It’s been a year and a half since I last wrote for this blog. Why? Partially because I had other priorities, but also because, truthfully, I haven’t felt like I’ve had a lot of additional positive stuff to share.
I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve been miserable and depressed – I haven’t. I’ve just been in a different space lately … a space of opening myself up and listening to what’s around me, rather than talking and preaching to others. 🙂
Part of what I have been doing is finding my space, my community, my home base. I’ve needed to do this before I could refocus outward. A great part of this has been finding and developing bonds with my people.
Have you found your people?
Some of you who read this may have already found your people, and that’s great! When I talk about “your people,” I am partially talking about people you know and trust, your support network and such. But “your people” have another crucial characteristic: they are working on themselves and live their lives in a similar or inspirational way to you; they are going spiritually in the direction you are going or want to go in.
Sometimes you will find your people among folks of similar background to yours – but sometimes you may find your people elsewhere, especially if you feel like the people around you / from the same background as you don’t “get” you, or even hold you back somehow.
Family and fellow travelers you don’t pick (like work colleagues, for example) will have a lot to do with the course of your life, but there is also a very important kind of kinship – kinship that is often more voluntary. The kinship can happen through a number of factors: Mutual interests, like volleyball or comics. Similar situations, like single parenthood or studying at the same university. Similar goals, like getting in shape or reducing stress through meditation. Similar stories / histories, like being a cancer survivor or ex-military member. Many times, there is an intersection of several of these things.
Shared group activity, however, is only one way to find “your people.” Some of us, especially introverts, are just fine without these shared activities. If you are more introverted, “your people” might simply be a few friends who inspire you, comfort you, challenge you, support you, and so on – without any great big “group” dynamic.
You know you’ve found “your people” when you’re in the frequent company of people that help you to become and live as your best self, in a sense. For example, do you want to live a life free of chronic anger? Maybe your people will be friends who are both supportive and slow to get angry – people whose natural mindset does not often turn to anger. Or maybe your people will be friends who also have histories of chronic anger that they have worked on in order to be less angry, who can empathize with what chronic anger feels like and use their experiences to help you with yours.
Finding “my people” has been important to me because, to be honest, it gets hard sometimes to stay positive in a world of so much disorder and injustice. As I’ve gotten older and exposed myself more to the experiences of others, I’ve noticed all sorts of awful things, inequalities, traumas, injustices, fear, shame, and so on. And I’ll easily admit: I am one of those with a past history of chronic anger, and many of the realities of the world around me make me angry.
One common response to anger and depression is to turn away, to tune out, to go numb, to retreat to an imaginary world. It’s a pretty common coping mechanism, and most of us do it to some degree or another. But if you’ve read any of the articles on this blog, you’ll see that I am so often advocating for the opposite – for us to come out, to embrace the unkown, to get to know and feel our vulnerability, and so on. I believe that a lot of the things our souls cry out for in life require us to get out of our comfort zones and expose ourselves to truths that we may not like very much.
How do you open yourself up more to the world when so many stimuli provoke fight-or-flight responses? One huge piece of the puzzle is finding “your people.” As it is often said, together we stand, divided we fall. This also applies in personal life, not just social or political life.
The key ingredients that make up “your people”
I very much realize that this concept of “your people” sounds all fluffy right now. So, to be more precise, you know someone is “your people” when most or all of the following things are true:
- You have a set of key common values with someone.
- Your situations or histories share important similarities.
- You are in some way oriented in the same direction in life as the other person[s].
- You feel both inspired and challenged to be your best self, to live as the kind of person you most want to be.
- You feel cared about, understood, and supported, often without even having to ask for it – like people “get” you.
- You feel able and willing to let down your guard some; to trust in a deeper way than you normally would.
- You feel reasonably able to “be yourself,” i.e., you don’t have to put on a mask to be seen, accepted, and appreciated.
- You, your needs, and your preferences are always respected, even when a disagreement happens.
- You feel able to naturally contribute to others’ progress – to make meaningful contributions to others through who you already are.
- Caring about another person/other people (and doing things that show this caring) doesn’t feel like an unwanted chore or something that you’ll regret later.
- You feel “at home” in someone’s presence, as though you’ve known them for a long time. Maybe you have 🙂
(this is not an exhaustive list)
Nobody goes anywhere in life all alone. This is a huge myth that only seems to be getting bigger the more atomized our societies get. We all have mentors, role models, helpers, comrades, and such. Those who are successful in life never got there on their own.
Your people can change – in fact, they probably will
Say you wanted to quit smoking years ago, and you found people that helped you and supported you in that. Great! But now you want to learn to speak Vietnamese. You might find yourself spending less time with the people that helped you quit smoking and more time with the ones you can learn Vietnamese with. Heck, maybe one of your anti-smoking people also went off and started spending more time in a book club reading the works of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o. And another one got into after-market car modification and accessories. And another one had a family member with Alzheimer’s and began paying a lot of attention to that. Maybe, now that you all have taken other paths, you won’t be as in touch as before.
This is natural and fine. Our needs and situations change with time – our people may sometimes change also. We are not static beings; the person I am now is very, very different than the person I was 10 years ago. Someone who was “your people” in the past may no longer be such. It’s ok. It also doesn’t mean you should cease contact with them, either. But if you feel that you need to go in a different direction, you are more likely to regret it later on if you don’t follow your spirit now. Besides, a true friend will understand, and in the long run, neither of you will ever completely disappear. The best friendships get through the ups and downs and can adjust to the needs of the individuals involved; such friendships often end up enriched by these vagaries.
Who do you want to be? What do you want to change? Who can help you? If nobody around you comes to mind, where can you find people that you vibe with? This is a big deal and a very underrated skill – the ability to find your people. Sometimes life changes dramatically and unexpectedly, and sometimes you change; whom will you join forces with on the journey?