You know that delicious feeling you get when you’re surrounded by people who just “get” you? You have a type of shorthand with each other, a common language of words, phrases, and gestures other people don’t understand. When you are with this tribe of fellow geeks/artists/inventors/crafters/athletes/entrepreneurs, you don’t have to explain yourself, your goals, or your habits. You can let your freak flag fly.
If this is an everyday experience for you, read no further. You’ve got this one, Babe, and you can get back to being awesome. But if you are like most people and struggle finding the right tribe to fan the flames of your particular brand of geekiness, keep reading.
How to Make New Friends
China has a lot of internal tourism. In every city we’ve visited, bus loads of Chinese tourists swarm the sites, usually in matching, brightly colored baseball hats following closely behind a guide carrying a flag or umbrella. It doesn’t take much effort for someone to look around and find the rest of the group if they get lost, and they can always ask another yellow-hat person if they need clarification on what’s for lunch or what the guide just said about Ghengis Khan.
It’s a temporary situation, of course, but these yellow-hat people are members of a tribe. They have a shared purpose, and they can easily identify each other as they move through the cities on their tour. They take pictures of each other to post on the Chinese version of Facebook (Renren, in case you’re interested) and form mini cliques to go on the optional excursions over the days and weeks of their acquaintance.
Best of all, they don’t make fun of each other for wearing those ridiculous hats because they know they serve a purpose.
The Internet was made for weirdos. And by ‘weirdos’ I mean you, me, and every other human alive today.
We all have our thing, the square peg of our personalities that doesn’t quite fit in round hole of society. Even outwardly conformist people have streaks of rebellion because no human is robot. We are all deliciously complex and flawed, including your dentist, your second-grade teacher (especially your second-grade teacher), and the friendly greeter at your local Wal-Mart.
Our differences are what make us interesting, and with the right nurturing and support those quirks can blossom into greatness.
The Internet is the water cooler for weirdos. It is where we congregate to find each other when we are still too shy to announce our idiosyncrasies and interests to the world. No matter what your interest, there is someone online who is already doing it, talking about it, and recruiting others to join her. (She probably even has a Pinterest board about it!)
Reaching out to the ghost hunters, tornado chasers, scrapbookers, spelunkers, inventors, geocachers, robot builders, letterpress printers, entrepreneurs, cougars, and other people who share your passion, affliction, or interest will remind you that you are not alone, you are not a freak, and there is a place that welcomes your knowledge, passion and insight.
It is not the job of the everyday people in your life to conform to your special interests. (Imagine if you had to conform to all of theirs!) Instead, it is your job to seek out the people who have the same interests you do so you can pursue them together. You will go further, gain more insight, and produce better work with the input and support of people who get you.
Meet in Person
After you’ve become sympatico with your virtual friends, it’s time to take it to the streets. Sure, it’s nice to know you can always log in and connect with your tribe, but nothing beats a live interaction and real-time support and encouragement. When you start bridging the gap between the life you lead and the life you want to lead, you no longer have to feel like a fish out of water when you are away from your computer.
With very little effort on your part, you will be able to find where your people congregate, whether it is a Meetup in your city or just a short trip away. You may even find a conference or convention where you can rub elbows with other Klingons, bootstrap entrepreneurs, comic book aficionados, career breakers, or big thinkers.
These connections and conversations with other people who are pursuing their interests and passions will show you how to more fully do it in your own life.
Once you meet other people who are seamlessly living the life you desire, pursuing hobbies and interests you’ve previously kept on the down low, you’ll find it hard to resist doing it yourself. After all, these people still have families and friends and seemingly happy lives, so why can’t you?
You begin dropping hints at work, in social settings and even with your pseudo-friends on Facebook and Twitter.
- “I’ve been building a boat in my garage for the last 2 years.”
- “I just landed my first part in a community theater production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
- “Did I tell you I put up a dating profile on Match.com?”
- “I’ve decided to take my severance pay and move to Brazil to teach English.”
- “I started recording my music in Garage Band.”
These comments are your official raising of the freak flag, and instead of cowering in the corner waiting for a rebuke, you’ll be like the Chinese tour guide gathering her flock of yellow hats, totally immersed in the subject at hand and oblivious to the stares of the people who aren’t in on the tour.
The yellow hats are a beacon, a bond, and a symbol of a shared interest. A single person wearing a giant yellow hat would feel strange, but in a group it somehow feels safe and inclusive.
The beauty of hanging out with your tribe is that you can take all the energy you used to spend on fitting in and apply it on standing out in a crowd that appreciates your efforts.