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Finding my tribe(s)

April 25, 2017

I have always been the ‘other’, the outsider, the one who didn’t fit, even in my family. When I was young I had an inner conflict – the desire to fit in with the desire to follow my own path.  Instead I took the middle ground and I disappeared into my world of books, found solace in my imagination, learnt barely enough social skills to exist in a society where the expectation was to fit in and run with the pack.

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Run? I could barely run, I was the last to be chosen for any team because my un-co skills were legendary. Besides, I was the snobby one  — apparently. The one who was too good for the others — apparently.  At least, that’s how I was perceived. In reality,  I was painfully shy, not good enough for anybody but the fictional worlds in my books and the fictional worlds in my head.

At high school there was a loose knit group of us ‘others’. The ones who were not sporty, not popular, not anything that could be possibly cool. We dubbed ourselves the ‘unelites’ and gravitated to a bench hidden in an alcove where we could avoid attention – ‘the unelite seat’.

I was leading a double life – the shrinking violet, ‘please don’t notice’ me at school, quietly scribbling into notebooks, while after hours, my well spent youth was at Campbelltown Theatre Group, strutting the stage, taking on different personas, finding my confidence to act and to speak and to write. Writing plays, directing plays, acting — I’d found my first tribe and I loved it. But not enough to make a career of it, though I thought I could until I auditioned for NIDA (and Nepean and Uni of Wollongong) and realised that there were people a lot more passionate than me.  Plus at that point in my life, I didn’t want to deal with the rejection that is an actor’s life.  (I’d save that for when I took writing seriously again.)  In hindsight, I see I was dealing with not being ‘good enough.’

Lolita Laser

I went to UNSW and majored in Theatre Studies and English. Assessing other people’s writing killed all the creativity in me for many years.  I thought I would be a drama teacher, the love of theatre still burning inside. For about a year, I taught the youth at Campbelltown Theatre Group and it was tough. I reassessed the teaching idea and found an Arts Administration course in Adelaide. That became my chosen path for many years, with stints at Bell Shakespeare, Sydney Theatre Company, Metro Theatre, Glen St Theatre and the Adelaide Fringe.  I loved the work, loved being part of the theatre machinery, but still I felt like the outsider and I gravitated back to writing, back to Adelaide.

It took moving to the Mid North Coast to find my tribes. I know now that we don’t have to have just one tribe. We can have different tribes for different facets of our lives.

But it also took a lot of work on myself, a lot of reflection and a lot of stepping out of my comfort zone. As long as I remained the shrinking violet, the one too scared to speak to anyone because I may not be good enough, I would never find my tribe. I would never find a place where I belonged. I took risks and sometimes those risks paid off and sometimes they didn’t.

Shortly after moving to the Mid North Coast, I joined Nambucca Valley Writers Group. I turned up to my first meeting alone at the Nambucca Bowling Club and I read them a sex scene. I figured they needed to know what they were in for. They welcomed me and I have now been with the group for more than 17 years. They inspire me, they motivate me and they support me. I have been Secretary, President, and I am webmistress.  Every year a group of us make the pilgrimage to Byron Bay Writers Festival. It’s about the camaraderie, the bonding and learning. They are my writing tribe.

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In 2007 I joined Romance Writers of Australia.  At my first conference, I spoke to maybe 4 people. Most of the time I shrunk into the walls and I was too scared to speak to Jenny Cruisie, the keynote speaker and my writing idol at the time. Gradually I got to know RWA people online through the Friday night online chats which meant that at subsequent conferences, I met people in real life that I’d already got to know online. RWA had a huge impact on me, especially in building my confidence.

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I joined the committee in 2009 and served as Member Secretary for several years – this meant that I got to know many members and I have made many friendships through the organisation. I learned to approach people at conference and start conversations. I found my critique partners in RWA. My writing doesn’t quite fit the romance box – I am quite subversive and will write to the story and character not to expectations – but they are my tribe and going to conference and hanging out with people who get me is a highlight of my year. These women are more of my writing tribe.

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I had never been a dancer.  That ‘unco’ reputation carried into whatever physical thing I attempted. At theatre group, I referred to Jackie’s choreography workshops as Jackie’s Torture Workshops. I had two left feet. She’d say move right, I’d move left. My brain-arm/leg coordination did not exist. When I was 20, I broke my leg so I then had two left feet and a broken leg.  And yet something inside me yearned for it and learning to bellydance was on my bucket list ever since I met the beautiful bellydancing witch Amanda when I joined a coven (there’s a whole other story of trying to fit in).

I started bellydancing in 2011 with the Sacred Lotus girls. I  developed a girl crush on my teacher, Kylie, an amazing goddess who had the patience to teach me rhythm and grace and how to wield a silk fan veil. I danced right out of my comfort zone and into the arms of my dancing sisters.  I don’t always feel totally at home if I start comparing myself to these beautiful women, I still have many moves to learn and to commit to muscle memory, but I keep pushing myself.  Sadly, Kylie has moved interstate, but the other girls have formed a co-operative teaching unit and have extended the classes to include dance, yoga and meditation. Last night I danced to Eminem and then improvised without any self-consciousness, losing myself in the music. These women are my dancing tribe.

 

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I learned that every relationship (friendship, romantic etc) starts with a conversation and sometimes I must be the one willing to start the conversation.

I have learned that magic begins outside your comfort zone. And in writing my story about Cinderella, I have learned that real magic begins when you are true to yourself.

About six weeks ago I was invited with a friend to a BBQ by Tim whom I’d met online. The friend piked at the last minute, but I put my big girls pants on and decided to step out of my comfort zone and go anyway, even though I knew no one.  I walked into the BBQ with my Rubik’s Cube handbag and Bondage Bear. I was embraced wholeheartedly by everyone there and I knew that I had found my type of crazy. I’d found yet another tribe.  Another BBQ on Saturday night for Nana Fairy’s birthday (who has an enviable fairy wing collection) and I am convinced.  There was hula hooping, fire twirling, belly dancing, a magic show, a salad with popping candy, a regular alam for hug time and lots of good conversation.  A party where I belonged and already I know I want to spend a lot of time with these wonderful and crazy people. Thanks Tim, Tash and Margueritte.

 

I remember dinner parties from my twenties with families.  A friend’s older sister and her husband talking about the best brand of garden hose and I wanted to be ‘anywhere but here’. I could never imagine becoming so mundane that the most scintillating conversation was about garden implements  And I haven’t. Because I don’t fit into that particular part of society.  I am single, I am childless, I am independent, I am creative. Don’t try to fit me into your box.

 

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There’s a lot of places and people that I don’t fit with in this world and I no longer give a fuck. I am good enough and if I’m not good enough for someone, then so it shall be.  I’m not making myself someone I’m not, in order to fit in or to fit someone else’s expectations of how I should be.

I’m no longer wearing a mask but I am wearing wings, even when they are invisible.

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I am me and now that I know who me is, I’m going to love her and cherish her and hang out with the people who do the same, and who I can love and cherish for their otherness, for who they are.

My tribes. Love you all.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 25, 2017 6:58 pm

    Di, what a beautiful post and I am so very happy that we found each other and our tribe. Thank you for you heartfelt words and I am sure your post will help someone else reach out and find the group of people meant for them. Love ya!

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