Fitting in, to whatever group you aim for, is an ongoing struggle for the young. There is always an “in group” at every level in every school. Sometimes it’s the popular girls, the Honor Society, the team, or your desired fraternity or sorority. By the time you are an adult, out of school and out in the world, one would hope that fitting in is no longer as important.
But even if you were one of the popular kids, or made the honor you sought scholastically or on the playing field, I have yet to meet a person who didn’t still feel like an outsider in some situation, to some group. What if you were someone who never fit in, who didn’t travel with a pack of kids, who never tried out for any team, who never asked or were asked to the prom? If you were a loner or a quirky kid you will recognize the enormous rush of feeling that comes with finding your tribe.
What I mean by finding your tribe is joining a group that allows you to feel one of them – the Scouts, the Drama Society, Mensa, even a knitting circle. Being one of several people who share your interests, who are glad to welcome you into their circle, who when they say “we” mean you too. It’s a very good feeling.
When I entered a new high school at the age of 15 and in my last year I felt very much alone. I was bright, and “mouthy” and several years younger than my cohort. It was a small school, probably around 100 kids, and I soon identified the other bright loners. There were several. One by one I befriended them, girls and boys, until we five or six were a group. We called ourselves ironically Iconoclasts Incorporated. None of us coupled up and each of us were odd in different ways, but we had created a tribe to which we each felt welcomed and that we belonged.
Later in my life when I was a divorced single mother, a working professional, looking to find some new meaning through volunteering, a friend directed me to the training for online phone responders at San Francisco Sex Information and for the first time as an adult I found my tribe. Here, among a very diverse selection of do gooders and sexual outliers, oldsters and young adults, all of whom were interested in knowing more about human sexuality and disseminating accurate information to all who asked, who were interested in sex itself, I found my tribe.
It felt so affirming to me to hear others discuss this taboo topic with ease, to be genuinely interested in sex without leers or giggles, who were willing to casually self-reveal the hitherto undiscussable. I took the 6 week training in sexuality and communications and went on the phone lines answering questions as varied as “Where do babies come from?” from a squeaky-voiced kid to “Why was molesting wrong?” from a creepy male caller.
My experience with San Francisco Sex Information, SFSI, where I went on to supervise the phone call responders, and then joining the Board of Directors, led me to write my first of several books, Sex Information, May I Help You?, and to my present-day career of more than thirty years. Thirty seven years after my first day of Training some of my current dear friends come from this group, my tribe.
Sometimes you need to create your tribe, like I did in high school, and sometimes you stumble into it by accident like I did with SFSI. The experience of finding your tribe is often life changing and always reaffirming that who you are, where your interests lie, are shared by some others.. As much as an individual or individualist as you may be, people who are like you in some way, who share your interests and particular peculiarities, do exist, somewhere; if you keep looking, you will find your tribe.