged, and there is no longer implied common ground with the people closest to you. We have advanced our technology to a level that we are more capable of physically surviving without eachother. We have distanced ourselves, sensing that a person can’t help what they are ignorant of.
“You don’t know my life. You don’t know what it’s like for me. What does that have to do with me?”
This is not a societal trend to be reversed, or mourned through guilt and internalization. It is what it is. It is the counterpart evolution of our people, our modern truth. No, they don’t know. Maybe this doesn’t have anything to do with you. More importantly, maybe you recognize a spiritual stunting within yourself. Humans need to feel the emotional and mental support of a community. A community of people who are just like us, even as we are so highly individualized. We still need our tribe.
We have to adapt. We need to accept the times, and shift our notion of what a tribe has to be. As open as we are to individualization, we need to be to the concept of what makes a community. It no longer has to be limited to your family. This is not a bad thing, which means you love those people any less or are abandoning them. But we all need a tribe of our own people.
I was speaking with my friend Pravin in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, about his recent change of career. He had been working at an advertising firm until recently when he quit to instead work for his father doing eco/agro research. At first, he was telling me had made the right choice to get out of his old business because it was more competitive, stressful, and all his co-workers were “asses”. I asked him how it was to work for his father, dealing with his family so much. He said it was fine. I caught a few looks in his eyes that made me curious if what I was thinking was accurate, so I had to ask…
Pravin, when you talked about your coworkers you were smiling, in a way that makes me think while they were jerks, it is a little bit your nature as well and you were comfortable there, around people like you. No judgment from them, no hiding your cockiness after doing great at your job… It was competitive, but didn’t that encourage you to keep pushing yourself harder? Don’t you like that push a little bit? Those were your people, weren’t they?
How does it feel to work with your family? Do you get to swap stories with them on a Monday morning? Do they take you out on Friday night and trash talk like boys do? Do they push you or allow you to coast? Does Pravin get to be 100% Pravin? Don’t you feel limited like a child by your father’s perception of you as his son? You look pleased enough with your work, and I know you adore your family, but do they really know who you are today?
He looked off into the distance as I finished this barrage of a speech, and suddenly I was worried. I had just soooo overstepped my bounds, and maybe I had such the wrong idea of it. Maybe I’m the only one who has these ideas… He was quiet for a few minutes after that as we ate, and I tried to make up for my lack of judgment with respectful silence. This woman had said enough. Suddenly, he looked up at me with such glittering alive eyes. He wants to return to his old job. I had put a voice to that little feeling he’d had, and he needed to know that he wasn’t the only one with ideas like this. He didn’t have to feel bad for any of it. He was going to surround himself with “his” people again.
We’re all waiting for someone to say it is acceptable to pick and choose who you surround yourself with. Part of this modern movement is that we have to be willing to step up, make our own approval. Because we are so individualized that we think most others can’t relate to us, we can’t ask them to tell us its ok anymore. It is. Go, search out your people. Find those with like minds, who encourage you to grow, but accept who you are. Find those you can call brother, or teacher. Find a sense of normalcy. There are a multitude of options at your fingertips. Choose wisely and carefully, but never quit adding people to your tribe.
Maybe then you don’t have to start sentences with, “This may sound crazy, but…”