Is finding your tribe the same thing as only existing in your personal echo chamber? Is existing in your echo chamber a bad thing if you find them to be good people, sane people, loving people, and those outside seem filled with scorn and hate? What is your tribe, and how is the definition of it changing? These are things I wonder as I continue to see the changes in my life, personally, city-wide, state-wide and nationally, post-election.
I went out to an unassuming bar earlier this week for their nightly trivia competition. The best bar trivia is like finding your own best crossword. Too easy and it’s boring. Too hard and you can’t get any of the answers, and that’s really no fun. The best is somewhere in between, and with a team that fills in gaps you have so that each person is bringing their own bank of knowledge and hopefully, you can get most of the answers right by working together and having a shared mental collective. It strikes me that this is the way many more things should be accomplished besides playing games.
I don’t know the people around the tables of teams very well. The immediate group I’m in are friends-of-friends and I’m an invited guest, a stranger to most of them. But each time we go, I talk to them a little more, and it’s revealed by the answers that each of us knows what we know and are interested in, what strange facts we have retained and what areas are just completely blank.
I fell into a discussion with a couple of women of Serbian ancestry. Greater Cleveland is still so small, and ethnicities can be so similar when you’re talking about certain areas of Europe. I said I dated a Serbian briefly years ago, and of course they knew who the guy was when I said his name, because that’s how Cleveland is. I mentioned that I’m Macedonian and Greek and we started in on a discussion about names for food and holiday traditions. Some of the dishes we talked about are only a few letters different or a slightly different pronunciation. Much of the food I grew up on is only a half-step different than what their traditional dishes are. And we talked about how politics and poverty had influenced some of those traditions – the baking of a quarter into the zelnik (or borek/burek as they call it) at the holiday time for good luck. They were the only people I’ve run into who also do the egg cracking contest at Easter. They told me of a store I apparently need to check out, which stocks a lot of food and products that I most certainly will want to purchase related to our ethnic heritage.
It was amazing how just having a conversation with a couple of strangers in a bar could make me feel the comfort and excitement of childhood, and make me feel like maybe everyone in the world that I don’t know personally isn’t a racist, bigoted asshole, which is kind of how I’ve been feeling for the past month or so. So that’s a positive. Of course, they’re women, and I know from a discussion from the last trivia night I attended, they’re left-leaning, so maybe they’re also my “echo chamber.” But what’s a person to do? Should I go sit at a country club bar and hope run into some really rich people who think poor people are lazy and blacks are thugs in order to expand out of my echo chamber? This is really not what I want to do.
I’ve started to make New Year’s Resolutions. I make them every year as a way of setting goals for myself. I don’t punish myself if I don’t achieve them. I just think it’s a good idea to have some goals in mind so you’re continuing to push yourself, to change, to strive to do better, lest you get stale. I have some really big goals, and some small ones. I can’t set any running-related goals as it’s looking like it will be months before I can do that again.
Some are emotional and personal, some are career-oriented. Some relate to being a Mom, a friend, a lover, a companion. I will make a long list and then whittle it down to the best. This involves some hard choices sometimes. But they must be made for progress to happen.