When I was about to begin high school, I made a decision that would forever change my life – I moved to Oregon to live with my dad and stepmother.
While it majorly altered my ways of dealing with the world, it also changed my social universe.
I went from living in the town in which I was born, where everyone knew me, to being an interloper in a very small town with an incredibly small school. I became the Outcast, and though I moved back to my hometown as a Junior in high school, I never completely shook the title.
When I came back, the teenage world had gone on without me. No longer were my middle school friends accessible. Eventually, I became friendly with people, but I no longer had any close friends, no one with whom I hung out or chatted on the phone or wandered the mall. I had become the Loner.
When I moved away for college, everything changed. The moment my feet touched Arcata’s soil for the first time, I felt like I had come home. It was this calming and crazy electric feeling at the same time. My hometown had never been my home, just a place I dwelled. Finally, in Humboldt County, I found where I belonged.
As the years flew by like clouds sailing through the tops of the redwood trees, my tribe grew. There was constant ebb and flow, not unlike the waves at Moonstone Beach, but my circle of friends in some form or another was always there.
People move in and out of a college town. It’s just the nature of the beast, but since we all spoke the same language, there was always opportunity to make new friends, and because of that feeling of sameness, the friends we made stayed friends, no matter the distance.
Slowly, that feeling of being home crumbled. I no longer felt safe walking by myself. People were shooting up in the alley behind our apartment. It became commonplace to witness the homeless relieve themselves in the neighbor’s yard. The mood in town shifted to one of aggressive entitlement, and my Charles and I decided to move on.
We chose Nevada County, a very pretty area with similar values – environmental stewardship, food activism, those sorts of things, but I had a hell of a time finding anyone who spoke my language. It was like high school all over again. I became friendly with people, but my only close friend was my Charles. Being an adult made things more complicated, too. My closer friends were all at least an hour away, and they all had more responsibilities, more claims on their time, as did I.
Doing something social became more of a chore, and when my Charles and I did go out and do something, there were few people we actually connected with at all. We were back to where we both were in high school, feeling achingly alone in a crowd.
We have lived in this area for six years now, and we still haven’t found our tribe. We’re infinitely better off than we were in high school – we have each other – plus, we’re no longer kids, but what do you do when you’ve found your tribe and then lost it? Do you count yourself lucky for at least finding it? Having found it, you know what you’re lacking. How do we encounter people that speak our same language again? Can we do it here, or does it require going on a quest for a new place to live, one where we encounter that feeling of belonging and oneness again? Is it just an opportunity you have in your twenties and then life just takes over, changing the way you interact with the world?
What do you think?
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