(This is a vulnerable post I’m sharing today. I’m writing it not because I want anyone to feel sorry for me, or because I need sympathy or anything else, but because I feel like writing it will help me process the thoughts and feelings that resulted from the experience. I’m posting it in public instead of just writing about it in my journal because it will help me feel heard, even if no one reads it, which is something I need today.)
This morning I did something completely out of my comfort zone. I got up at 6, ate a quick breakfast, put together my hiking pack, and drove to a local trailhead. My goal was to meet up with a group of hikers who also belong to a hiking group on Facebook that I joined several years ago. I’ve never actually joined in on any of the group hikes sponsored by this Facebook group, partly because I didn’t feel like I would be fast enough or young enough, but mostly because showing up for a group activity where I know literally no one from real life is really, really hard for me.
But last week when this group hike was posted, I decided I was going to go. Even though I knew I would probably blush and have a racing heart right at the beginning, I wanted to learn how to get to the peak they were hiking to, Little Baldy. I’ve looked at that peak and wanted to get up there, but there aren’t any great ways to do it that I could find, so hiking it with a group would be perfect.
The hike started at 7:00 a.m. and I got to the trailhead at 7:01. I got out of the truck, put my backpack on, and wandered around, looking for a big group gathering together, but there wasn’t one. I stood by the start of the trail for a few minutes, thinking that this was a first: *I* was the only one on time that morning. I chatted for a second with a golden retriever who came down the trail before her owners, and then I mentioned to them when they got there that I was waiting for my group. (Because I didn’t want to look like an idiot, just standing there doing nothing.)
“Do you mean the Hike the Wasatch group?” the dog owner asked. “They are already about 10 minutes up the trail.”
All that effort and anxiety and worry (my heart WAS pounding while I looked for the group) and I missed them because I was literally one minute late.
If I had known they had already started, I could’ve absolutely caught up with them right at the start, but by standing around waiting, I missed them.
I decided to hustle as fast as I could up the trail, to see if I could catch them. I know the first mile of the trail very well, as Kendell and I hike it all the time, and I knew mostly where they were going until the new turn off to Little Baldy, which I didn’t know at all. So I hoped I could catch up, and I went as fast as I could.
I did eventually see the group. I was on the south-east side of one mountain and they were across the valley, on the north-west side, going up in a line. I considered waving or shouting, but what would I say? “Wait for me!”??? None of them know me in person so I’d just be another hiker waving and shouting at them.
At that point, I was only about five minutes behind them, so I picked up my hustling and jog-hiked for as long as I could, but once I came around to the south side of the mountain, I had to admit defeat: there was a trail split, and from that point on I had no way of knowing which way they’d gone. I stood at the split, trying to decide: right or left? The trail I knew or the one I didn’t? I went left—the trail I didn’t know—but eventually it petered out at a fire ring, and then I had to admit defeat: I couldn’t find them now.
I went back to the main trail and kept going for another half mile or so, because I decided I might as well get a good four miles in. As I hiked I realized I was close to tears, so I started edging around my psyche a bit to figure out why.
Partly it is because it is so difficult for me to show up for this kind of thing. I had to push through and get myself to be brave (and if you’re thinking “that’s lame, it’s just a group of people, why does that require bravery?”, don’t worry, I’ve wondered the same thing) enough to go, and then I miss the group by literally ONE minute?
It’s like The Universe is trying to tell me something.
But it was also the feeling I had, looking across the valley at the group together on the ridge. I was there, they were there, but my existence was non-existent to that group. If I had slept in and not shown up at all, the result would’ve been the same.
Which kind of feels symbolic of my life, honestly. (Here’s the real vulnerability.)
Usually I can accept the fact that I do most things by myself. It’s when I am in visual sight of groups of friends that I realize: I don’t have a tribe. My existence is invisible.
I had a tribe in high school. It was a fairly fucked-up tribe, honestly, and we all did all sorts of damage to each other. But we were still a tribe because deep down, we understood each other. Our strangenesses mirrored each other’s, so we could be who we were without fear of judgement.
I had a tribe for a little while when I had little kids, but it dissolved when our financial issues made it too hard for me to fit in with them. After that, I really stopped trying.
Maybe church, though. Maybe I stayed so long at church, even when I struggled with the doctrine: because it gave me the illusion of having a tribe. I always knew I didn’t really fit, but it was close enough that I stayed. Now that I am not going to church much anymore, I’ve learned that yes, most of those friendships were only church friendships. I wasn’t really ever part of that tribe.
It’s also why I post a lot on social media: because, to quote Luna Lovegood, “It’s like having friends.” I know that social media isn’t real, it’s everyone’s best day every day. But it still lets me feel, a little bit, like I have a tribe.
But there I stood, lungs heaving after my fast uphill hike, alone, looking across space toward a group I couldn’t catch up to. A group that didn’t even know I was trying to be included.
I do have friends in my life. Dear friends who add depth and happiness to my existence. I am grateful for those friendships and for their trueness.
But here is an honest truth: I wish I had a tribe. I wish there was a large group of friends, even if the friendship was more casual, who saw me, who I mattered to, who included me. (Go ahead and wince, I know that sounds pathetic.) I tried to take the first step in making that happen today, and it didn’t work out. Probably in a week or so I will be better able to try again…but right now I’m feeling like somewhere along the line I pissed off The Universe and my bad karma comes in the form of isolation.