Today we’ll take a break from finance to discuss a tangent of equal life import: finding your tribe.
Picture if you will a Californian transplanted to Cambridge, Massachusetts in the autumn of 2003. The only L.L. he’s ever heard of is Cool J, not Bean. He sports flannel instead of tweed, and is completely disoriented by the local Emergency Department attire regulations (khakis and button down shirt instead of scrubs? Ties?). The extremes of temperature relegate his beloved shorts and sandals to storage for all but a paltry three months of the year.
It’s a classic misfit story: Our untucked hero, persecuted by penny loafers, calls into question the basic assumptions about who he is and how he dresses. Forced to re-examine all aspects of what we’ll charitably call his fashion sense, he takes solace in the one fixture that has comforted him since childhood, his Proustian equivalent of the madeleine: white tube socks.
White tube socks stood by him when no one else would during a crushing third grade t-ball defeat at Mar Vista Park. They steadied his quivering jelly legs during his first 6th grade summer camp high kiss. They never once complained at the blood and mud stains when he opted to blaze his own trail deep in the Santa Monica mountains on days off during residency. They’ve had his back since he was a kid; he won’t turn his back on them now.
Thus was established the first (and only) meeting of Harvard’s Society For The Preservation of White Tube Socks. It was a celebration of casual comfort. An elevation of the practical over the preppy. An ecstatic assertion of everyman athleisure wear supremacy: sport and trailer beats Lord and Taylor. (Had we encountered success, it might even have begotten the Boston T-shirt Party).
The setting was Grendel’s Den in Harvard Square. It sounds (and smells) like a place straight out of Harry Potter. Generations of spilled beer and affordable happy hour specials created the perfect culture medium to attract and sustain hordes of frugal grad students. A particularly raucous table might host the future lords of finance study group over local micro-brews, while do-gooders mastering public health drown the world’s sorrows at the table next door over a pitcher and shared baskets of fish and chips. Grendel's in the aughts was cash-strapped, buzzed nerd heaven.
I assembled an illustrious crowd of junior faculty from our ED with roots in New York, Texas, Virginia and Switzerland. If you’d been hired in the past 3 years and felt like a powerless cog in the ivy league wheel, you got a seat at my table. Even though the crowd swung more preppy than I’d understood at the time I invited them (a couple had to go out to purchase white tube socks to wear for the occasion), there was a common sense of feeling like an outsider.
Folks pursuing academic medical careers hop around a lot. They don’t have an instant network of friendships. Many positions that help to advance careers can place people in isolating circumstances with no natural allies. Add to this the fact that many academics (irrespective of married or single status) are socially retarded to begin with, and you find that the lonely misfit is a common trope among junior faculty in academia.
Tribes are fickle things. Sometimes they are brought together by a shared vision. Other times they unite to ward off a common predator. I’d place the Society For The Preservation of White Tube Socks squarely in the latter category - bright docs with not a lot in common looking for an excuse to feel a little less lonely.
Which brings me to the present day. This is an awkward thing to admit aloud, but joining the quirky FI and finance blogger community has filled a void I didn’t realize existed. A zeal that developed organically from a desire to take control of my financial life has put me in touch with these bizarre folks that don’t flinch when I reveal my own eccentricities. It’s a remarkably cool group of people to connect with. And sure, I put up with a bit of good-natured teasing as my wife winks and asks how all my “invisible friends” are doing while I tap away at the screen.
Unlike the Society described above, we freaks and geeks of finance have rallied around a common vision for a better life where we save and invest so that we can begin to allot our time in accordance with our values, starting now.
It’s a beautiful thing to find your tribe.
Thanks for being weird in the same way I am.