I've been living in what I still refer to as a 'new city' for the last 7 years.
Ottawa was a very big and welcome change. It's a city with a busy nightlife, arts culture, and plenty to entertain yourself with, despite what many of it's locals have resigned to believe. What made me fall head-over-heels for this city was not all its lush life, but it's familiarity to a small town. It didn't shock me outside my comfort zone of eastern Canadian hospitality and kindness when I moved here. It simply added excitement and variety to my life in a way that only a countries' capital can.
Something I wasn't able to maintain from home was the feeling of a tribe; My people, my chosen family, my community. I've been wading around in this pool of beautiful and vibrant people for more than half a decade, rubbing elbows and in some cases creating deep bonds with a chosen few. But somehow i'm still only just staying afloat in the social waters. While i've found everyone to be warm and welcoming, I still haven't found the people who make it feel like home no matter where we go. The large body of people who I want to move with... like the tide.
This of course is not to be mistaken for having not made friends. In fact, it's been a point of conversation with our families in Nova Scotia that my husband and I have created a network of beautiful and caring people that we are lucky to spend our time with. And they are right. When I stand back and look at the friendships we've made, and count on my hands the people on whom we trust, the numbers are great. Perhaps even better than they were in the later years of living in Cape Breton, when so many of our friends had moved west. My heart glows when I think of the beautiful web of friendship we've weaved across the city.
But thats just it; its a web. Every relationship cast out in a different direction, with only my husband and myself in common, at the centre of it all.
Our friends are all from so many different walks of life. The adventurous outdoorsy travellers, the young famalies with kids, the serial singles, the chosen DINKs (Dual income no kids), the music professionals, the government workers, the gamers, the tradesmen, the tech geeks, the athletes. We've made friends with a seriously wide variety of people. And although it can be incredibly entertaining and our social outings have a wonderful variety, it also means that our time is fractured among many. Our time with these people is often short, and it's become a challenge to find the bond before we end up hanging out with someone from the other side of the web. We are pulled in many directions at once.
My first-level response is to bring my friends together. On the rare occasions of birthdays or holidays, we find ourselves surrounded by those lovely friends, but still divided. Theres too much lifestyle difference and personality clashes for the melting pot to happen. It's simply, and sadly, not the answer to whats been lost for these past 7 years.
Where do I find it? Who is my tribe and where are they? What exactly is it that i'm looking for?These are the questions i've been asking myself for the last few weeks.
In early January I did something outside my comfort zone. I attended an 'artist meetup' in the city. I'm not a true introvert; I love to socialize and sometimes even feel mentally and physically sick when I'm not socializing regularly. I'm more of the new definition of a Extroverted-Introvert. I'm shy around new people and find it incredibly difficult to step into unknown social realms. But i've come to a crossroads. I can either face my fears and put myself out there in new and terrifying places with beautiful people full of potential who may accept me or reject me (or worse, not notice me at all)...or stay within my comfort zone with the people I know, trust, and care about, but live with an emptiness and longing for a community of like-minded people. I took my first step down the scary road of unknown social interactions and attended the Artist Meetup in hopes of finding refuge and kindness among other artist. After all, there are yet to be any 'artists' who are a part of the web of people I have across the city. I owe it to myself to find the creatives and create that bond. 7 years is long enough.
The artist meetup was a positive experience. I can't say I had an epiphany or any sort of social breakthrough, but the people were shy and kind and easy to be around. I wasn't necessarily welcomed with open arms (and didn't expect to be), but I did feel a sense of acceptance. And best of all, i didn't feel isolated away from these strangers. They allowed me into something that already exists. And thats a pretty lovely thing in itself.
At the end of the meetup I had some great conversations with new people. It helped me a lot. It gave me a sense of 'possible belonging.' An opening of a door. Thats just enough for my first attempt. I plan on going back to the next meetup, to see where it will take me. Until then, i'm passively looking for other opportunities to find my tribe.
I'll find you soon.