From quitter to (q)onfident – Guest blog [MTL]

Jemal is a PhD student studying neuroscience in Montréal, originally from Ethiopia. Despite the 6 months of snow and ice here, he is a skillful runner, an excellent high-fiver and an adventurous NP member. He took his first trip to the United States for this year’s inaugural Snow Globe event! Jemal greets everyone with a sincere smile and easy laughter. He is an essential part of our Wednesday morning NP crew. Jemal, we’re so happy you’re here… even if you’re late 😉
– LC

Sometimes we need the agency of relationships and friendships to see who we really are and then fix our own self-diagnosed flaws. 

A few years ago, I found myself having to look back at my past relationships, and re-evaluate how the people I grew up with, went to high school with and shared a dormitory with had their own profound impact on me. That moment was one of the most transforming in my life. I came to realize that I can only be relied on when I learn to trust and rely on others. I needed to do away with the habit of taking my own personal stiffness as an excuse to shy away from relationships.

It became clear to me that I wasn’t doing myself any favours by dwelling within the confines of my comfort zone – where I would rely on books or songs or the internet for any kind of inspiration or commotion. I began to see that showing vulnerability is, in fact, a show of strength – that you can only be better and stronger when you let others be in your life. 

Growing up as a loner, running became my go-to fun and stress-release mechanism since the early 2000s. It has been helping me get through all kinds of stuff: challenges, happy times, dark rainy days, homesickness, breakups, makeups, frustrations, failures, what have you! When I’m running outdoors, I find peace; I find it easier to put things into perspective. It gives me time to think, and freedom to move on when I need to.

On the surface, I try to project a good deal of zeal in meeting new people, doing new things etc. Deep inside, I’m the king of quitters– I often get all worked up with the fear of failing, disappointing others, and all that kind of stuff. 

When Silvana, already an NP member, first told me to join November Project, it took me only a couple days buy new workout gear, but it took me 1 month to finally show up. I doubted and was worried! Will the group be okay with me joining? Will I be happy with the group? I had no idea what to expect. At that point, it had been over 2 years since I have been away from home, only a fewweeks since I moved to Montreal. I needed some kind of human connection and yet had no clue where to start. 

On the morning of Halloween 2017, I got up at 5:50am, put on my brand-new running shoes and headed to the Old Port, but I had trouble finding the location. The group had already bounced and working out down by the river. I kept jogging slowly towards the group with 100% confidence that I was going to introduce myself and join. About 10 meters close, I couldn’t get over the doubt and fear: what if they won’t be welcoming? I pretended like I was just passing byand continued jogging towards the clock tower.

On my way back, the group was still there. To my own embarrassment, Silvana stopped me and asked me what I was doing there. I was like ‘yeah, just running around here, and I didn’t know this was NP blahblahblah’, too shy to admit the truth. That morning, I saw the smile on the faces of every member.I got to know 4 or 5 of the members who just saw me for the first time and still asked me if I was going to come the following Wednesday. I fell in love with NP right away. However, the quitter in me hadn’t stopped overthinking. What if I can’t come next week? What if I will be disrupting the group’s dynamic? 

While enjoying every single minute of NP Wednesdays the following weeks, I kept posting to facebook the number of weeks I continued to show up before I would eventually quit. Week #1 – check, week #2 – check …week #8 – check!!! Before I knew it, NP had already become part of my new life in Montreal. Within the first 2 months with NP, I was delightfully surprised by the level of kinship and fondness between members. If you have ever lived in a place where you don’t know anyone else, you will understand what it means to even hear someone just calling your name, let alone being welcomed to a coffee and have some nice conversation.

I face many “down” moments when I question my choices: career, living far from family… all that stuff people worry about when they hit their 30s. Luckily, the very thought of belonging to NP, the people who just show up to have fun with you, give you hugs, smile at your stupid jokes and take a bunch of silly selfies has been beyond therapeutic. For me, the opportunity to live and study in this incredibly beautiful country would have sufficed, but NP and its members just made it perfect!

To our endearing leaders: Your dedication and tireless effort to make Wednesday mornings full of fun is 100 miles north of AMAZING!!! Derek, Milla, LC, Laurent, Jeremy! Seeing you guys do the things you do for NP has transformed me into an ENTHUSIAST. I am happier; I am more positive and I’m more productive. I love running more than ever. I no longer sneak away from the after-workout coffees, meaning I am learning to power through my subtle but real social anxiety as well! Woohoo! 😊



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