Tribes – An Introvert’s Perspective

I’d never been the outgoing, make-friends-easy type. I have been shy around new people for as long as I can remember. I was the little kid hiding behind my mother’s skirt if a stranger dared smile my way. Should an adult so much as utter a word to me back then, all kinds of inner turmoil would ensue. I would clam up, be tongue-tied and nervous while trying to figure out how to speak without sounding like an idiot. I would later discover my Myer Briggs personality type, which happened to explain a lot.

The Myer Briggs personality type indicator was constructed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, and is based on the conceptual theory proposed by Carl Jung.

Turns out, I’m an introverted personality type, a rare INTP to be exact. And surprise, surprise, it’s normal for INTPs to feel odd, because underneath all that cool exterior, we are oddballs at heart and so easily misunderstood. Now I know why most people just don’t get my dark sense of humour. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it 😉

Not only did I have an introverted personality to contend with, I also had a torrent of self-esteem/confidence issues deeply ingrained in my psyche ever since I can remember. In short, the self-confidence was lacking somewhere beyond my feet. It would take me many years to yank it back where it belonged – and even then, the struggles are ongoing. Perhaps it is because I come from a long line of introverts (father’s side of the family).

My father must be the most introverted person I’ve ever known. You want reserved, quiet, non-speaking individuals? I’ve got plenty lined up around here. Let’s just say dinner conversation wasn’t a big thing in my childhood. Nevertheless, exploring what it means to be an introvert is a whole other subject to dive into in the future. For now, we’re hitting the tribe topic – friends.

Despite my shortcomings in the making-friends department, by the time I reached sixteen years of age, I managed to eventually surround myself with a handful of gems. Genuine people I will never forget. I guess being an introvert, you’re able to sift along the sidelines, scraping through the constant noise and chaos in the world and eventually attract the stickers – the diamonds in the rough, the real deal. In case you didn’t get it, I’m talking about the bona fide sincere folks who live with integrity in their hearts and breathe the air of loyalty.

I found them. Or they found me. Either way, the tribe was established and we were in it together through thick and thin. Apart from two close school friends, the members in my tribe were about three to four years older than me. Looking back, I think the age difference made all the difference – they had cars (yippee!). No, seriously, the difference in age reflected in their take on the world. These guys and gals were thoughtful visionaries, penetrating the future with a contemplative flare I admired.

Every weekend, we’d grab our gear before we’d all pile into those cars and head west towards the Hawkesbury River – a 120 kilometre stretch of water that eventually flows into the Tasman Sea. Once there, we’d find our little weekend hub in the form of a camp ground by the river – a quiet spread of countryside nestled in the green valleys of Lower Portland. I can tell you, though, that the rolling, serene landscape was no longer serene following the arrival of our tribe. Especially come night.

By day we were slaves to the river. The speed boats were lowered carefully down the eroded ramps and into the water. The flashy wetsuits were adorned, the water skis dusted off for another run, and we’d hit that water like tomorrow might never come. Then, the sun would begin to shift over the horizon, giving way to a more chilled vibe involving camp fires, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. You can fill in the rest for yourself.

Good times. We’ve all had them – memories that impress somewhere in your brain matter and lend you that nostalgic smile every now and then. Recalling the good stuff is like the sweetest candy for your soul, and I am grateful for every single piece that indulges me. Those are memories I’ll cherish for all of time. Even the ones that were born from horror. You see, hanging out with people and enjoying great experiences is awesome, but it isn’t until the shit hits the fan that you realise the strong bonds you have formed with the people in your life. That’s when friends transcend beyond the standard friendship. That’s when you realise the love that exists between you.

It was New Year’s eve 1991 and I was seventeen years old with no parents in sight (Helloooo freedom). It was those weird-ass summer months in Australia, you know, those strange days that begin around Christmas and last until the school year resumes. I was staying on my own in my home with my boyfriend and my little brother.

We’d decided to attend a party at a nearby beach pub beer garden – minus the little brother, of course. The usual players came along – my beloved tribe, as well as a whole lot of other people I didn’t know. The night passed in the standard New Year celebratory fashion. The bourbons went down faster than you could say “I want another drink”. The music caused some hips to swing, and the conversations were intense – in a good way, I think. I could say we saw the New Year in gracefully, but I’d be lying.

By the time the hours grew thin and we made the move to go home, things got a little out of whack. There’s that threshold with booze – the moment when it all seems to flood your system at once and control becomes a faded inkling beyond your grasp. Before you jump to conclusions, I’m not actually talking about myself. It was the boyfriend – way too much beer and whatever else might have found its way down his cake hole that night, and things got bad fast.

I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty of it all, but the scene ended with lost car/house keys, broken glass and vanished precious jewellery, an enormous amount of blood, emergency surgery and tears – buckets of them. By the night’s end, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room waiting for the doctors to bring news of my boyfriend’s microsurgery and watching the sun rise.

Meh. Shit happens.

Actually, at the time, it was pretty traumatic shit and the experience left me feeling numb, lost and alone, and totally out of my depth. There were no parents around to mop up the mess. Nobody to take the lead and make it all right. I was seventeen and going home to an empty apartment stained with gallons of blood and shattered glass. With no keys to unlock the front door, no less.

As it turned out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Remember those friends I was rambling on about earlier?

Yeah. Hell. Yeah.

They swept in beneath me like the feathers of angel wings, cocooning all around me. They had all the keys replaced; they picked me up and took me to the hospital every day; they cleaned out the apartment and took me to the location to painstakingly search for the gold chain and pendants that were so sentimental to me. They made sure I was okay each moment of every day until the ordeal passed.

As I write these words, I can’t help but feel the warmth trickling through my being. I will always love those people. They are my people, even when the years stretch between us. The power of true friendship is an all-encompassing journey not to be taken for granted. Treasure those that honour you and appreciate the layers they bring to your life. For in a world filled with superficial encounters and nameless strangers, it is rare to find authentic connections. Sweet soul candy can never be underestimated.

And yes, with the help of my friends, we found each and every little gold charm that’d I’d lost on a shadowy street when the world darkened, and sanity was temporarily misplaced. I still have them.

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