I'm currently living with my best friend, Emma, in Brighton, and if there's one word I'd use to describe her, it's loyal. Make a passing comment with a slightly negative tone about something she cares about -- whether it's a place, person, or TV show -- and she'll immediately defend it as if you're insulting something integral to her being. I find this curious and a little baffling because I don't have that kind of attachment to anything.
It's pretty obvious that I don't have any allegiance to a country, as I've lived in so many of them (this is making the question "Where are you from?" more stressful than it should be right now). Because of all that moving, there's only a handful of people that I deeply love and most of them are family. I don't have a favorite author, director, or band; I'm not part of any fan sub cultures. There are things I like, sure, but there are not many things that I love -- at least not enough that I derive some understanding of myself from them.
The buddhists may encourage this kind of non-attachment, but I'm finding it...boring. The things we identify with and are loyal to give us a sense of belonging, and they help us connect with other likeminded people. And that's what it's all about, really: connecting with other people.
Have you ever noticed that the way you feel about other people is defined almost entirely by how you feel about yourself?
A couple of years ago, I was in a really good place. I'd been laid off from my job and broken up with my boyfriend -- I know, I know, it doesn't sound like I was in a good place, but I was! I experienced a rebirth in that period where I decided to become someone. I immediately re-started my yoga practice, which I'd abandoned after starting full time work, and adopted an Ayurvedic approach to eating. I read a lot of nonfiction that gave me new, hopeful perspectives of the world. I started freelancing and discovered how fun it was to work for myself, with no limitations on my time or location. I decided to move to California. I booked a ticket to meet a German stranger in New York just for the sake of adventure. I was happy.
During that time, I really liked most of the people I met. I was so open to them and I expected the best from them. In particular, I met one person who I thought was funny and open and warm. Flash to a year later, where I was basically the opposite of all the things I just described, and I ran into this person again. I HATED them. They weren't funny; they were trying too hard. They weren't open; they were invading my personal space. The thing was, that person was exactly the same; I was the one who changed...and obviously I hadn't changed for the better.
Now that I'm in Brighton and definitely happier but not quite at my most fulfilled, I've found that my default in meeting new people is not expecting them to be great. Instead, I'm more judgmental, convinced that because of some surface differences, we won't have anything in common. Yuck, right?
I know on an intellectual level that this attitude is a reflection of me and how I feel about myself rather than anyone I meet. Because I am not actively pursuing things that make me feel like a more realized person and like someone who has lots to offer, I don't expect much from other people. Still, knowing things on an intellectual level does exactly zero to change my behavior.
I don't know if I'll ever understand loyalty to places; loyalty to a country because you happen to be born there often means that you overlook the problems and don't try to enact any change. Actually, loyalty to just about anything can cause that. But loyalty to people? Well, that seems like the kind of loyalty I'd like to possess....but that means first meeting people I'd like to commit to...which means become the kind of person who I'd like to meet.
It's always just journey of becoming, isn't it? Right now, I'm trying to establish some sense of purpose in my life. Not capital P Purpose that online entrepreneurs would convince you to quit your job to pursue, but a small, personal purpose that makes my days feel worth it. I have a sneaking suspicion that that purpose will lie in becoming loyal to some things and ultimately becoming loyal to some people. Fingers crossed Brighton is the place where I'm going to learn how to do that.
Would you describe yourself as loyal? What are you loyal to?