I thought the next time I updated, it would be about a multitude of projects I had lined up, plays I had on the board, and well, I plan to but just not now. I thought about whether I wanted to post something so personal on a public forum, to display my weaknesses in such an open and frightening way [you never can predict your lot when it comes to the Internet], but I thought maybe someone else is going through the same thing.
I went to a middle school that boasted its multiculturalism in a grand display of various country flags up and down the grand corridor. Everywhere I looked, there was diversity and color, and everything that makes me smile when I see it now where I live. It was beautiful, if a bit grandiose. But despite all that, what went on in those pristine, and beautifully blended hallowed halls wasn’t always so novel.
That middle school, like many others, had its fair share of bullies, well among the usual goths, preps, cheerleaders, athletes, cool kids, and misfits. It all sounds a bit Mean Girl-ish, but that’s another thing that movie got right, and mean girls was right. We had them aplenty, and one particular group I strove, like Cady, to ingratiate myself with. It was my very first time trying to fit in.
I met a group of girls who were nice to me individually, so I thought it would be cool to join their clique. Now at the time, I was a little chubby, not very fashionable, rarely did anything too fancy with my hair and never had the latest shoes. This was around 2006, back when Air Force 1’s were still the done thing (thanks, Nelly) and it was cool to wear the tongue over the hem of your jeans just to show off your brand name shoes. I never had that. My parents bought me sensible, affordable shoes, like Sketchers and one time, a pair of Fila that I was proud of.
For a while there, they made me feel like I was part of the group. They would ask me to do silly things and snicker when I mouthed off at the teacher, so I thought I was pretty cool. And then one day, one of the girls finally told me what they were all thinking. “You follow us around all the time,” she said. “We don’t even like you.”
This happened nearly 11 years ago and it is still one of my clearest memories. Her shiny plastic lips coated with layers of bubblegum gloss, pulled up into a small sneer, flat curly hair stiff with gel, and her trendy outfit. I left the table and I cried, because I thought I’d found my people, the ones that understood me and we’d all be friends and graduate the same high school together and be BFF 5ever, and it wasn’t like that at all. Imagine how disappointed 12-year-old me was. Imagine that 24-year-old me still feels that way sometimes.
In high school, I found my second family in a small group of misfits. We were all different, the unlikeliest group of people to come together. There was S, the popular, charming one that everyone fell in love with, a loud love-me-or-hate-me personality but oddly vulnerable. Then there was K, the quiet, charismatic one that people tended to gravitate towards. Everyone wanted to be around her because she radiated calm and serenity. She could be aloof, too, but there was also something open and vulnerable about her. There was N, the newly metamorphosed butterfly, once timid and shy but underneath all that was a crackling personality and a fierce drive to be who he wanted to be. And finally, C, the jock. He was the most normal out of the four of us, least likely to break but that didn’t mean much when he was at the precipice, too. I guess that’s what brought us all together; our vulnerability. Everyone liked us as a group, because we were weird, but individually only two of us thrived. Hint: I wasn’t one of them.
After high school, we put up a token fight to stay in touch, but it didn’t last. It dwindled down to maybe once a month if we were lucky, then every few months, then maybe occasionally once a year. I was a Freshman in college trying my hardest to hold on to the only group of people that knew everything about me, but in the end, it was our vulnerabilities, our own separate brokenness that kept us apart. Crippling needs to not be burdens, depression, resentment, all those things were factors. For a while I was bitter because I felt I was always the one to reach out, always the one to call, always the one to invite. I stopped getting invitations to events and I thought, it’s me, me, me. They hate me. As group we stopped getting together and segmented into smaller cliques and I wasn’t apart of any of them. I felt sick. I still consider two out of those four to be my closest friends, but I can’t say that I don’t miss those days.
I remember watching Friends when I was younger, dreaming about a group of friends I’d have until we were all shriveled up and old, rocking on our porches and still talking crap. I’ve always struggled with the notion that I’ll never find another tribe to call mine. Growing up, I’ve collected people. I seem to have a knack for attracting misfits. I dunno, maybe it’s because I’m a misfit myself. I thought that being in the theatre community, doing something I love, I would finally have that, but sometimes I think I’m destined to be unfriendable, easily forgotten. All the friends on Facebook only seem to reinforce the idea that I’m screaming my lungs out in a room full of people and no one’s listening.
Maybe there’s something inherent in all of us to find the people who know us inside and out, to find our pack, our tribe. I found that the true battle was accepting that maybe that wasn’t for me. I love the people that I attract. I love befriending the odd ones, the forgotten, because they remind me of me and I remember what I felt. What if I could convince them that it’s not them, but what if they could make a bigger impact on someone else, one lone wolf to another than they would as a pack, who would just as soon turn on one another? A bit dark, but many times have I seen large groups of friends implode because one person didn’t like another. (See: S and N)
Lilo and Stitch was a movie that meant a lot to me, and if there’s one thing I can relate to, it’s Stitch’s need to fit in, to be a part of something. “Ohana means family”, was something my friends and I use to quote to each other a lot. At times, they were witness to aspects of my life even my blood weren’t privy to, and that meant everything. When I think about that movie, I think about the Tribe-that-was and the Tribe-that-may-never-be and agonize for a bit and then think about the new friends I’ve met. They’re not a large group, but they get me, each, individually, in their own way and I love them.
It took me a while to learn and I’m still learning that I don’t need a tribe to be whole, and although I still feel those pangs of loneliness from time-to-time, I know I have people in my life that understand me and love me and won’t forget me. I think that’s all anyone looking for a tribe ever really wants.
So yeah. That’s it.