Finding “My People”

Do you feel like you’ve found “your people?” Once in graduate school, one of my professors took offense to some writer who had bashed Christians, saying, “Hey, those are my people!”

I heard her use this phrase almost two years ago and didn’t think much of it then (Christians gets bashed all the time in graduate school), but it came back to me this past Sunday as I sat in a circle with five other women, all writers, all of whom were sharing fragments of their memoir with the group.

This was my first time meeting with this particular writers’ group—or any writers’ group, for that matter—but soon it became clear to me that the group was about much more than just moving our careers forward. It was about sharing stories we’d been bottling for years, it was about giving one another permission to be real, and it was about being validated for said scary task.

During those two hours, I listened to one woman’s struggle to make sense of the sexual abuse in her family; another’s decision to move forward with her education after years of being squelched by a verbally abusive parent; still another’s first attempt at writing the “good memories” for a wounded daughter; and another’s chronicle of life after leaving her third husband. The piece I brought that day was the (rough) first scene of my memoir: the day I emerged from the mental hospital, numb to joy, resigned to life, yet stripped of all expectation and desire.

Some of the feedback I got: “I can feel your numbness.” “The stripping of humanity that comes from staying in a place like this is clear.” “Your point about emotional pain and invisibility hits home.” “I can identify.”

I liked the last comment best, because it came from every single woman at the table. As, one by one, the women admitted that they, too, had found themselves at this place in life before (either literally or figuratively), I felt a sense of relief washing over me. Although I’d known these women less than two hours, it was a relief that they already knew more about me than so many of my acquaintances. That day I also gained strength to continue with what is sometimes an emotionally difficult project, and validation that my project actually matters. Best of all, by the end of the session, I felt I could finally say, “I’ve found my people.”

Of course, like my graduate professor, I could certainly say the same of my church family. I could also truthfully say it of my family family. But somehow, connecting with people because of shared religious convictions or shared bloodlines isn’t the same as connecting to people emotionally. Because rather than falling by default into a category, this type of writing, and this type of realness, is a choice we make—even a dream we share.

Why did I ever wait to join a writers’ group?

 

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3 thoughts on “Finding “My People”

  1. Kristina May 28, 2013 / 12:14 pm

    Glad to hear you found “your people”! It’s definitely not an easy thing to do – I feel lucky that some of my high school friends have been and still are “my people,” because I’ve found it super hard to find anyone new that I identify with in that way, especially after becoming a mom, and then working from home. One would think that becoming a mom opens you up to a huge new group of people you can identify with, and in a way it does – but it often opens you up to a lot of judgement about things you never thought could be considered controversial. It’s sad, because we all NEED that kind of fellowship. Thank you for reminding me that 1) I am blessed to have friends like this and 2) there are people out there – I just need to stop waiting to get out there and find them 🙂

    • lindseygendke May 28, 2013 / 12:18 pm

      Kristina, yes, it is really a blessing to be able to identify with a group about what is dear to your heart. I’m kind of surprised on your take about the “mommy” group; one pregnancy book I’ve been reading says that becoming a mom is like an initiation into a worldwide group–suddenly you have this shared connection with so many women. But I suppose there are many, many issues that surface once you join this club…and because all moms want to do right by their kids, opposing opinions could seem criminal! Thanks for the thoughtful comment, and yes, take time for “your people!” It’s a rejuvenating thing!

      • Kristina May 28, 2013 / 12:23 pm

        Yes – it is just that: a worldwide group. The catch is – the one thing that ties us all together is the root of the dissension. Your idea of what may be the right thing to do is different than my idea, and not only that… your baby (and EACH baby) may have a different idea as well 🙂 We all just want what’s best, and what’s best looks different for everyone. I was working on a post for my blog along these lines but it’s been in draft state for awhile because my blog so far hasn’t been overly “philosophical” – and I’m not sure I want to get into anything controversial, lol!

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