On finding your people

Someone once told me that it’s very difficult to make friends as an adult — that it’s always such a novelty when you find a new person and connect in a way that brings that person into your life. Maybe I’m a strange person, or maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve actually made numerous friends as an adult — certainly many more than I made as a child. While I’m fast friends with some of my oldest school friends, it wasn’t until adulthood, after college, that I really found ‘my people,’ and I’m not quite sure why that is, but I welcome it.

You know when you find your people. It’s not a definitive clearly labeled event, but it’s a moment. Maybe you’re sitting on the couch watching people talk about bicycles and you feel a burst of affection for them even though you don’t ride bicycles and you have no idea what they’re talking about. Perhaps you’re leaning conspirationally over a plate of Ethiopian food, texting each other about the atrociously rude and annoying person at the next table over, trying not to snort with laughter. Maybe you’re running down the beach dragging a kite, or nodding across a table set for tea, passing the cheese and wondering who made the candied orange rinds.

To be among your people is to feel confident, and safe, and sure. I met my people in all sorts of ways — online, through happenstance (one was a person who missed the last BART after a Night Vale Live show and I ended up running him home since it was on my way), through introductions from friends who thought we might like to know each other. However we came together, there was a strange sense of connection, sometimes an almost ‘do we know each other?’ ‘Have we met before?’ It would be foolish to say that my people and I instantly bonded and realised we lived on the same street as children or some such (I’d know), but we definitely felt a deeper and more firm connection than one I get when I meet other people.

As an adult, especially one who travels and attends events and is asked to perform or present for crowds as a public figure, I spend a great deal of time being introduced to people. I shake hands or nod and smile and try to say something polite as I’m whisked through a sea of people, and the vast majority of people I meet aren’t people I connect with — not just because there’s no time to focus, but because we don’t have that deep inner tie, something we might only find out about later.

My people are my people, and I know them, and I am so happy that I found them. I know they’re my people when I’m sitting in a chair and someone puts a cake on my lap, when someone patiently teaches me cribbage for the twelfth time (I can’t remember how to play to save my life), when we sit at the bar at the sushi place and joke around with the chefs, when we walk next to the ocean in companionable silence or plan great adventures or whisper things in each others’ ears or struggle to articulate things or ask for advice or admit in the quiet hours of the night to things that are troubling us.

I actually don’t particularly like people, I confess, so I’m honestly surprised by how many close friends I have — it’s a bit disturbing. It makes me sad to think that people who want those connections — and I’d argue that everyone needs their people — can’t have them, that they are floating in a world without them and trying to figure out how to build community on their own, without even the benefit of an in from a friend, from someone to introduce them to someone, to open a door for them that they might not realise was closed.

Our people are important. I’m not talking about ‘our kind’ and the snooty attitudes some people have about those who are not of their social or political class, snobby beliefs about people who are not like ‘us,’ the mystical ‘them’ that attract dubious stares and suspicious stances. I speak of the people that mean the most to us, the deep friends we would count on to rescue us from the airport after BART stopped running, the people we know will trust us with their secrets, the people we can count on to not hate us for admitting to the things in life that trouble us, or to the things we’ve done in our pasts that we are ashamed of. Our people are the ones who we will build the world with, but also the ones we will sit around a room with on a Saturday night, listening to the ticking of the heater, wondering if we really need much more in life.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve found your people yet, you probably haven’t. But never fear — you will, and you’ll know them when you see them. I hope you find them soon, because I promise that they have an entirely new and wonderful and excellent world to share with you, and they’re unspeakably excited to meet you, even if they don’t know it yet.

Image: Tea Party, Kevin Dooley, Flickr