Two weeks ago, I flew more than 5,300 miles for a hug. Well, OK, lots of hugs. I needed to see my tribe.
I’m a hugger. And it still baffles me to no end how most people in San Francisco are not. Tree huggers, yes. People huggers, not so much. Even though my mom is German, she’s a hugger. That’s probably where I got it from. We hug every morning when we first see each other and again at night before we go to bed. We’re known to sneak some hugs in there in the middle of the day, too. So yeah, we hug. A lot. But hugging aside, it’s no secret that I’ve felt more than a little out of place in San Francisco lately. So I got on a plane (or two) and flew 5,351 miles from San Francisco to London to be with what a good friend (whom I met in SF but doesn’t hug) calls “my tribe.”
I’ve been a bit of an etymology nerd lately, thanks in large part to a fellow word nerd whom I met here in SF (and whom I’d classify as a medium hugger). While there are many definitions for the word “tribe,” my favorite is a simple one: A group of persons who have a common character, occupation, or interest. The word dates back to 13th century Middle English, from Latin tribus, a division of the Roman people: tribe. (Always the Romans, they knew what was up.) Even though I used the term quite often, I never put much stock or deep thought into it until last night when I was recounting my trip to the aforementioned word nerd. I realized then that I flew all the way to London for more than a bacon sandwich, really amazing gin or a giant bag of Cadbury’s mini eggs. I flew all the way to London to reconnect with my tribe. The tribe I have spent years depending on but never really realized it.
I hop around a lot, which confuses many people. I’ll move country or city without a lot of premeditated thought, I’ll get on planes to far away places on a whim, I’ll do yoga in jungles or French chateaux or tiny northwestern islands, and I’ll occasionally do crazy things like live on a farm in Ireland for three months. A doctor here once told me that this sort of lifestyle is a symptom of my “overstimulated mind” — apparently my mind moves more quickly than any other part of me, so I need to change my stimuli often to keep it happy. I fall into the hyper-creative, entrepreneur-brain category, which seems to have a common neurological pattern. We are “people that balance their neurochemistry by constantly doing something stimulating or innovative at all times,” according to this Inc. article that the doctor was interviewed for. Believe of it what you will, but much our 20 minute discussion years ago still resonates with me today.
I’ve deduced that a lot of people just don’t get me. (The doctor did add that romantic relationships would be challenging. Um, yes.) So for the few people that I meet that also fall into this same category, we get along swimmingly. For the rest, they’ll either a) try to calm me down, strongly suggest that I choose one path, or just shake their heads; or b) let me be my nutty self. This is not to say that the same person cannot play both roles at various times or in different situations, but the reactions are pretty clearly divided into those two groups. Because of this, I try to be conscious of my reactions to other people’s paths, dreams, career aspirations and the like. I hope I do OK on that front. But spending a lot of time alone these days had lead me to crave some seriously awesome human interaction with people who get me. People in group (b). This is not to say that I don’t have a tribe in the States. I definitely do. But it’s different. We are so work and career-focused here that it’s very hard to be, for the first time in your life, not defined by your job and truly embrace life in the US. Perhaps it’s the adventurous European spirit, perhaps it’s the bond you create with people who are in the trenches with you (another term coined by my wise Californian non-hugging friend), perhaps it’s a mix of both that lead me across the pond to my tribe.
I spent a week laughing and eating and drinking gin and hugging. I spent a week in a place without judgement, both literally and figuratively. I spent a week surrounded by unconditional encouragement and support for my new journey, and really good gin. (Did I mention the gin already? Oh well, it was really good.) On my last night, I got a bit emotional (shocker, I know). Surrounded by the smiling faces of friends, many of whom are as nutty as I am, I realized that I’m not as f—ked up as I often think I am, and I’m ready to carry on (as they say) back home. No, I don’t have a full-time job. No, I’m not earning six figures anymore. No, I’m not moving back to New York tomorrow. No, I don’t know exactly where this new road will take me. But yes, I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
As a very good friend and fellow culinary school mate says to me almost every day, “How lucky are we?”