Find Your Tribe

Making friends, stepping out of your comfort zone and connecting again.

Me (on left) and my best friend in 5th grade

Growing up, I was a shy kid with a pair of coke-bottle glasses and my head usually buried in books. I had the same circle of friends from elementary through junior high. It was only in moving to a new bigger high school (plus getting contacts and losing my braces) that I learned to be more social.

Decades later, that shyness still creeps in — usually when I step out of my comfort zone.

Recently, I reached out to two new friends to meet for coffee or a walk. Something in their writing spoke to me. A raw honesty that was, frankly, refreshing.

My friend Anne writes and photographs the world in this beautiful, poetic way. People often ask her how to find your tribe. She says you have to put something out there for people to see — that act attracts the type of people who want what you want.

I met another woman who, similar to Anne, doesn’t wait for permission. Ashley just writes what’s in her head and it sparkles with this irresistible energy, like this post she wrote after our conversation about my longing for a playbook for life.

Failing Forward

I like to play by the rules. I like to know what the rules are, even the unwritten ones. I like to be invited to the table, the conversation, the party.

In the past few years, I reached out to two friends, both younger than me, who I thought were kindred spirits and made an effort to see socially. In both cases, I was crushed when I discovered the feeling wasn’t mutual. It made me seriously question my friend radar.

In a commencement speech, Pema Chödrön talks about learning “to fail, fail again, fail better.” This struck a chord because I like to avoid failure at all costs.

She says this feeling is normal, that most of us “move away from the rawness” of heartbreaks by blaming others or labeling ourselves a failure. But she points to the upside of failing and using the word “mistake” in place of “failure.”

“In other words, mistakes are the portal to creativity, to learning something new, to having a fresh look on things,” she says.

This made me look at friendships — both the ones that have faded or ended abruptly — not as evidence of failure, but simply a part of the process of growing and developing richer relationships.

From Paper to Person

A few weeks ago artist Sarah Neuberger emailed me out of the blue that she had illustrated me for a print she was working on. When she sent me the finished poster with 50 creative women in Atlanta, I felt honored to be included in this group of powerhouses.

Print by Sarah Neuberger at The Small Object

I was also struck by the thought that right here was the creative tribe I was craving. So I invited everyone to a coffee gathering at the Goat Farm (thanks, Mason!). It was super inspiring to connect in person and feel energized by the collective talent in the room.

Inspired gathering at Edgar Allan

As I head into a new decade, I am discovering that new friendships are worth the effort and bring along some delightful surprises.

And finding your tribe is a risk worth taking.