This week, I did something I’ve been waiting to do since April 13th, 2014: I registered for the 2016 Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop (EBWW). EBWW only happens every other year and when the last one ended in 2014, I knew I would be going back in 2016. Why? Because in 2014 I found my tribe of funny, big-hearted, midlife women. And in midlife, it can be tough to find your peeps.
In your earlier years, life readily presents opportunities for tribe building. For example, high school, for all its turmoil, provides an instant microcosm for self-selecting your group of choice. For me, I made lasting friendships, many of which extend to today, with my geeky debate team compadres. There was also an overall collective sense of belonging to a particular class – mine being the Twin Lakes High School class of 1981.
College also provides an opportunity to expand your universe and affiliate with new groups as you hone your beliefs as well as become comfortable in your own skin. My allegiance to Florida State University, and the guys of AEPi fraternity, remains as strong today as it did in the early ‘80s. Sporting my lucky garnet and gold sweatshirt, circa 1985, instantly identifies me as a member of one of the greatest college tribes: GO NOLES!
Often, our next stage of tribe building occurs as part of our entry into the workforce. My experiences as a young and then mature adult working in the criminal justice field helped me build a strong network of co-workers, colleagues, and friends who shared a passion for the law and social justice.
So to recap, for most of my first 40+ years, I operated within the comfy bubble of social networks and supportive tribes being easily available. I actually didn’t give it much thought: you work, you have friends, you have family; it’s easy, right?
And then, I stumbled a bit.
In 2008, for an extensive list of reasons we can discuss over a beer or three someday, I opted to enter the world of private consulting. My consulting work experiences for the past seven have been great: the flexibility of working from a home office has afforded me the opportunity to devote more time to writing for fun as well as work. However, I wasn’t truly ready for “Writer Kimba, Tribe of One.”
There are writers that thrive in their solitude. And whereas I do need peace and quiet during the act of writing, I soon realized that I needed to interact with other writers. But this required a huge step out of my comfort zone. I would have to go out and seek my writing tribe, it was not going to come find me.
This was how and why, in 2013, I found EBWW. A friend sent me the link to the workshop website with this note:
“These are the women you’ve been looking for.”
I came up with every excuse I could conjure: I couldn’t take the time away from the job that pays the bills; I couldn’t afford the registration; I wouldn’t learn anything useful–all complete BS. With a lot of encouragement from the Hubs, I signed up for the workshop. These were the three goals I set for myself:
1. Make at least one new friend. A genuine connection, someone to stay in touch with after the event.
2. Never talk about myself first, always ask questions of others in a group and REALLY listen to their answers.
3. Sit with a different person at each meal.
I met and exceeded these goals and by the end of EBWW 2014 I was no longer a tribe of one.
I met authors, bloggers, copy editors, freelancers, and columnists who, every last one of them, were funny as hell. Wild midlife women in pink boas and plastic tiaras drinking shots at the bar. Brilliant women speakers and panelists who all took the time to stay after every presentation and talk to anyone who needed advice. And so, I’ll be back in Dayton, OH this coming March. I’ve got a few months to find my tiara and stock up on tequila.
Have you had difficulty finding your group in midlife? What have you done to branch out and make connections?
PS: I’ve got a special holiday gift for my readers: A group of writers I work with has created a wonderful holiday gift basket that will be given away to one lucky winner. Total value is over $200! It includes gift cards, books signed by the authors, cookies, and other treats. I hope one of you wins! The deadline for entering is December 11th: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e282fdf72/ GOOD LUCK and please let me know if you’re the winner!