When I was a child I remember my mom crying because she was afraid of being alone. I remember thinking, why are you afraid? I loved my own company. I loved having time to myself. I didn’t feel the need to be surrounded by people.
As I entered middle school and high school I didn’t want to belong to a clique. I was friends with the jocks. My best friend was an olympic gymnast. I was friends with the brains. One of my other good friends was our valedictorian. I was friends with the burnouts even though I never did drugs or drank. They seemed so free in all that they said. I found them fascinating. I was friends with the kid who ate alone at the lunch table because I wanted to know why he was alone. I was friends with the class clown. I went out of my way to laugh and they were always hilarious. I was a teacher’s pet in one class and a pain in the teacher’s ass in another. I loved being the round peg in the square whole.
After college, I followed my own drummer. I took jobs that I found interesting instead of career building. I worked as a temp for years because it opened opportunities for me. I did retail for a while. I worked in marketing and real estate. I worked at a nightclub and a promoters office. I never knew I wanted to be an agent until I moved to Los Angeles. By that time I had been in the workforce for over a decade. I never really had a dream to become the doctor, policeman or stockbroker. I thought about becoming a lawyer but other than having everyone tell me that is what I should do, I never pursued it.
I knew I never wanted to be married until I was at least in my thirties. Something that was unheard of where I grew up. Many of my friends and acquaintances were already in their second if not third marriages by then. I just knew that I needed to find me before I started trying to find him. I had seen both of my parents in bad marriages and maybe this played into it.
I still like having friends from all walks of life. I remember a birthday party I threw one year for myself. I invited twenty-five of my closest friends to a dinner and then realized very few of them knew each other. Or even had similar backgrounds or careers. I had such a mix of life at one table. From the girl who was a radio DJ to the guy who was an accountant. The lead singer of a band sat next to my friend who was a librarian. And yet, they all fit. They all made sense to me. I admired and liked each of them. I loved connecting with folks that might never have met had it not been for me.
That has also been a theme in my life. If someone doesn’t know someone or how to get something done, I am one of the first they call. Not because I know how to do it but because I know someone who does. Or I may know someone who knows someone who does. I have been told by many that I am a connector of people.
And yet, something has happened in recent years. I don’t feel connected to anyone or anything. I feel adrift in a boat surrounded by other boats that are overflowing. They wave as they go by. They send messages of how much they miss me. I hear the talking and laughter drifting over the waves but I don’t know how to get to them. I have lost myself in many ways. I don’t know if it is the pandemic or if it is me that is isolating. I know that I need to find my tribe. My connections. I am just not sure of how to find the onramp to that path.
I understand my mom more now. I understand her fear of being alone. It wasn’t about being alone in the room but loneliness that she feared. She feared the lack of connection to others. I understand that now and wish I could tell her. Wish I could tell the woman who desperately wanted connection, that she found it. In ways that others may never understand. It took her three marriages, three kids and multiple jobs. But my mom found her tribe by showing cats. It was weird. It was totally quirky. It was completely her.
While I have no interest in cats or ever even understood my mothers obsession, I love that she found her people. I love that she found a husband that understood her and people that she loved being around even if I could not understand any of them.
As we wind down the year and start thinking about next year and our hopes for what is to come, that is my biggest desire. I want to find my tribe, my people or at least get back to that little girl who felt that she was enough of a tribe on her own.