Friendships change. This may or may not come as a surprise to many of you, but over the course of your lifetime, friendships and what define them, change. In our youth, our friends were who lived in our neighborhoods or went to our church or school.
As we got older we defined our friendship with those we had even more in common with or even those we hoped to have things in common with. We defined ourselves by who liked us and who didn’t. We were hurt when someone didn’t want to be our friend.
As we hit middle school and then high school our circle continued to shrink, or at least mine did. Life at that age was defined by how much money your family had, the types of jeans that you wore, the car you drove. At 52, I can look back on that time and laugh. Seriously. I let these teenagers decide if I was worthy or not. I felt bad if people who I thought were my friends suddenly changed when they realized I was a nerd and didn’t really care about make-up and didn’t have the latest fashions or a fancy car. Ha!!
My first tribe. I found my first tribe in high school. It was my band tribe. Many of us have reconnected on Facebook. Thank you Facebook. My band tribe embraced me, Kathy. We were a microcosm of our high school, but bound together by something in common. We hung out together, we dated together and we were all lucky to have each other, us Band-Geeks. Oh, the wild adventures we had in those four years. Thank goodness we didn’t have cell phones then, right?
Then I got my first job. Here I found my second tribe. I worked at Carl’s Jr and met other teens from other schools. I met my best friends there. I met the man who would eventually become my husband there. I found more acceptance and I found the person who would teach me to learn to love myself, for me.
Finding your tribe. Over the years my tribes have changed. I went to college. I got a job. I traveled the US. I moved 10 times. I had my Newcomers of Oklahoma City tribe. I had my West Cedar Elementary Mom tribe. I had my Pioneer Elementary Mom tribe. I had My Kids are in Band tribe and My Kids are in Robotics tribe.
Have you noticed the trend yet? Yep, my tribes were defined by my kids and their schools and activities. It’s no surprise, right?
Then I became an empty-nester. Becoming an empty-nester when much of your life and those in it is defined by your kids, is an eye-opener. Be prepared. It is especially a big change when you are one of the first in your tribe. You find, again, who your friends are and who were merely acquaintances. You also find that people can be oblivious to what is going on in your life.
I recognize now that many of them didn’t know what to do with me. My kids were 5 1/2 hours away by car and by plane. They didn’t go local or even close to local. It was hard to hear of a family get-together or “I miss my kids so much” when their kids were close enough to drive only as much as an hour. Then there are the parents who say in your hearing, “we thought we’d miss those kids that graduated, but really we don’t.” Were they trying to be mean-spirited? Probably not. Hopefully not, but it still hurt.
The friends you got to see all the time, suddenly were absent. They had lives. They had families. They had other younger children still going through that 12 year process. They had that bond that held them together. Did they invite you to events? Stop by and see you? Yea, but that trickled off more and more.
I was also changing. I was without kids. I needed to find me again. I needed my new definition, besides a mom, of who I was going to be moving forward. I needed to recognize that I was trying to find where I fit as much as they were trying to figure out the new me.
Once again my tribes changed. I found that I could define my new tribes and I am loving every minute of creating those tribes. I still have a few of those friends who I met through my kids that were truly my friends. We text. We occasionally talk. Every blue moon we get together when life allows. I treasure those friendships because we have a shared history.
I’ve decided, at the ripe old age of 52, that what defines me…. is me. I’m surrounding myself with people who bring me love, support, encouragement and no judgement. They don’t criticize me or make biting comments. Life is too short to have toxic people in your life. I’ve gone through my Facebook and stopped following people who I had so little in common with outside of my children. I am not defined by the number of “Friends” I have on Facebook or “Followers” on Instagram. I am defined by the loving, giving, supportive tribes I’ve decided to be a part of my life. I have my work tribe, my yoga tribe, my runners tribe and my long time friends tribe.
Who is your tribe? Don’t wait 52 years to find a tribe that is blessed to have you in their lives as much as you are to have them. Don’t be angry or hurt when your tribes change. Embrace the new you.
My favorite tribe? My family, of course!