Finding Your Tribe

by Christy Gualtieri

Female friends by the sea

When I first moved to Pittsburgh by way of New Jersey, I wasn’t a tremendous sports fan. In New Jersey, all the teams mostly belong to other states: either you’re a New York team fan, or a Philadelphia one, depending on how North or South you live.  I was unprepared for how absolutely wild Pittsburgh residents get over their beloved (and wonderful) teams, and I loved how specific it was.  These teams played for their city, and it created a camaraderie I had never experienced before.

At the first job I got when I moved to town, I was standing outside the building, looking for my cell phone, when a man approached to enter.  I opened the door for him and he smiled and thanked me, and then said, “Go Steelers!”

“Go Steelers,” I replied, slightly taken aback.

As my first weeks in Pittsburgh progressed, I began to take notice of how deep the sports rabbit-hole went.  Grocery store employees wore Black and Gold on game days.  The breaking news and top stories on the nightly news were sports-related (a far cry from the crime-ridden ones from the reports back in New Jersey).  I could even buy Black and Gold bagels!

It was infectious.  I’d always loved having a football game on in the autumn, but my husband and I got caught up in the meteroric rise of Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.  We cheered at parties when the Steelers won the Super Bowl; we cheered even louder when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.   We developed (friendly) animosity towards Baltimore Ravens fans and Washington Capitals diehards. We’re a bit slower to embrace baseball, but it would be fun to have the Pirates win the Pennant!

Yes, the teams are all exciting, and their players work hard.  But what I was really drawn to, through it all, was the community they brought.  I wasn’t just a resident in Pittsburgh – I became a Pittsburgher, just like everyone else.  I felt like I belonged.

It’s ingrained in us as humans, I think, to belong, to feel like a part of a tribe.  We’re not meant to walk through the world alone, and yet so many of us feel exactly that way – alone.  Anxiety and depression can wear down the healthiest of us, and make us feel as though we’re separate from the whole, and no one can reach us.  It’s an awful feeling.

A friend of mine once told me something I’ll never forget: “No matter what you’re struggling with, think of all of the people in the world – seven plus billion.  There is always someone else struggling with it, too.”  And even though I didn’t know anyone at the time that had struggled so much with the anxiety levels I had, I was comforted to know that at that moment, someone else was standing in it with me.  If you’re feeling alone, know that you are not alone, and reach out to someone who can help you find support.

But maybe you’re doing all right these days – maybe you’re getting help and managing your symptoms and things are going well.  If you are, that’s wonderful! Maybe take today to be that helping hand to someone who feels alone.  Know that you have a special ability, because you’ve been there, to reach out to others around you to help them have that same sense of community that we all desire.  

You don’t even have to be a sports fan to do it!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!