2021, Year of the Tribe
At the beginning of this year I was going for a walk with my sister and her partner in Brisbane. It was the end of the summer hols and I’d flitted up north to quickly see them after over a year apart (little did we know that plenty more lockdown was to come - for me anyway!). We were discussing new years resolutions as at the time we were less than a week out from January 1st. They are both very “Queensland”, my sister and her man. Both very much into the world of wellness and self development, perhaps not always in the most grounded way, but in a way that encourages a lot more optimism than the attitude of the average, neurotic Melburnian. It was in this setting that I felt comfortable to share my new-age approach to the new year (because I too am very much into the world of self development and wellness, as much as I’m into reading The Age and discussing Dan Andrews with my barista who prepares my proper morning coffee).
I told my sister and her soon-to-be spouse that rather than setting a resolution or goal for 2021 I’d selected a word. A word that I wanted to live by for the year, a word that would encapsulate my year. That word for me was Tribe. As I’d gone through the exercise of figuring out said word, I had narrowed it down to a few options, but for whatever reason tribe continued to ring strong. I didn’t know why. I didn’t even really know what I meant by it. Some intuitive voice told me it was so. Tribe was my word for the year and that was that.
Little did I know that at the end of the same summer I would start to make new friends. Despite the odds, and living in a city that’s in a constant dance with lockdown, I was meeting all sorts of wonderful new people. People who I felt an innate and immediate bond with. The kinds of people I’d always wanted to know. Suddenly my social life was flowing after two years of living in a foreign city. Meanwhile old bonds of mine were either breaking or strengthening. A certain anti-vax acquaintance from London attacked me then blocked me online. I was initially hurt, then realised I’d dodged a bullet. A couple of other people I wasn’t so fond of began to fall away too. Equally those I didn’t know so well started to connect with me more. I did a few odd jobs as I was building my business, working with an old friend for a while, and then working for various other companies, meeting new friends along the way. I reconnected with a gorgeous group of brilliant shop girls from my Sydney days. I reconnected with my school friends. I spent hours on the phone with people who I’d otherwise only met twice. I even made a new best friend via a letterbox flyer drop for a pop-up shop I was hosting.
Skip forward to July of this year, when my life began to fall apart. My long term relationship was unravelling and then ended abruptly. My online store, which I’d poured my soul into, was stalling. My city was closing up, again. As the weeks went on I thought things couldn’t get worse yet they did. I got sick, really sick, spending three weeks in bed and loosing my voice completely. My landlady abruptly announced that she needed the flat I’d made my home back in a matter of months. I was finally vaccinated and subsequently had a reaction so bad it saw me in an ambulance and then in the short stays ward of my local hospital. My beloved Grandpa passed away and I couldn’t travel to New Zealand to say goodbye to him. Physically and mentally I unraveled to the point where I decided to close my online business. Etc.
Everything that could go wrong was going wrong, is still sort of going wrong. However my tribe has never felt stronger. I could go on about the power of friendship forever. It is the most important thing in my life. My friends are the ones who have pulled me through these dark days of late. My friends are the ones who have dropped me flowers and wine and socially distanced affection as my heart has been broken in two. My friends are the ones who have made me laugh and let me cry from the other end of the phone. My friends are everything to me. To put it gracefully, if I didn’t have my tribe right now, I would be completely fucked.
One thing I never let go of, could never let go of, in my recent relationship was a thriving and independent social life. Of course he was always invited and included, but no bastard on this planet will ever take me away from my people. I never let go of this nor my sense of self. I am forever Charlotte Dallison, no matter where I am. Blonde, bold and buxom. I can move cities for love, I can spend Saturday night’s in watching movies about toxic male protagonists for love, I can (reluctantly) allow a bicycle and a guitar to become a part of my decor for love, but I’ll never stop being me, and I’ll never stop prioritising my friends. I see so many people, especially women, disappear into their relationships. And then when things fall apart they don’t know where to go. Because of my tribe I have had somewhere to go.
I believe in romantic love as much as I believe in friendship. In so many ways they’re the same thing. I like to think that I give a lot to any relationship I am in. When I fall in love I really fall. When I am a friend to someone I’m a really good friend. 2021 was not at all what I expected it to be, and things are still really bloody hard, but I am reemerging slowly, all thanks to my tribe.