As warmth and sunshine finally made an appearance here in Manhattan, six friends found themselves on a blanket in Central Park, drinking white wine and talking about projects. Our conversation ranged from short films to op-eds about Brooklynites to what women in their 20’s and 30’s want to read. I was enthralled and humbled by the idea that such creative minds surrounded me, that I had found a place in a tribe that danced to my beat, that attempted in everything they do to make our individual and collective beats louder.
Growing up in a small town, it was hard to find friends with similar interests. As all bookworms know, it becomes much easier in college when courses bring similar characters together. But as adulthood settles in, circumstance trumps the magnetism of self-driven education; money becomes more important than hobby. It becomes too convenient to find yourself in a group of friends who’s similarities are based in complaint rather than exploration. Who’s favorite activities are drinking to the point of nausea rather than artistic collaboration.
But oh if I could only prove how important it is to do just the opposite. How vital it is to your well-being, to your potential, to find your tribe. Because it is not the amount of rested or decompressed you feel after getting together with friends that matters. It’s how inspired, how supported, how lit by their fire you feel. It is much more important to find friends that encourage you and push you than it is to have friends who are willing to indulge in the same form of trash talk about your coworkers or bosses or boyfriends.
How do I know this to be true? The experience of having differing opinions on the same topic. When I was diagnosed, it was the doctor who instantaneously agreed with me that I would not be dying of cancer that became my primary care oncologist. It was the cancer patients who believed cancer was not making them a victim that helped to encourage and inspire me through the journey. And it was the family members who were willing to be fearless (in fact, all of my immediate family, bless them!) that helped me to be courageous.
So when cancer was finished, I was – and am – unwilling to accept the circumstances of others as victimizing. I am unwilling to satisfy the crying needs of friends who wanted pity, especially for self-induced circumstances. And I expect them to do the same to me, whenever I fall prey to feeling helpless or hopeless when I should be stepping up with bravery.
The mindset of your friend circle is one that has unreasonable power and influence over your own capabilities. We are communal people, we humans, we sisters and friends, we lovers and coworkers and sentient beings. We feed off the energy of one another, and refresh ourselves in the love and comfort of one another. But when that energy is based in discomfort with ourselves, we spread the disease of unhappiness and unrest. Have you ever walked into work in a great mood, only to find your coworker grumpy as hell, and then find yourself too feeling unhappy and cranky? Their energy has fed you negativity, and you are resonating it to others in turn. It’s all proof of the power of a tribe.
It is of the utmost importance that we surround ourselves with those that will feed our souls, our hearts, and our potential with positive light and love. It is vital that we create a tribe of like minds that will help us create our vision for the world, that will listen with open ears and minds to the difference we want to make. That we find those who will collaborate with us, who will encourage us, who will see our dreams and help us reach them.
In return, we must present an individual who is comfortable with herself. Who is willing to speak up and say her truth. Who is willing to listen to their dreams, to encourage them, to help them in any way. We must do the work to be happy with ourselves so that we can present our light to them, and they may feed off our love and our radiance. We must be true to ourselves.
It can be terrifying to branch out into a scary world, to reach out to strangers and ask them to like us, to be our friend. But becoming a member of a toxic tribe is much worse. To be stiffled by the negativity and bad behaviors of others who are not willing to live up to their potential, to do their part to make this world better, that is much worse. So if you’ve been too shy to finally show up to that Meet-Up party or join a writer’s group or find a community online or offline that will inspire you, vow to yourself to put your heart out on the line. The first step will be the hardest, but that tribe perfect for you has been waiting for you to find them…
Evaluating friendships as positive and negative
First and foremost, ask yourself the vital questions that will assess the health level of your friendship circle
What activities do you participate in together? Do you only meet up for happy hour, or do you also feed your creativity with museums or lectures or live music?
When you talk, is it mostly to gossip or complain about other people or situations? Are you honest with them about what you are trying to make or do with your career, life, and passion?
Do you feel supported by them? Not just in a crisis moment, but also in times of happiness?
Second, be honest about the type of person you bring to your circle
Are you offering your best self in your interactions?
Do you use them for cathartic emotional release?
Are you comfortable enough with yourself to being a vibrant, alive and awake person to your conversations, or do you rely on their judgments and opinions to make decisions?
Third, make the necessary changes
You do not need to ‘dump’ friends, unless she is directly harming or hurting your life. What you can do is expand your social network to include more friends, ones that can serve for different purposes.
For example, I don’t rely on my artistically-driven friends for conversations about spirituality or mental health. Instead, I have a certain core group of friends who I can talk to about those topics, and save my career and writing endeavors for conversations like those in the park.
So how do you make new friends?
Join a Meet-Up group, and attend and event based on your interests. It might be scary at first to show up alone, but remember that everyone there had to find the courage to show up the first time too!
Start volunteering for a cause you care about. There you are destined to find others who care about the same causes you do, and who are determined enough to make a difference as well.
Reach out to someone you do feel confident about. Whether it’s a coworker or a friend of a friend, of someone piques you interest, be the one to ask them out for drinks. Friendships lead to more connections, and you’ll both be able to draw from each other new acquaintances that can help you create your tribe.
Last but not least, speak your truth. In all you do, all that you are, all that you create, share your truth and be yourself. It will call out others like a howling wolf in the night. Authenticity is magnetic.
A beautiful quote shared by the photographer on Flickr:
We are the people that rule the world
A force running in every boy and girl
All rejoicing in the world