Do you have a tribe? You know, the friends that really get you? As a military spouse, I typically like moving every few years. One of the hardest parts, however, is being left behind or having to leave my tribe. It has become so important to me to find people who get me when we move to a new place, who understand and support my viewpoints. It just makes me sad when I think about all the friends I’ve made who are now scattered around the world, especially because we will continue to move every few years for the rest of my husband’s career. Before we moved overseas about eight months ago, I was super excited to explore Japan, but I was really nervous about finding my tribe. I grew up in a military family, yet I still despise being the new kid in town. The base we are on is very small, and I was afraid that my liberal, crunchy-mom ways wouldn’t fit in. When you are in a military family in the U.S., it doesn’t matter as much. You have an entire city at your disposal to connect with people if it doesn’t quite happen in your military community. Overseas is a different matter. It isn’t very easy to make friends in a foreign country when you don’t speak the language.
A friend told me not to fret, that I would find “my people” wherever I went in the world. She was right! The Internet, by the way, is an amazing thing, and I am so thankful for Facebook. Before I even arrived in Japan, I connected with friends of friends who said, “You two have so much in common. I just know you’ll like each other.” And we did. When I arrived, I immediately met a few more people that I connected with because of our shared crunchiness. I approached one mom in the commissary (the grocery store on base) who was nursing her baby while walking down the frozen food aisle. I started a Facebook page for local breastfeeding moms, and soon after opening the group, we were up to 50 members, which is pretty awesome on a base our size. I realized I was not such an oddity. I wasn’t alone! I found my tribe in this tiny microcosm of America all the way in Japan. I also discovered something unexpected along the way.
Being on this base is a unique experience to say the least. Allow me to set the scene for you. It’s made up of only a few thousand people, and while we’re from all over the U.S. and all over the world, we’re all in the same boat here. Our spouses work long hours when they’re here and leave for months at a time. We’ve all had to figure out how to drive on the left side of the street and navigate the Japanese train system without speaking or reading the language. We all miss home sometimes. We jokingly call it “Mayberry” because it has such a small town vibe to it. We are about an hour from Tokyo and have access to all Japan has to offer very easily, but inside the gates, we’re in our own world.
When I go on errands in Mayberry, I run into at least five people I know. At first I thought that would seem constricting, but I really enjoy it. I like running into friends when we take our kids to the park, and I enjoy saying hello to the same mail carrier at the Post Office every time I go. Most importantly, living on this tiny base has taught me that my tribe doesn’t have to consist of other moms who think and parent just like me. I’ve become friends with people here who, at first glance, I don’t have a lot in common with. Whereas in the U.S. we might have written each other off, here you really get the chance to get to know people. Some of my best friends parent their children completely differently than I do. We have completely opposing religious and political views. We’ve realized, however, that it’s okay. It doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. If anything, I’ve learned that it’s healthy for me to have friends with other worldviews. It keeps me grounded to my own viewpoints by making me defend them and reevaluate from time to time. Sometimes I have the tendency to become more close-minded by surrounding myself by people who think like me, if that makes any sense.
I still enjoy connecting with people who share viewpoints with me. It’s still comforting and reassuring to chat with people who get my passion for birth and babies and breastfeeding, but it’s also good to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Being here in Mayberry has taught me a lot about myself but also a lot about making friends and finding my tribe wherever I go. I urge you to do the same.