Who is your tribe? What group can you identify and connect with in a unique way?
We all want to belong. We seek people we have things in common with. But sometimes, finding your tribe pushes you outside of your comfort zone.
It was a long drive from my house to the meeting location for Camp Trailblazers. I had to take a ferry crossing, an international border crossing, and Vancouver, British Columbia Friday afternoon traffic into consideration. Then I had to figure out where to park my car and how to pay to leave it for two days. I couldn’t be late, because we were meeting up to catch a passenger-only ferry to the island where camp was to be held. But getting the travel schedule right wasn’t the only thing on my mind.
I was nervous. For the first time in my life, I would be part of an assembly of people that all had one thing in common. Facial difference.
The event I had chosen to attend, Camp Trailblazers, is a family camp organized by AboutFace. AboutFace is a non-profit organization based in Canada that provides support and community for people with facial differences across the US and Canada. The camp is designed around youth and their families, so not only do young people with facial differences attend, but parents and siblings as well. Even though the focus is on youth, because there is nothing else like it in the region, a number of adults with facial differences opt to attend as well.
The opportunity to meet other adults, including some that I had only “met” online, as well as demonstrating to young people that it is possible to live a full and happy life despite having a facial difference, were what compelled me to attend.
Even so, I confess that I had reservations. People who meet me often believe me to be outgoing, but the reality is, I have introverted tendencies. This means I can be hesitant about meeting new people, and may not be the first to say something.
It’s not that I’m afraid to meet other people with facial differences. I’ve driven miles out of my way during vacation trips to meet up with individuals I’d developed connections with on line but had never met, but usually only one or two at a time. There was something daunting about meeting an entire group all at once.
How would you feel if you had the opportunity to be in a group with which you had something unique in common with? Elated? Threatened? Insecure? Empowered?
If you have already found your tribe, how did you feel about meeting them for the first time?
It may sound odd, but I was afraid of losing my uniqueness. For most of my life, I didn’t have opportunities to interact with other people that have facial differences. Because I have a degree of confidence and acceptance regarding my appearance, I am comfortable with the fact that my face helps me to stand out. I like to be unique and don’t mind being recognizable. In fact, I use it to my advantage when I can. It wasn’t until I became active on social media that I discovered entire communities of people with different faces for a whole variety of reasons.
In a group made up entirely of people with non-standard visages, however, I feared that an important aspect of my uniqueness would be taken away. I didn’t want to be “just like everyone else.”
After our group had assembled, we boarded the foot-ferry to the island where camp was being held. At first, I stuck closely to those few I knew previously. But once we got to camp and we all started to interact, I felt increasingly like I was coming home.
There are experiences we share in our day to day lives that most other people simply cannot identify with, and this automatically helps to create an incredible sense of community. Instead of being among strangers, I began to feel like I had found my tribe.
By the end of the weekend, I had partaken in some wonderful conversations, fun activities, and most importantly, I’d made new friends. I also knew I would never feel awkward going to a similar event in the future, even if I didn’t know anyone else there.
Who is your tribe? If you haven’t already, don’t be afraid to go find them. The rewards, and sense of community, are worth the effort.