It’s Not Just You

It's not just you. Go find your tribe.Heard in a group of moms of kids with special needs: I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does that!

Heard in a group of social entrepreneurs: I’ve been trying to figure that out, too!

Heard in a group of homeschooling moms: So my kid isn’t the only one who does that?

We hear it all the time, but I’m not sure it really sinks in for many of us. It just hit me yesterday, after spending a couple of hours with several homeschooling moms, a few of whom I had never met. We have more in common with those around us than we realize. We are not alone.

I spent years – most of my life, if truth be told – “doing it myself”. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t “need” help. The situation – whatever it may have been going on at the time – wasn’t bad enough, or important enough to need others. I didn’t trust others not to let me down. I’ve always been very independent, and I didn’t need anyone. In fact, there were probably about fifteen years during which I didn’t have any real friends around me. I didn’t have anyone with whom I hung out. No one to call for a last-minute lunch date. (I do have a dear best friend who’s been around since I was fifteen, but she’s in another state, so letters and phone calls were all we had. I also had an amazing online group of homeschooling friends, but they were all over the country, and none were close enough for a hug or lunch.)

That’s changed dramatically over the past few years. I’ve changed dramatically over the past few years. I thought it was easier to not have friends for whom I had to expend energy. Find the time to do things together. Count on someone else. I loved my “faraway friends” as sisters, but there wasn’t much real time or effort involved. I’ve discovered that while having nearby friends may take a little more effort, it’s worth it, and the emotional support you get is totally worth any effort involved.

Now I have a close group of five or six homeschool moms. We started coming together because our kids were of a similar age and had similar interests. Now we do stuff (sometimes) without the kids and probably have more fun than they do.

I’ve recently become involved in my local special needs support group. I’ve become friends with a couple of those moms and I’ve getting to know others better all the time.

I’ve just started taking a course for social entrepreneurs (people who want their businesses to change the world for the better), and aside from the basic premise that we all share, I’ve already “met” several people with whom I have more in common, whether they’re single moms, homeschooling moms, or dedicated to healing the world through love. I haven’t had time to form real bonds with any of this group yet, but we can still share our common experiences and help each other work through the tough parts.

As someone who prefers not to conform whenever possible, I hesitate to use the word “tribe,” as it seems to be the latest buzzword. But we all need a tribe. Sometimes you need more than one. Whatever is going on in your life, whatever your interests or needs, there is someone (likely many someones) out there with the same interests or needs. There is a sense of relief and connection that comes when you hear (or even read) someone say, “I know what you mean!” or “Me, too!” or “It’s not just me?”

In person is great, but if all you can manage is an online group, find one of those. The social entrepreneur group is online. We’re scattered all over the world. I’ll probably meet some of the others at some point, but for now, we have the internet. My national homeschooling group is amazing. There is nothing wrong with online groups! Just don’t use them to keep a distance between you and others you could be meeting in person. There is just something special about a physical connection.

Sometimes you just need to know that others are in the same boat.

Sometimes you just need to know that others are in the same boat.

I’m not sure this ended the way it started, or the way it sounded in my head last night, but here we are. 😉 We’re all here together. Even if you feel alone, you’re not. There are others out there going through the same thing. You just need to find them. If you end up in a group that’s more about griping and complaining than support and solutions, then it may be time to move on until you find something better. If you can’t find one, start your own. There are going to be negatives, of course, but a healthy tribe will be just as much about celebrating successes as they are commiserating with hard times. You’ll know you’ve found the right spot when you feel safe and supported.

It’s not just you. Go find your tribe.