I'm not sure this happens in other "industries", but we hear the word "tribe" tossed about a lot in creative circles. Social media is filled with inspirational memes about finding one's tribe and relishing in the camaraderie of those people who you discover as "kindred". There is a large, seemingly never-ending collection of memes illustrating the urgency in finding your tribe and embracing the comfort of their closeness.
I wonder, though, do those meme makers really understand the concept of finding one's tribe, or properly cherishing them?
I wonder because I thought, several years ago, that I understood what it meant. I have learned recently, though, that I really didn't.
I thought that my tribe was made up simply of people who read a lot, wrote a fair amount, and enjoyed book time over screen time. You know, "hobby" people. The "Let's get coffee and talk about books and writing" people; the "That's a snazzy book cover" people; and the "Over-spending at the bookstore is fun" people. We enjoyed similar pastimes, engaged in similar social environments, and laughed at the same quirky, odd things. We indulged loudly in conversations that might make us seem a little weird to passersby. And we were okay with that. We could easily stand side by side in public without the need for a disguise. We were comfortable in each other's company.
While all of that is quite true about the literary and creative community with whom I spend most of my time, I have discovered that my tribe lives in a cave that goes much deeper than simple comfort. The place where my tribe hangs out would rival The Pantom's secret Skull Cave; and only Batman would be cunning enough to find it.
My tribe is comprised of exceptional people who inhale ideas and exhale words, sometimes vomiting on the page, just like me. These are people who can spend at least an hour describing the aroma of the antiquarian bookshop they visited last week, and never feel self-conscious about the discussion. They regularly indulge in conversations with each other's imaginary friends, and help them plan road trips through the next story. These people care so deeply about their created worlds that they live in them when the real world isn't looking. They spend hours a day delving into the brains, and hearts, and souls of the characters they discover lingering someplace deep inside them... in a place "normal" people tend to avoid because it's very messy and too much isn't easily explained.
Never once do they regret the opportunity to dissect the twinges of intellect, emotion, and fantasy that they may... or would never... step through in real life. Nor do they resent the others who choose not to go along on the exploration. They simply go ahead, anyway.
My tribe forgives my foibles and helps me laugh at my own inconsistencies, all while helping me grow out of them. They genuinely comfort me when I'm ill, and refuse to allow me to apologize for being human, or alien (whichever it may be that day). They understand me on a level that most don't dare to investigate because there is no reliability in the nearly rotted out planks upon which I walk, and the light can sometimes plays tricks with the shadows. Still, my tribe stands by as sentries, encouraging my every step as I scrutinize myself and my craft. My tribe never holds me hostage for the mistakes... or successes of my past, nor do they secret ransom notes under the table of my confidence in order to coerce my future. They are authentic and altruistic of heart, and they allow me the same indulgences without fear of harm or embarrassment. They know who they are.
My tribe is a gift of this life that I treasure... so deeply... my words lack the appropriate reverence. I keep each of these special people close to my unpublished self, offering them the only tribute I have.. loyalty and a genuine, passionate gratitude. I only hope that it is enough.
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