Finding Your Tribe

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“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” ~ Eric Burdon & The Animals

Does this scene feel familiar to you?

You’re sitting at dinner with a group of friends, having a couple glasses of wine and keeping it light. Then, for whatever reason, you decide to kick up the conversation a notch — bringing up something that really matters (at least more than shoes or gossiping about who’s sleeping with whom).

You start describing an idea or an existential crisis you just got through from which you gained some serious insight about a subject, and of course you want to tell your peeps. Why wouldn’t you?

Even as the words slip past your lips, you simultaneously feel the energy shift in the room. The judgment becomes so thick, you could slice it with a samurai sword (cue their eyes rolling).

“You are so fucking weird,” is a common phrase that usually follows your shared statement, or my favorite, “You are totally out of touch with reality.”

Oh, really?

Am I out of touch with reality, or were you just not ready to hear what I had to say?

Perhaps if you carry on with this “crazy behavior” for long enough, you’ll notice your friends and loved ones seem more and more distant, somewhat annoyed and confused with your new-found beliefs and perceptions.

I know, because that’s exactly what happened to me.

And every time it happened, it hurt. I was often left questioning my sanity: “Maybe I am off the wall? Maybe I am completely out of touch, a crazy person living on Pluto? But could I be that off that my words would actually upset people? Was nothing I had to say valuable to those I loved?” Was it me?

The answer was: Yes, it sure as hell was me.

I had changed, but my environment hadn’t. I kept doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. But after a while, this merry-go-round became painful. I would leave a get-together and feel nauseated. Was I always going to have to censor what I said?

Will I have to go through life hiding my real self?

My answer to myself was “Abso-fucking-lutely not.” I would rather be completely alone than feel that misunderstood.

As is the case in many situations, when you’ve had enough — and find yourself totally dangling at the end of your rope — you change. You have to, or you run the risk of staying stuck and struggling throughout the rest of your life.

So, I chose to change

I got smart and began to completely avoid situations that would bring me down. There was no point in participating in them, because I knew how they played out: Go to party, talk about nothing, act like everything's cool, pretend to be “normal,” then come home thinking I would have had more fun sitting in my room, talking to my dog about what her day was like.

I decided to just break this maddening cycle. I didn’t care what the consequences were.

What came next was unreal to me.

I started meeting people who not only “got” me, but actually were interested in talking about all sorts of ideas that fascinated me. They seemed to just appear, one by one, miraculously coming into my life and giving me the gift of being understood.

Anyone who has been in this position knows what a gift it is to have people around you who can see you.

To be able to freely speak your mind and not be judged is such a blessing.

It makes you feel at home with yourself and allows you to grow and expand without fear. As scary as it was to change, to cut some ties and move through life alone for a while, in the end it was worth it.

Knowing to give advice only when asked and using intuition to really discern how far you should go with a person takes time and experience. Each one of us has certain gifts and knowledge that can help not only the people around us, but the world.

We are all special, but that doesn’t mean that we need to walk around like Ann Landers, telling people everything that crosses our minds. Ultimately, they need to figure things out for themselves.

On top of that, we don’t need to tell everyone every single detail about our lives and thoughts. Keeping things to ourselves can be good sometimes — especially if it entails learning to use our gifts in a kind and loving way that makes people feel comfortable and doesn’t push them off a cliff.

Anyone who has been in this position knows what a gift it is to have people around you who can see you.

But the good news is that when we begin spending time with people who get us, we don’t have to worry so much about a potential misunderstanding (or those nearby cliffs). If there’s anyone who can handle us as we are, it’s them.

No longer do I feel crazy or weird. I just feel like me, and that is the best feeling in the world. So, here is my humble opinion: When things don’t feel right or you consistently feel censored around certain people, stop, drop and roll.

There are so many cool humans in the world who need your words, thoughts, and creativity. They live for new ideas that are different from everybody else’s. These are the people who will lift you up and bask in your light, because for them, it shines like the stars.

Find those folks and make them a part of your team: date them, marry them, befriend them, and thank God everyday that they came into your life . . . because keeping them around means you’ll never have to fear being misunderstood — and you’ll certainly never have to compromise who you are for the sake of others.