There is one unmistakable fact of my life that I cannot ignore. The female culture in which I reside is dominated by clans.
Beginning in high school (a late bloomer I know. My opportunities for socialization came later in life), I quickly observed the culture of grouping around me. At the bus stop. Around the lunch tables. School sporting events. Girls deposited themselves in familiar groups of three or more and there remained in each others company for the remainder of my observable proximity to them. The same phenomenon presented itself again in college, and now continuing into my adult life. It’s a running theme that follows me everywhere I go in the world of friendships, and one that I tried hard to ignore. You might find yourself relating to this story because you are one of those fortunately connected women, or you might be more like me and find yourself enjoying one-on-one friendships but undeniably clanless.
Allow me to describe to you my consideration. Each of these women is an individual in her personality and path, and yet in possession of a similar social sphere. Who are these women, and why do they belong? Well, she may be your standard Christian homeschooling housewife, or your committed working mom. Your ambitious mother of two who dedicates all of her spare time to the MLM she was talked into five years ago. Etc. Whatever her role, interest, and vocation she always seems to have a clan of female friends and confidantes whom she connects with somewhat regularly. They resemble a bonded sisterhood. They share interests and form collective memories that fuel their connection and strengthen their bonds. They go out for coffee – all five or six of them, a couple times a month. They always sit together at Bible study. They attend local concerts and sports events with their husbands. They form book clubs, and volunteer together. They always have each other and it looks so natural. So appealing. And I’m often envious of what they have. I find myself comparing my friendships and I wonder why I wasn’t invited to that picnic or that movie night, and I start to fret that it might be because there’s something wrong with me. In reflection, I know this isn’t true. I know this is just my own insecurities talking, but I can’t help but make the distinction.
The truth is I don’t have a clan now and I never have because that is not part of God’s plan for me. At least, it hasn’t been so far. My social life looks very different from that of the majority. I have a friend from church whom I might get together with as often as our schedules allow, to enjoy a deep, heartfelt, intimate conversation over coffee. I have a friend who enjoys the simple pleasures in life. A good meal. A glass of wine. The discussion of travel and the fine arts. I have another friend who lives several hours away and yet she’s the type of person I can call up at any point in time, no matter how long it’s been and we reconnect like siblings. Another whom I know I can go to with any problem and she will pray for me. And finally, I have someone whom I came to know very quickly and very intimately with whom I relate a lot of my flaws and strengths.
I will probably never see all four of those women together in a room. My connections are habitually one-on-one. And this surprises me because I’m an extrovert. I enjoy the crowd. I enjoy talking to more than one person at a time. I love being around people and I thrive on human connection. So why the fragmentation? Perhaps it’s because I have the ability to connect with a myriad of different personality types? Few of these people would be considered like-minded. Perhaps it’s because I find it more rewarding to expand my friendships outside of the comfort of familiarity? I do enjoy a new relational challenge. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that our family structure looks different than the majority’s and therefore our schedule does not permit this close bonding of multiples. Whatever the case may be, at 35 I am acknowledging the difference between myself and what you might consider the norm.
Would I like to belong to a clan? Of course, I would. It would remind me of a time when I had a close-knit family. There’s something so comforting about knowing that you have a place to belong that there other shoulders that can carry the weight with you. I am grateful that God has supplied me with several individuals who care and who make time to build meaningful relationships, and yet the fact remains that I am a social nomad, wandering from friend to friend, looking for depth and substance and usually finding it. There is a sense of freedom in that I move independently, but on the other hand, there exists a nature of loneliness in wondering.
Yet in all of this I see a purpose. I am used uniquely and intentionally by a loving Creator. So, if He has called me into the depth individual relationships, than I am compelled to answer. In time I will see the purpose, and in the present I am contented to be used as I am. Clanless.