I Don’t Want to Belong to a Tribe
The other day, I was sitting in a local park watching ducks on the pond. I enjoy this sort of entertainment often. I’m a treehugging nature lover of the most devout sort.
There’s a beautiful arbor and gardens next to the pond as well.
People often gather in groups in the gardens to take photos. They’re usually celebrating weddings, graduations, and other traditional events. Everyone is well dressed. The bride in her gown and all the other females dressed for the occasion. On this day, it was a wedding that distracted me.
I watched, even smiled a couple of times.
A little girl dressed in the cutest of frocks was so adorable. You could tell that she wanted to kick up her heels and frolic, throw caution to the wind and take off her shoes. A woman in the group was trying to constrain her.
That’s when I started down memory lane.
I didn’t grow up in a traditional home. I was raised in a religious cult, a closed society. We didn’t celebrate Xmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter. We dressed in plain, long, gray dresses even on a wedding day.
The religious holidays of mainstream America were viewed as pagan holidays by my church.
When I left the religion, venturing out into mainstream on my own, I didn’t have a deep connection to American traditions. I had to muster up an interest in Xmas, for example. My views of the holidays were not connected to strong childhood memories.
To this day, I have never become attached to tribal traditions, rituals, and ceremonies.
It all seems like a strange little game that someone made up. You must put the colored eggs here while you wear a hat to a church but don’t forget to thank the Easter bunny as you also sing glory hallelujah he has risen. Gifts go here under a tree and turkey or ham is served. Everyone gets together even if the rest of the year they barely speak.
I observe my women friends with a measure of awe when they get all starry eyed as they revisit holiday memories.
They throw themselves into planning meals and wrapping gifts. They plan intricate weddings that end up costing a huge sum of money. Every little detail is attended to with devotion.
I hear about baptisms of babies.
Some our sprinkled, others must wait until they’re older and be dunked. People willingly give up hours of their lives every week to attend all different types of religious ceremonies. I see men in strange hats who claim to be on a first name basis with a god.
I’ve thought about my reaction or lack thereof a lot.
I grew up in a tight knit tribe. There’s nothing that can compete with a religious cult for making everyone live the same lives. When I left the church, however, I had had enough of that kind of control. I’d already lost eighteen years of my life. I wanted to experience freedom not more traditions and commitments.
I wasn’t interested in joining a club.
I figured that eventually, I’d change, soften a little, and conform a lot more. You know, find my tribe and feel at home. But I never did. I can go through the motions but the whole time I am doing so, I know they’re empty motions. I can’t buy into it. It’s not a matter of won’t. I simply can’t.
I’m not judgy or preachy about it though.
I’ve traveled and lived all over the world. That’s allowed me to see the traditions and rituals of many other cultures. Trust me, many Americans would think the traditions of other countries and religions are weird. They wouldn’t hesitate to say so either. A few might decide instead to become a practicing buddhist or convert to a new religion. Not me.
I remain unattached.
I appreciate holidays because it sometimes gives the working person a day off with pay. In America those days are few and far between. I can watch a child open a Xmas present and love their happy smiles. I can cook a great meal or contribute my favorite dish to a holiday dinner. I’m not an old scrooge.
However, if I were alone for Xmas, I might even forget that it was Xmas day.
The other day I attended a memorial service for a friend who had passed. It was a beautiful service. No religious overtones. My friend wasn’t religious. A quote from Carl Sagan adorned the program. The music was moving and the speakers were above average. I was even inspired. But I left the ceremony with a certain knowledge reinforced.
As much as I liked my friend’s memorial service, I refuse to have one for myself.
It’s just not my cup of tea. I will be cremated and my ashes scattered to the four winds. My children will hopefully get together and speak kindly of me. I will leave behind whatever I manage to accumulate to them. Anybody who feels the need to see me should do it before I die. No obligation, of course. But I see no reason for people to attend a celebration of my life. Even after I die. Especially after I die. I’m not interested.
Sometimes it feels like I was born twice.
The first time was into the home of two religious fanatics who controlled every aspect of my life with superstition, punishment, and strict rules. The second time was when I left home and religion behind for good. I could’ve searched for a tribe until I found one, but I didn’t. Instead, I’ve traveled my own road. I’m not patriotic, religious, nor traditional. I feel connected to the cosmos at some level, but my perspective of this world has been influenced by a host of uncommon experiences.
I’ve lived all over the world.
I’ve seen an amazing amount of natural beauty. It might be fair for me to say that the world is my home and nature is my church. I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to find my own path and live out my life on my own terms.
As soon as I could, I sought freedom and gave up a tight bond with a tribe. You can’t have it all. I’ve never regretted it.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myth buster. You can find her books on Amazon.