My husband tossed his candy wrapper at me. He does that sometimes, but this time, I knew the wrapper was for reading because it was a Dove wrapper. And I knew it was for me because it said, “Your vibe attracts your tribe.”
I often hear that we must find our tribe or that we will know our tribe when we see it—when we see someone being as weird as we are. I have tribes, small groups or singletons here and there, awesome friends I’ve managed to carry with me over the years and through various trials and tribulations. But last weekend, I found my tribe at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in San Diego.
This conference was crawling with talented writers and some pretty outstanding individuals, and I was lucky enough to get to spend time with them. And after this, if I didn’t already believe in fate to a certain degree (if you know my background, you get it), I’d be sold.
After my first read and critique, a woman approached me and offered some specific feedback about my writing. I was honored to get the attention and as always, very appreciative of her input. Another like-minded soul had joined us, and after chatting for a bit, we realized some commonalities in our stories.
I finally asked, “Who are you? What’s your name?” She flipped her name tag around. I recognized it because I’d seen it on the list of presenters at the conference. Ugh! She’s a fellow writer and also a publisher! And, no, she wasn’t offering me a publishing contract—I’m not quite there yet—but she was providing some honest, heartfelt, and constructive criticism, which I ate up like a feast of desserts.
I had just met this other woman a moment before, and we connected like fireworks, or long-lost sisters, at the very least. And so my community-seeking heart was thumping, and I was already digging this conference and seeing its potential to lift me to another level of understanding as a writer.
A few hours later, I moseyed on over to the hotel restaurant for some grub, and who did I find waiting to be seated right before me? The writer/publisher I’d met earlier. She was with a group of four others whom I hadn’t met. She greeted me with her gorgeous, welcoming smile and asked if I’d like to join them for dinner. Of course, I said yes. I was feeling particularly social and knew one reason I’d come to the conference was to network and meet other writers, but I had no idea what was about to happen.
I sat and laid my napkin over my lap, and it was over—or, should I say, it began! —I chatted, laughed, and they did, too. It was a beautiful display of new friendship and kismet. We all just clicked. These people were so welcoming and smart and funny and complimentary. And genuine. We almost hated to leave each other to return to the conference to hear the evening speaker, but we went anyway, showing up late together like the cool kids returning from ditching class. Only we were the cool kids because we were ourselves, secure in our own skin, and getting the most out of what life has to offer. And deep down, I think we all realized what was happening—that we were forming a unique bond of camaraderie and kinship.
Now, they’d already found each other, and I came late to the game, and they already had their own kismet happening. But they welcomed me with their lovely hearts. And all weekend, we looked for each other, saved each other seats, and continued to fall in love. I’m pretty melodramatic, and I’m not at all sure they’d describe us in precisely the same way, but you know what? I’d usually be a little shy to introduce them like this, but somehow, with this group, I know that if they read this, they will appreciate and accept it as 100% me, without judgment. And that’s how I know they are my tribe.
We are keeping in touch hard-core. And they all have super cool, important day jobs and families, and they are as committed to our little group as I am. They’ve said as much, but also, I feel it like they’re with me all the time now.
How does this happen? Where you go away for the weekend and come back changed by the beauty and compassion of other hearts? I couldn’t have predicted or forced it, and there is no formula. It either happens, or it doesn’t. But if I hadn’t met my first real critic at that reading, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here gushing about my new writerly tribe. Most likely, I wouldn’t have known what I was missing, but now that I’ve met these people, I don’t ever want to let them go. That sounds a little stalker-y, I know, but seriously, I believe we will continue to support each other’s writing goals and lift each other up. And I know we will even see each other face-to-face again because this weekend was like being away at summer camp, and once you forge connections like that, they root themselves in you like little trees.
Two years ago I connected with a few stellar individuals at a one-day conference, and we promised we’d keep in touch. I’m Facebook friends with a few of them and have intermittent exchanges. But I didn’t follow through in the way I thought I would. Maybe, if we’d had the whole weekend to get chummy, things would’ve turned out differently. Ironically, one of those writers attended the writer’s conference last weekend, and she and I reconnected, and I know we will always be friends. She is very talented, intelligent, and brings beauty with her wherever she goes and has no idea just how awesome she is.
So, I wanted to write about this because over a week later, I’m still on a high from my experience at the conference, and I then my husband got a candy wrapper meant for me like a fortune cookie message snatched up by the wrong hand.
After I married my husband, I lived in Redondo Beach for four years and never found a community of people like me. When we moved to San Diego, I left my job, my friends, my family, and had to start over building my world. For two years, I remained isolated and depressed, and then I answered a Meet-Up for writers and found my first two tribe members in my new life as a San Diegan. And we now have two others.
These things take time, but the point is, you have to put yourself out there. Your tribe won’t just fall into your lap from the comfort of your home—the candy wrapper might, but you have to tune in. You must be yourself, unapologetically, throw yourself into the ring of life, and see where you stick. And when you do, your spirits lift and possibilities open up, showing you what’s behind door number three. You walk through, embark on a new path of friendship and understanding, and never look back.