I’m sittingng on my deck, sipping at a cup of tea, looking at the mountain view to the west, and listening to – of course – CBC Radio. Today’s interview with Sebastian Junger explaining his new book “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” gave me a couple of ah-ha moments. Sebastian writes about the experience of soldiers, first aid workers, emergency workers, and others when they arrive home after a traumatic experience. He suggests the sense of belonging arises from being a part of a team or sharing a common experience and ultimately results in a sense of tribalism within that group. He posits that once we leave these situations, we lose our sense of self and aren’t sure of how to behave. He shared a story of a soldier who came home after a very intense posting overseas. He was with his wife in the grocery store, surrounded by a plethora of choices. If I recall the story correctly, the soldier was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even pick out his cereal. He didn’t know how to make that choice. I know I haven’t captured the full meaning of that conversation, but it made sense to me. I will need to listen to it again to fully “get it”. Perhaps I will even read his book!
The interview continued to discuss people’s experiences from events such as World War II, the Springhill Mine Disaster, and more. My first “Ah-ha”moment – that’s why I remember so many of the seniors talking so gleefully about their World War II experiences. These were young adults, sent off to “save the world” – and fight for their country. Yet when that fight is over, what is next? Where do they belong? How do they fit in and find their new place?
Fortunately I have not been through any such traumatic and life-changing experiences. But his ideas did resonate. Do we form our own tribe at work? Is that sense of belonging developed from being with colleagues, employers, and others involved in our massive world of work, suddenly disappear when we retire? I’d say yes. I miss the sense of being part of that work tribe. Perhaps I, and others like me, stay in somewhat unhealthy work relationships longer than we should – because we see no alternative tribe to join. Carrying that deeper – I come from a big family – a tribe of 8 children and a large extended family. Although I cherish my alone time, I still have always felt a need to belong to some group. I do better overall when I have a group activity or event to go to, even if I need my quiet time and space while with the group.
I think this interview gave me some better insights as to why I feel such a need to join an adventure, belong to a club, and seek out a new tribe. All part of the journey, isn’t it!