You don’t find your best friends over night. You don’t find them hiding under a rock, or in a stationary cupboard, or waiting patiently on a train platform holding a coffee-with-one-sugar-and-skimmed-milk just how you like it. You aren’t born with automatic, hand-me-down best friends. The mission is to go out into the world seek them out. Picking and choosing and trying them on, understanding what truthfully fits.
You end up finding some though, on odd years, even years, up and down years, unusual situations and unexpected occasions. Often the mathematics doesn’t quite add up. Like two clashing algorithms on a dating site – on paper it shouldn’t work out. You’re too similar, you’re too different, you hate each other’s food choices. But then something ignites. The tiniest private joke, a knowing look, a cackle – and you both know there’s no turning back.
My friend Laura talks about friendship as tribes. One of my favourite ‘thinkers’ Seth Godin talks about tribes too. He describes tribes as this: “founded on shared ideas and values, tribes give ordinary people the power to lead and make big change.” Laura’s definition is more along the lines of “soul-sisters-who-are-on-your-side-whatever-the-fuck-happens” kind of friendship. Both these things. That is a tribe.
Sometimes your tribe members take a long time to appear. Sometimes they don’t appear for years on end, and you start to worry a bit. Sometimes people tell you when you’re likely to meet them (like university) and then when you don’t, you freak. You have friends that are nice. You have coffee with friends who you’ve known for years. It’s nice. Really nice. But then you start to think: Where is my tribe? You’ve found some of them, sure, but in the small part of the country you grew up in you won’t find them all. You know more are out there – you know have not found them all.
There’s a piece in Lena Dunham’s new book Not That Kind Of Girl that rung so true to me. It was how I felt in my late teens and early 20’s. It felt like she’d stepped inside my secret thoughts and blurted them out into a book. Huh? How did you know that, Lena? HOW? This is the excerpt:
“I have friends: a king group of girls whose passions (baking, pressing flowers, community organising) do not stir me. I feel guilt about this, a sense that my inability to be at home with them proves, once and for all, that I am no good. I laugh, I agree, I find reasons to go home early. I have the nagging sense that my true friends are waiting for me, beyond college, unusual women whose ambitions are as big as their past transgressions, whose hair is piled high, dramatic like topiaries at Versailles who never ever say “too much information” when you mention a weird sex dream.”
Then this: “But that’s how I felt in high school, sure my people were from elsewhere going elsewhere and they would recognise me when they saw me.”
If you haven’t yet found your tribe, you will. There passions will stir you, and they will never say to you “too much information” whenever you over-share anything weird. You will instantly recognise each other.
Even in the last year, I can’t believe how many more incredible people I’m happy to welcome into my tribe.