Recently I stayed up into the wee hours, catching up with a close friend (check her out at happygut.ca). Curled up on her couch, we talked about everything from funny dating stories to the amazingness of mothers. Then we somehow got to talking about how different we often feel relative to others.
I find that people generally accept different as ‘cool’.. to a limit. Once you really push tradition or social norms, most people try and exit the conversation (hopefully with a panic moonwalk a la Nick Miller to seal the awkwardness)!
This reminded me of how important it is to find your ‘pack’ - those people who acknowledge your talents, who support you but call you on your nonsense, who get you and your differences, who share your true values.
In one of my favourite books (Women Who Run with the Wolves), Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about the importance of finding one’s pack, using the story of the Ugly Duckling. That poor duck is laughed at by all the other ducks, left to fend for himself, searching and wandering, until he finally realizes he isn’t an ugly duck after all. In fact, he isn’t even a duck! He’s a beautiful swan! Once he finally finds his pack of swans, he experiences life and power like never before.
For me, finding my pack has been so important for my learning. It’s hard to fully express yourself, if you aren’t associating with people who really ‘get’ you. If you aren’t fully expressing yourself, you aren’t doing justice to your learning (and living) potential. The encouragement and acknowledgement you get from your chosen pack is critical to moving beyond mediocre, beyond normal.
The great thing about this is that people in your true pack come from so many different areas of your life, different ages and stages.
With the recent passing of the great storyteller, teacher and activist Maya Angelou, I checked out an interview she recently had with George Strombo. In a similar vein to the Ugly Duck story, she speaks about equality:
I was always amazed at people’s shortsightedness. How can you think that you can plant an orange seed, and (then) go out and harvest onions..? Damn, Jack! You should know better than that!
Here’s hoping none of us become as shortsighted as the ducks or these harvesters; that instead, we all find our packs and make original contributions!
On a recent trip to India, I find myself on a visit to the beautiful city of Mysore, Karnataka. On the early morning train from Bangalore, I am seated across an upbeat young woman, a licensed Naturopath pursuing her MBA and teaching part time. We quickly find lots to chat about.
Slowly, an elderly man walks onto our train car, with his charming grandson and daughter. The elderly man is seated beside me, while his grandson sits in the next section over (spoiler alert: the grandson does not turn out to be the man of my dreams!). Stooping over, the old man gives us each a quick nod, before getting comfy with his newspaper. He lasts a few minutes in silence, before he peers over and says: “You two haven’t stopped speaking since I got here!!”. Cracking a smile, he adds, “You know, 50 years ago, ladies would not be talking the way you are.” This is the beginning of my three hour conversation with the train ride professor.
A passionate educator.. on a quest for a schooling model to love!