Guest Blog: Collin Evans (SF)

This guy gets it.

Today’s blog comes from Collin Evans. Collin who, until this morning’s workout, was the most recent recipient of the positivity award, wrote about what NP means to him and why it’s important. Needless to say, we love what he’s written and the way he’s shared the ethos of NP. We’re glad you’re here, Collin. Take it away.

When I was young, I would stay away from groups of people that seemed a little overzealous. I went to my local church youth group, but it was more for the social aspect than about, you know, Christ. My aversion to groupthink, as I had negatively labeled it in my head, vanished at USC. The tour guides (and interns!) were a wild bunch. There was something about the energy of that office and the related retreats and parties that brought a wildly extroverted group of people together in a sort of “you only get it if you’re on the inside” kind of way. Then there was Troy Camp, which starts weird and gets even weirder from there (I once licked peanut butter off a full-grown man’s face). When I moved to DC, I got amazingly lucky to meet Andrea, who brought me into the fold with the Living Social Adventures crew, and I made friends with some of the most jovial, rambunctious, and mischievous people I’ve ever encountered. Also, we got paid to go whitewater rafting, so that was a plus. If there’s one common thread in my life since 2006, it’s this: I love being with loud, weird, and enthusiastic groups of people (shocking to those who know me, I’m sure).

As such, I suppose it’s obvious that I’m a “member” of November Project, a hype group with a workout problem. Honestly, November Project didn’t strike me as weird when I went to my first workout in 2014 in Washington DC. I remember Danny and Steve getting SO HYPED at Lincoln and I thought “whoa, this is absolutely what I’m into.” But I was still new to DC and winter was coming and I didn’t own any cold weather workout gear so I stayed away for six more months before finally going back.  But back I went, and slowly I made the transition from awkwardly stretching by myself to look busy before the bounce to “hey, I actually know a person here!” It wasn’t a short transition, but it was worth it. When I lived in Argentina for a month at the end of 2015, NP was the thing I missed most about DC (besides Erin and my friends, obvi). Also, it didn’t help that all the people I had been trying to convince to go to November Project suddenly started going right after I left (great work Jason, Packy, James, and Mike).

Now let’s fast forward to 2018. When I moved to SF, I reconnected with a bunch of friends from USC and found myself kind of hiding how “weird” NP actually is. I described it as a “workout group” or a “fitness group”. Not once did I use the word “tribe” unless by accident. It just feels weird to talk about it for some reason because apparently having fun for free in public spaces with your friends is weird? I can’t explain why, but I was self-conscious. This kind of aligns with my rowing post in a way. Sometimes I’m not often willing to show just how “into” something I am for fear of being ostracized or being revealed as an imposter.

So why write this post? To admit that I like workouts with an extroverted bent to them? To tell you that I now enjoy running even though I swear I’d never to it again? (I still cap out at 6 miles in case you were worried). No, it’s more to shed light on how, often in social circles, anything that is hyper inclusive or has some vast sense of insider knowledge is labeled as a cult, which by proxy is often a negative term.

While on a recent flight out of SFO, Erin and I ran into a young woman named Jamie, who I had met at NP a few weeks ago. While chatting about meeting her with Erin, it became obvious that the specifics of me and Jamie meeting would sound absurd to anyone not familiar with November Project. And the more specific you get, the weirder any November Project story sounds. First, I might describe the meeting at a fitness/running group that meets in the mornings. Or I could go a step further and use the word “tribe” and see the look on people’s face shift from interest to concern. Or I could get really specific: I met Jamie playing rock, paper, scissors leaning against one of the palm trees in Dolores Park at 6:30 in the morning. Totally normal.

But that’s only the beginning. Maybe I met someone else tickling their ear during a bounce in DC. Or maybe it was wheelbarrowing you across the beach in the marina aquatic stadium. Or maybe, like Luke Warford, I met you while you carried me across a parking lot in Chinatown in DC. It’s totally weird but simultaneously totally normal. For me, fitness is just the bonus of November Project, it’s the icing on the cake. I’ve done yoga classes, group bike rides, solo gym sessions, and everything in between. Those workouts are all excellent, however after about ten or so of any of these activities, you start to know what you’re getting yourself into. You know that there might be new routes or poses, but the new connections you’ll make with others can begin to dwindle. What keeps me coming back to November Project, either in SF or DC (or anywhere else), is the freshness of every interaction with others, both new and familiar. In short, NP brings people together in new and inventive ways, which I think is absolutely invaluable.

I’m not going to overhype NP as some panacea for our modern society, which is where I originally wanted to go with this post. But I will commit to this: November Project is 100% net positive in our communities. When I miss an NP workout, the fomo is real and it’s not because I didn’t get to work out. It means I missed an opportunity to hang with friends, meet new people, and on Fridays, explore a part of my city that I’ve never been to. Missing NP means I missed the chance to learn more about someone, to give and receive positive support, and share in an experience that might only happen that one morning and never again.

Meeting Luke Warford.

So, if you’re new to NP and reading this, lean in to the experience of meeting people in circumstances that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in your city. And if you’re a veteran, take every opportunity to share in the joy of an NP workout with people you know and people you don’t. We’ve got something really special in the November Project community, and sometimes it’s easy to take that for granted. And for the last group of people reading this; those who haven’t attended an NP workout: there’s a tribe in 48 cities around the world. Just go once; you won’t regret it.

PS: This post wouldn’t be here without Kelly Pierson, my good friend who first told me about NP.

PPS: Extra big shout out to all the leaders who have made the workouts I’ve attended possible. Your dedication and commitment are inspiring. Big thanks to Steve C, Kaelan, Steve S, Paddy, Laura, Tony, Zip, Ali, Jake, Maria, and Danny. Y’all are the best.

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