A business coach I work with recently posted a question on her Facebook page, asking what word is so overused in our respective industries that we might just scream the next time we hear it. This generated a lot of answers and no small amount of hilarity: robust, mindfulness, intention, resonate, alignment, stuck, leverage, impactful, synergy, takeaway, mirror (ha—yes, you’ll recognize some of my favorites in there)….
Tribe—that’s another one that came up. I’ve been thinking a lot about “tribe” recently, so I’m going to go ahead and use the word, as tired as it may be. For some reason, it always makes me think of the classic children’s book by P.D. Eastman titled Are You My Mother?
My daughter has been suffering through the trials and tribulations of applying to and choosing a college this year. I’m happy to say, that’s all behind us now since for a while there I wasn’t sure whom to medicate—her or me? Just kidding. Sort of.
We got a lot of advice about the process, and the general consensus came down to something along the lines of “You’ll just know which one is right.” BTW, in my experience this is Not Helpful if you are someone who tends to (over)think rather than go with your gut.
We heard story after story about kids who walked onto a campus and just knew that this was where they belonged, that these were their people/tribe. I think that the closest we got was a sort of inverse of this: my daughter looking around a packed auditorium at an accepted student visit day and deciding that it was full of the people with whom she resonated (haha—see what I did there?) the least in her high school.
As she prepares to head off to college and I’ve been involved with a few reunions in recent years, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own high school/college experience.
Perhaps the experience that stands out the most from this past year is a reunion I went to last fall—it wasn’t a campus-wide reunion but rather just for the program from which I graduated. I did use my BA and MA in Chinese for a few years out of college, and then for various reasons, I turned to other pursuits. (LOL—Did I feel “stuck?” Was I “living out of alignment?” Or maybe I just wanted to “leverage the most impactful synergies?”)
It was fascinating to sit in a room and hear all about what the various panelists were doing now with their Chinese Studies credentials: from holding roles in political administrations to running an online news site to being foreign correspondents for major newspapers to teaching Mandarin in public school, people are doing great, important things. I have to admit, I took no little satisfaction in the fact that I had had a role in training some of these people—in my small college, qualified Seniors lead “drill sections” for lower level language courses.
And yet, the most important takeaway from that weekend was similar to my daughter’s revelation: this is not my tribe, these are not my people.
It could have been a negative, uncomfortable, icky, get-me-out-of-here experience; instead, it was incredibly liberating and extremely validating: it made me realize that I have found my tribe in recent years, and I feel like I’ve discovered why I was put on this planet. Yes, I know, it took long enough!
Clearly, some people find their tribe early on—you know, the ones who find “their people” and their purpose in high school or college and never seem to want or need to move on from there.
Those of us who take longer may have to live through some discomfort. For me, it came down to learning to trust my gut more and (over)think less, to trust my inner voice more than the external GPS programmed by others—something I now help my clients navigate as well.
How about you? Drop a line in the comments and let me know when you found “your tribe” and how you knew you’d found it! (And feel free to make more suggestions for overused, tired words from your world!)