To my dear daughter,
You start grade one this year. Last year was challenging because you left a school, a teacher, and friends you already loved, and started all over. You struggled to adjust, but you grew in so many ways, and by the end of last June, you were flourishing.
I don’t remember much about my friends in grade one. I moved to another school myself after that year, so there weren’t any lasting friendships. I moved again, this time to another city, in grade five, and moved on to junior high a few years after that. It was only in high school when I finally stayed in place for five years. Friendships were hard to maintain with the constant changing of schools, but eventually I found my tribe.
If there’s one thing I hope for you, as you get older, it’s that you find your tribe as well.
I’m not talking about a group of friends that you gossip with about clothes and your current crushes – although that is always part of the conversation with a tribe. I’m not talking about the people in your class, or the people you work with, although sometimes you find parts of your tribe in those places.
Your tribe is a group of friends who have your back, always. They will pick you up when you fall down, or at least laugh hysterically. They will not allow you to be fake or focus on surface things; their bullshit meters are always on. They’ll want to dig deep, share secrets, offer moral support. They will tell you when you’re flying off the handle about something or someone, but they’ll be the first people to go to bat for you when you’re being attacked.
Your tribe will keep you up late some nights, talking about everything and nothing. They will listen to you cry over your broken heart, hug you, and then make you cry with laughter.
At the time in your life when you are the most vulnerable to how others perceive you, when you most fear being judged, your tribe is who will convince you to care less. Together, you will learn that strength of character is much more important than appearances.
Some of my newer mom friends have, upon getting to know me better, always exclaimed how great it is that I don’t seem to care what others think of me, and that I always appear confident. I have no doubt that my strong-willed, hilarious, supportive, and did I mention strong? friends I had during that most tumultuous time in our lives played a huge role in my character development. I owe much of who I am today to that tribe of friends.
More than two decades have passed since those crazy high school years. My tribe and I drifted apart for much of that time. But in recent years, we have reconnected (thanks, Facebook!), and now I find myself living a 5-minute drive from one of them in a house another one found for me as our real estate agent. We aren’t as close as we once were, but it’s truly amazing to experience how much things remain the same, even as we’ve changed in our own small ways. Whenever we see each other – infrequently, because who has time for anything when you have kids? – it feels like no time has passed at all. And I know, despite the years, that we would have each others’ backs in an instant, should the need arise.
That, my dear daughter, is worth more than just about anything else in the world. I hope you find it too, one day.