That's a heavy question. I think I've always been searching for my tribe, that is, those who are like minded. I've never really fitted 'the mould' that I thought I was given. I've always felt on the outside, never quite belonging.
I see this trait in my daughter too. It can be hard to relive those feelings through her, especially as I still don't really have the answers. I want to make it easier for her. It's a parent thing. Then again, these struggles might well be what shape her future and who am I to say that it's a bad thing.
I have found that as I get older, I still don't fit neatly into societal norms but also I don't really care any more. I might look like I fit in, big house, new car, typical suburban lifestyle but underneath it I don't think I have the same mindset. I don't feel like I'm really showing who I am beneath it all. I'm not even sure how I got here half the time!
I've gone through life trying to fit in. I was quiet in school and really wanted to be quietly creative and learn. I've got an intrinsic need to be constantly learning. I was called Swot or Beethoven (as a musician) in school. They were actually right. I wish I had embraced it instead of feeling ashamed of being different. I tried so hard to be what I thought was normal but made myself miserable.
When I left school and went to university things carried on in pretty much the same way. I wanted to be there to learn and expand, as well as to become independent. Most students just wanted to go off the rails with drinking and partying all night long. A hangover and missed lectures were a badge of honour. It never made sense to me. Nevertheless, I joined in to feel normal and make friends.
I met my first husband at uni. Looking back I thought that he was my tribe. He was also an introvert and didn't seem to want to fit into what looked normal. In fact, he deliberately went against the grain at every opportunity. I thought I'd met someone who didn't fit in just like me. We clicked.
Slowly, over time I found that I was now trying to fit into another mould that didn't fit, the rebel. I didn't want to deliberately upset people just for the hell of it. I went back to being the swot from before and hiding a big part of who I was. This was a huge mistake. I wasn't being true to myself or anyone else really.
|Searching for my tribe|
In academia, I was happy. I was surrounded by like-minded people who had a real appetite for learning and research. We shared the joy in each other's discoveries and commiserated together when things went wrong (as they often do in lab work). My whole world revolved around my work and colleagues. I finally found where I belonged.
Behind the scenes, I didn't realise that I was stuck in a loveless marriage. He wasn't part of my tribe afterall and we have very different ways of looking at the world. I was too young to see it at the time. He had sold his soul to big business chasing money to keep up with the Jones (actually to show off to his critical family). He was pursuing every bonus and pay rise to buy the next car or gadget. But it never made him happy or his family proud.
I was doing well in work and no one had any complaints. I loved my work and it was the passion that kept me feeling alive. The money was useful, but I would have done it for far less. In fact, I went back briefly on a voluntary basis.
During these years, my ex-husband and I drifted in separate directions. He pursued pay rises and possessions. I pursued knowledge. The two directions meant that we drifted and our goals didn't align any more. Although I'm not sure they ever did. We never talked about life goals. We were young.
I did find that the more we ended up stuck in the rat race, the more unhappy I became. We were buying bigger and bigger houses, he changed his car at least every two years, gadgets more so. I went along with it as everyone around us seemed to be doing the same thing. I didn't question it...
... at least not until I became too sick to work and we lost an income.
|Not looking so hot. I was |
told I had a nice shaped head though!
Just months after I lost my job (and income) my ex-husband told me he didn't love me and left me and our daughter. In one year, I lost my health, my job (and passion) and my marriage.
During our divorce, I also discovered that we had zero assets and only debts. How on earth had I, a natural saver, ended up with nothing but debts after a decade of a successful career?
It was a shock. But it was also a blessing. Sadly, he was not part of my tribe and we didn't share any core values. It freed me to start again and really find out who I was. I was done with trying to fit into what was expected of me by society, and my husband.
I started on a new path. Financially, I started with less than zero. About £320,000 less than zero!! It was a long slog back and has taken many years.
The hardest part was actually emotionally finding my way back. Money is just a number. Yes, an important one, to a point, but still just a number.
I mourned the lost of my career and passion. I mourned my daughter's loss of her father. But tellingly, I didn't mourn the loss of my marriage as I quickly realised that there was nothing there to have lost.
It was now just me and Missy. I'd lost my tribe as well as I was no longer in research. Over time I stopped seeing and talking to old colleagues. We all moved on. Life does that.
When I met Matt (now Hubby), we were two lost souls wandering without our tribes. We clicked immediately, although it wasn't obvious why at first. We had both been stung and were going through our own divorces. I thought that we were good moral support for each other and if that was all that there was, then that was fine. We needed each other then but might not have later on. Either way, it was good for us both and it was amazing to both understand what the other was going through.
|Missy loved him from the start|
Years after we realised that we were members of the same tribe. We didn't call it that but we were. We both have the same core values and similar mindsets. Importantly, we have the same mindset with money so that was never a problem for us. Heck! We were both less than penniless when we met! We obviously were NOT in it for the money! We often joke about that but it is a real comfort to know that it's never been a reason to be together. I don't think it was a coincidence that my separation/divorce was a mere 3 months after my last pay cheque.
Hubby had an accident back in 2013 where he cut his finger off while tinkering with a boat engine. He was off work for 10 weeks after surgery and during rehab. At the time he was homeless and living with his parents again. He stayed with me and Missy for those 10 weeks so I could help to look after him. It was actually nice to be able to take care of him for a change after all the times he'd helped me.
During those 10 weeks we lived in each others pockets for the first time, and loved it. We talked for many hours, helped each other with personal things (as you have to after surgery) and became a unit along with Missy, who was about 5 years old at time.
|Being Non-mainstream together|
We had found another member of our tribes. We have similar beliefs and values, as well as a similar mindset. Yes, we disagree on some things but are happy to discuss and look at things from other points of view. For the first time I didn't have to pretend to be 'normal'. Whatever the heck that is? I was old enough and confident enough to be me and if Hubby didn't like it, then he didn't have to stick around. I wasn't going to try to be something I wasn't again for someone else. Turns out that he loves me for my non-mainstream self.
|Our wedding day|
Hubby and I got married in 2014, after he proposed on his boat the year before (not long after his 10 weeks post-surgery). We never thought we'd do it again but couldn't deny that we fit together really well. Importantly, we *get* each other. It was the first time I felt that anyone had ever *got* me. The exhausting having-to-fit-in wasn't needed any more.
In recent years I've found that Missy and I are both the extreme INFJ introvert types. It's why I didn't ever feel at home and why Missy struggles now. We are happiest surrounded by books in a quiet space, preferably in the woods on a sunny day where we can sit and learn something new. Missy also wants to be an author and her happy place is with her netbook in the woods writing fiction.
Hubby is also a quiet introvert but not so far along the spectrum as us. It works well. He enjoys his hobbies, including sailing with others, and understands our needs for lots of down time and quiet. We all crave a peaceful existence. We are both clawing our way back from near bankruptcy 9 years ago and designing a life and future for us.
Our goal is for Hubby to be able to retire when Missy leaves school. He will be 55 then and I will be 48. We've got to find a way to be financially free in just 7 years but I think we can do it. I love spreadsheets and have geeked out over the numbers! We are not frivolous and are very intentional with what we spend. We always have been. What we were lacking before was a goal to aim for. A purpose.
|The natural habitat of an introvert |
(said in the voice of David Attenborough)
We have written bucket lists a few times and have talked extensively about what we want to do in retirement. I was getting annoyed though as conventional retirement is a long way off (when Hubby is 67!). My illness is progressive and I feel that time is ticking. We want to do these things before it's too late.
This new year we put together a plan for Hubby to retire in 7 years. In the meantime, we are trying to incorporate as many things that we want to do later on into our lives now. I'm learning to grow my own veggies, now. I'm making wine at home, now. I cook all our meals from scratch, now. We spend quality time as a family, now. No more putting things off. We are doing things NOW!
In the meantime, we are cutting our expenses back more so we can save something to live on for the gap years between Hubby stopping work and drawing his pension. I'm learning a lot about investment and passive income. We have stepped off the consumerism train with an aim to leave behind the rat race too. I crave a more simple life that is more in touch with our natural world. I've always been drawn towards it but tried to fit into the wrong mould for years. I guess I'm part hippy? Are hippies my natural tribe? I'm starting to think that they are. Was I born in the wrong decade? Maybe.
|Getting the tribe together|
The only other person I know who is in my tribe (other than Hubby and Missy) is a friend, Trac, who lives in rural France and blogs at tracdaviesartist.blogspot.com/. We met online at first. Finally, we met in person 3 years ago on our annual trip to France. It was like saying hello to an old friend. It was so easy and natural. That's what being with your tribe feels like. Our core beliefs are so similar. She has been a true inspiration to me and encourages me to find my true self. I feel like she's my big sister who has lots of good advice to give me. I'll really miss seeing her this year after my health (and Brexit) meant that we cancelled this year's trip to France. Thank goodness for video messaging and wifi!
I've had many friends come and go over the years but not many have made it to the inner circle of fellow tribe members. They are a much rarer breed it seems. Maybe they are all hiding in libraries somewhere? At least that's what Missy tells me!
Most people think we're mad for not wanting to be in the rat race and think that early retirement is only a dream. It's a puzzle to them why we don't want all the new gadgets. We would rather more time together down the line. I think back to those 10 weeks of discovery.
I suspect that we are living in the wrong area. It's a wealthy area where you have to be in the rat race to live here usually. I'm only here because it's where my ex-husband wanted to live. Somehow I've stayed, partly due to the recession devaluing the house for years but mainly for Missy who is settled. I look forward to leaving it all behind. There's not much community here as everyone is out to work all day. The children aren't even around in school holidays as their parents both work. Missy is usually on her own through the holidays. I still wonder if we should move sooner but that would mean moving twice as I'm not staying when Missy leaves school.
We plan to move somewhere more rural but within an hour of the coast for sailing. Currently we are thinking about West Wales as Brexit is going to make moving to West France difficult. It might end up being France though. Options are always good.
For now, we are working towards our goal of a more simple life and still on the lookout for fellow tribe members. I suspect that they are in more village areas rather than the cities and suburbs. Or maybe they are all at the library! Missy might be on to something!
Where's my library card?
|Missy, in her natural habitat!|