If you look at an island for what it is, it’s a piece of land, surrounded by water that stands alone. There’s no united of states or neighboring unions. It just floats in the middle of the ocean, somewhat disconnected from the rest of the world. Being a writer feels a lot like that. Heck, being an adult feels a lot like that.
It couldn’t be further from college days when meeting a new friend was simple arithmetic:
1 beer + 1 mutual laugh = lifelong friends.
But once you leave college… crickets. Creating deep friendships post college becomes as easy as fitting into those college jeans. Not. Easy. Finding someone to consider being your +1 is damn near impossible. Add in working any solo-type career and why not just banish yourself to Siberia?
To be clear, I’m not talking about friends. I have a lot of wonderful friends but many have very little idea what I do as a writer. Some think I play on my computer all day before tapping a few letters on my keyboard and flippantly publishing something. Others have actually asked me how “that bloggy blog thing” I do is going.
I get it. My career choices are unconventional and things outside of the norm are hard to comprehend so I don’t fault them for not “getting it” but it’s also opened my eyes to this truth:
I NEED A TRIBE. WE ALL DO.
Writing is such a big part of my life and I need a tribe that understands all that that means. I don’t work with anyone. There’s no one in the office to get advice from; no one to encourage me or share ideas with. But it isn’t the solitude that bothers me, it’s the lack of understanding, or rather, the lack of people who understand what I do that can be isolating. Because, typically, we as people, aren’t bothered my being alone, we’re bothered by feeling alone.
HOW Did I FIND A TRIBE?
I was presented with an opportunity to help plan the first ever Island Women Writers’ Retreat. A long weekend of women writers on my same page, blog brainstorming & writing roundtables, and playing tourist in Old San Juan? Yes, please. My creative soul was physically pounding to do this but I had some major life sh*t happening. Going was a terrible idea but it was as if yes was the only street open in a town full of detours. So, I took yes all the way to Puerto Rico to join 9 other writers I had never met.
When your writers' retreat is in Old San Juan... #oldsanjuanpr #ohwhatabeautifulmorning #girlswhowrite #thespot #ROCKtreatPR #seepuertorico #enjoyingpuertorico #enjoyingpr #visitpuertorico #puertoricogram #prgram #thegoodlifepr #travelpuertorico #placespuertorico #cltravel #savorthejourney #caribbeanhotspots #paradisefound #coolestcarib #greatescapes #caribbeanluxury #island360 #islandsmag #livetravelchannel #lifebydesign
The short version of what I’m saying is that I said yes. And whenever you’re looking for something – be it a tribe, a change, or a new pair of jeans – saying yes is the most important variable in finding it.
AND THEN KEEP SAYING YES
I’m a very social person but even I was hesitant of how a group of strangers under one roof would work. I mean, a full house of 10 strangers – all women – could have gone awfully wrong – like Kathy Bates Misery wrong. (Whatever… yes, yes, and more yes.) But instead it was Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – without the pants. (I mean, we wore pants, but well, you get it.) It was The Real World with less sexy hot tub and more silly tequila. Like Muppets take Manhattan but the muppets were set loose in sunny San Juan. Whatever we were, we were instant. An instant sisterhood, an immediate tribe. We were #squadgoals for days because we were all open to what this experience could be.
About last night. First night out with the island girls started at Greengos. It was a delightful spot and you can never go wrong with spicy margarita and fabulous women. Let's just cliche and say what happens in Old San Juan stays in Old San Juan. #illnevertell #ROCKtreatPR #ROCKtreatPR #seepuertorico #oldsanjuanpr #drinkingthewholeisland @greengos
BE A BUILDER
At the core we are writers. We came with questions and bullet points of what we wanted to discuss. Each of us was looking to learn more about writing, branding, growing followers and authentic audiences. We talked about each others’ blogs with helpful critique and gracious love because we were all on the same page. Every member of this crew understands the mental slog it takes to create something with their hands and then share it with the world. They understand the emotional toll it takes to put your whole soul into the thing you love most. We were there to build both ourselves and each other up.
And for the first time, I didn’t feel like I needed to defend myself or my path. There was no need to defend why I started a home business to take the financial stress off of my writing. I didn’t need to explain why printing WRITER when asked for my occupation and checking off “business” instead of “pleasure” on the customs form was a major life accomplishment. They understood the monumentalness of checking off that box. After years of having my guard up, I could put down my armor here because I didn’t have to defend a damn thing.
LET YOUR GUARD DOWN
But what really fed our souls most went beyond writing. Turns out, all of us island women were coming into this retreat from our own island; a physical island, of course, but also a metaphoric one. We all, in some sense, were our own island, our own rock – different in destination but somewhat the same in isolation. Each of us had weathered our own storms and mental tornadoes. We had built, rebuilt, and reinforced. And we had done it on our own. Each of us knew what it felt like to float alone and need a crew; and on this weekend, what it meant to find that crew.
Maybe we got lucky. Maybe we were all just open, let-your-guard-down people but I doubt that was it. I believe there was more at work. I think we had all been doing this for so long without a tribe that we wanted it, we intended it. And when faced with it, we let ourselves have it. Open-heartedly. Arms wide open. No questions asked.
YOUR TRIBE NEEDS YOU
After our first night out, we all ended up snuggling on my shared bed with instabestie roommate, Brittany. We were a bunch of school girls, chatting away and singing. We should have been braiding each other’s hair and swearing loyalty to each other in a blood ceremony.
“Guys. I know this is going to sound corny, ” our Bahama writer friend started saying, “but I was never a sorority girl or part of a sorority and I feel like maybe this is my sorority.”
Our souls nodded in unanimous agreement. And so it was; we were a sorority now. We were henceforth Kappa Kappa Rock. With our owna sorority chant – annoying to every local and foreigner in Old San Juan. We now have shirts. It’s silly. And so marvelous.
There are as many similarities in our tribe as there are differences but all of that plays a part in who we are together as Kappa Kappa Rock. Chrissann’s leadership and sunny disposition. Lizzy’s strength and live your life attitude. Mariah’s impassioned and loving heart. Claudia’s savvy and smart e-v-e-r-ything. Liz’s worldly experiences and willingness to hit the reset button. Sherri’s creative and juggler of a million things personality. Jen’s knowledge and readiness to share it with us. Riselle’s welcoming, encouraging, and natural ease. And Brittany. Brittany’s fun, ready for anything, open to all the things approach to life. Sisterhoods are forged when you can let your guard down and trust in the women next to you. The Kappa Kappa Rock sisters are no different.
BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT THIS
We thrive when we are surrounded by a community. We feel realized when we have others around us that don’t require any explanation or apologies about who we are. Finding a tribe isn’t just important, it’s necessary in adulthood.
Call it what you want. A sisterhood. A tribe. A crew. A squad. Whatever it is, it demands that every person bring their honest self to the bar. No facade. Leave the representative at home. Check your mask at the door. Come as you are. It’s terrifying to be that vulnerable, I know, but being part of a tribe requires it. Because in allowing others to see the real you, you also allow them to welcome and accept the real you and there is no better feeling.
the truth about islands
If you look at an island for what it is, it’s a piece of land, surrounded by water that appears to stand alone. It’s true that there are no united of states or neighboring unions. It floats in the middle of the ocean, seemingly disconnected from the rest of the world. But if you look below the surface, you’ll find something else. You’ll find that water separates them but that the sand that sits on one island’s shore, ends on another’s shore – essentially connecting one rock to another. If you look deeper, you’ll see just how connected they actually are.
With pleasure, I introduce you to the other Kappa Kappa Rock girls. They’re awesome. Go stalk them!
Chrissann Nickel, Virgin Gorda: Women Who Live on Rocks
* Brittany Meyers, Tortola, BVI: Windtraveler
Riselle Celestina, St. Maarten: The Traveling Island Girl
Mariah Moyle, The Bahamas: Out Island Life
Claudia Hanna, Cyprus: Live Like a Goddess
Liz Wegerer, Bonaire: The Adventures of Island Girl; Island Girl Writing
Lizzy Yana, St. Thomas, VI: Island Lizzy
Jennifer Morrow, Puerto Rico: Jen There Done That
Sherri DeWolf, Key West: Deeply Creative; Island Jane