About Me

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Life with Lavendar in London town

Friday, 20 May 2016

My Tribe

For as long as I can remember, the concept of belonging is something I have been interested in. As a child of first generation Chinese immigrants to Australia and now also a  British citizen, I have carved my identity via a ever-changing  fluidity between socio-cultural boundaries. Whilst this pick and mix approach to life has served me well, there have been times which I wished to belong to one group and one group only.  My own tribe so to speak. One which is not born from blood relations or having gone through university together.  This thought stems from the sepia-tinted notion that we all have a troupe in the world with whom we have an innate affinity with; an idea probably originating from the period where we lived in nomadic tribes and moved according to the seasons and hunting,

In our modern society where we follow Wi-Fi rather than wildebeest, there are so many tribes to infiltrate as you journey through life. From high school cliques to the smokers circle at work; we join these groups only to leave them as we form new associations based on changing life experiences. For example, just in the last few years I have joined the new parent tribe, the part-time working mum trying to juggle it all tribe, the school gate drop off networking tribe. And my favourite which is the I don't have time to see you or call you so let's form a Whatsapp Chat group tribe.

The Hipster Dude Tribe. Fast growing and in need of pest control 

Membership to all of the above have enriched my life in ways untold but I have never had that feeling with any of the above. The feeling which is not dissimilar to a MGM Technicolour film moment where you stand looking out over a vast horizon with an industrial strength wind machine blowing you hair back (which is long of course). You grip your hand into a fist and proclaim to some invisible deity :
These are my people. 

Imagine this scene from The Ten Commandants and you get the idea:

Long Hair. Tick. Dramatic hands. Tick. Epic Horizon. Tick
(image courtesy of The Daily Mail)

The only time which I have experienced this feeling was my years spent working with The Wilderness Society. It was my good luck and privilege at nineteen to have met a group of people who were ahead of their time. All the climate change, renewable energy, dietary choice (gluten free, vegan and so on) buzzwords bandied around now were part and parcel of these peoples' lifestyles over twenty years ago.  But it was not their beliefs so much as their general character traits that won me over. Free thinking, intelligent, kind, determined, inspiring, open-minded, altruistic, were but a few of the qualities I encountered en masse during that period. Most were older than me, in their thirties, and encouraged me to seek life on my terms and no-one else's. It was good advice and they were good role models. The synergy of those years was alchemical. We all lived in close proximity. Our social and work lives intertwined. There was no effort to our association,; it was completely mutual.  Eventually life took us all in different directions and the tribe dismantled.  I missed it intensely for years afterwards and the experiences I had during that time influence me still.

Since then I have been in the wilderness. I have been in many groups, voluntarily and not, but there has not been that tribal association since. I got married but you cannot have a tribe of two I decided. Then Dragon came along and we became a three. I realised then that a tribe has to have some fluidity to membership. You need to be able to dip in and out. Go walkabout from time to time. You cannot go walkabout when a fellow tribe member relies on you to wipe her bum.

Recently I attended a mum's book club event, which turned out to be very little about books but more so about Prosecco and local chit-chat. The mum's were all from Dragon's school and it was my first time meeting several of them. As the evening progressed, it transpired that none of us were originally from London and neither were any of our husbands or partners. Like myself, most of these women had met their breeding mates (I don't want to say Husband. I don't want to say Boyfriend. I don't want to say Partner. There is no one size fits all so I'm going to say Breeding Mate) away from their original places of upbringing. The stories we tipsily shared had the commonality that we were all living and raising children in a city where we have no roots. Most have no old, close friends nearby. Many of us have no blood relations near. Our parents are aging and live far away.  We are a group of travellers who stayed where we travelled.

As I walked home that evening, slightly half-cut, my thoughts wondered to my neighbours as I passed their houses on the way back. My Prosecco-tinged internal monologue went something like:

That's where Shelley lives who is from France and her husband is from America. And next door to her is Ellie from Brazil and Peter from Malaysia.

Drunkenly I went through the geographical origins of all the neighbours I knew. Then onto others in the local school community and then pretty much everyone I knew in London (it was a long walk home)  It became obvious that a trend was emerging. No-one I know in London is from London.* And neither are their partners. And more often than not, both partners would have grown up in a completely different country to each other.

Yet here we all are. In this stinky, complex, expensive rough gem of a city which we all absolutely do not want to leave. I belong in London because London is full of people like me.**

There was no horizon, apart from terraced rooftops. There was no wind to blow through my not-long hair. My hands had been tightly grasping a champagne flute all night so were too worn out to make into fists. But it turned out these accoutrements were just window dressing for when I realised:

I am amongst my people,

it felt framed in full colour.

*Apart from the Husband. He is London born and bred.And he would want you to know it.
** He also says you do not need to be born in London to be a Londoner