Sisterhood and Forming a Positive Tribe

I apologize in advance for forgetting who said this, but a motivational speaker’s words stuck with me a few years back, and are in my mind again today: “You are the sum total of the five people closest to you.” …Or something to that effect.

Jotting it down in my notes that day, the message resonated. It’s been said in different ways… “birds of a feather flock together,” for example… but what I liked about how the speaker phrased it was the ownership that it gave. The responsibility to choose your companions based upon who you want to be in this life. To choose people who inspire you, who are achieving the kinds of things that you want to achieve.

This weekend I’m overflowing with gratitude for the friends and family I have in my life, and in particular, a group of women who grow more dear to me every year. In college I joined a sisterhood, primarily because they were fun and it was a cost effective way to afford going to parties. We weren’t a typical sorority, at least not the sort depicted on television or in movies, and if any one trait bound us together it was that we preferred diversity amongst our ranks. Meetings were often long and frustrating because we had so many differing opinions about what we wanted as a group. We lived where we wanted, associated with whomever we wanted and pursued a thousand different interests between us. We graduated and disbursed across the world, and while some friendships remained active it was easy to assume that time and distance would take their toll and we’d try to remember each other again at reunions, if we went.

In the years right after graduation a few women met up here and there. I was far away and couldn’t afford plane travel, so let it go. I missed a couple of weddings, but managed to make it to a bridal shower several years after graduation, and discovered that when I came away after a few days with “the ladies” I felt refreshed. Everyone was on a different step in their journey into adulthood and I had picked up a few new ideas to aid in my own journey. We kept in touch, and the next time the ladies gathered I made an effort to go. And it began. Different combinations ended up whittling down to a group of nine women who meet up in a different part of the country each summer. Not all of us make it each year, but when we can (and we really try), it’s a recharge. And I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to have that in my life.

More and more this culture feels like it has grown depressed, and is expressing that through withdrawing, becoming self-absorbed and needy. People are forgetting how to interact with each other as they get sucked into their cell phones. The news is a non-stop wash of distrust and horror. Politics… well, volatile and divided are good words to describe the political landscape in my country right now. What I don’t see when I look around is connection. Support. Mentorship. Reminders of how to be good citizens to each other and guidance on how.

Then I reconnect with my ladies. We’ve all gone different ways in our lives and decisions. What we share in common now, though, is strength. Intelligence. A need to make our world better and the ambition to do something about it. Compassion. Humor. We have known each other through life’s highest joys and most heartbreaking lows. We squabbled like siblings back then and wrap around each other like family now. There is no judgement, just support. Stories. Love.

If I were to have the power to wish anything for the people of this world and have it happen, I would wish that every person have access to something like that. Sisterhood, brotherhood, tribe, family, however it works… that would be my wish. A handful of days per year I laugh, learn and refuel. I am fortunate.

The funny thing is, if you had asked me while still in college to pick out the people I’d still see years later, I may not have handed you the same list of women who are such treasures to me now. It grew from each of us giving an idea a chance. Also from the people we chose to become and what we decided to make important. It feels like a happy accident, but it isn’t at all.

Filled with a grateful heart and wishing my ladies safe travels home today, I send my wish out into the world for everyone to have a chance at rich, fulfilling friendship and a supportive tribe of their own.