I recently returned from a mentally exhausting workshop where I met many people who have made an impact on me. I heard many amazing things which will feature in upcoming posts, but I wanted to start with kindred spirits. I wanted to start here because the past couple of weeks have been really difficult for me to interact with others in response to the hurricanes, the ruling for the police officer in a St. Louis area shooting, and other events. I have felt increasingly like we are polarizing ourselves rather than banding together, which I believe is why hearing this term “kindred spirits” sparked something in me.
By definition, a kindred spirit is a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one’s own. It sounds so simple when you put it like that, but the reality is that it is extremely difficult to find people who think and act like you. It can be difficult to find somebody whose hobbies match your own, never mind their beliefs. What I believe is the truly important part of this is that as adults, we have been shaped by our environment and our experiences. Somebody who has never experienced a tragedy is less likely to have empathy in a terrible situation. Somebody who has never been a minority is less likely to understand how deep feelings can get in an unlawful situation. Somebody who has never been abroad ha a more difficult time understanding international relations. However, that doesn’t mean that being apart from those groups means that you cannotunderstand.
It is helpful if your experiences are similar, but it is not necessary. What is necessary is having an ally who understands what it means for life to be challenging, without pretending to have lived it. It can be a very difficult thing, but it is a possible thing. I was kind of called to action to find my kindred spirit(s) that day, and I have spent a decent amount of time thinking about my relationships. I thought about my close friends from every stage of my life, how we got there, and how we stayed friends. None of them lived my life, but in order for us to meet, somewhere along the line our environment and choices brought us together, so that is already more than half the battle. I thought about one of my friends whom we have always teetered very near being close, but never quite got over the edge. That person is a white male who grew up in a white neighborhood and went to a predominantly white institution, and still understands what it is like to be me better than a lot of other people I know. And that almost makes me feel guilty.
It almost makes me feel guilty because I feel like I’ve found a person who doesn’t deserve to be my person. I feel like I have found somebody who wasn’t actually meant for me and scooped them up. But, finders keepers and all that jazz. The fact of the matter is that we cannot help who we have common ground with anymore than we can help who we fall in love with. We need to accept the blessings that we get in life, and learn not to question them. We need to shut the cynical side up sometimes such that we can embrace another person as a gift.
Having a true kindred spirit isn’t something that should be approached lightly, but allowing ourselves to open up to find that person is. You want to protect yourself, so pace is important here. However, understanding when something good is in front of you and you need to open up- at your own pace- is something that should occur on a conscious level. We should consciously enter into friendships, we should consciously decide when we have something in common with others that can bring us closer together. We should pay attention to those people who can help us with certain things, not everything. We should know who we can count on in a crisis, who we want to smile and laugh with, and who we want to cry with. I believe that a kindred spirit should be all of those, and that is rare. But we can also strengthen friendships that give us a person to lean on when we need them.
In the past couple of weeks, I feel like we have not been leaning on others. We have been complaining and observing instead of taking action and doing something. Even just opening ourselves up to conversation instead of just venting via word vomit until we have decided that we are better and we can move on is necessary. And who knows what will come up it, but aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice by never opening that door?