This week, we wanted to offer you the perspective of one of the members of the November Project community. We have asked our friend Sara Schulwolf to take pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, and tell us a story.
This heartfelt blog takes up a concern that we think a great deal of adults face as they continue to live – the feeling of connection. So, without further ado, our friend Sara.
As a newly-minted college graduate heading into my first “adult” job, I received many useful pieces of advice: set yourself a monthly budget, buy double-ply toilet paper, do not throw out any mail that says “important tax document.” Yet, in all of this sage wisdom, no one had thought to warn me that I might be lonely in my new life, that it would be a difficult adjustment to go from four years of on-demand socialization to working 9-5 in a new city, with my boyfriend, family, friends all at least an hour away.
My first year in Providence was hard as I struggled to navigate this new reality. There were many evenings spent staring at my computer screen and more than few tears shed over feeling isolated. Of course, it wasn’t all bad: I enjoyed my job and my co-workers, played some ultimate frisbee, and discovered the magic that is Knead Donuts. Still, I felt as though something was missing; like I wasn’t connected to the city, and that even though I’d met some wonderful people in Providence, I still lacked a community.
Flash forward to last May. Chugging through the final miles of the Providence half marathon, I came upon a horde of colorfully dressed humans, PVD Project spray painted across their shirts, who were jumping around and cheering for the runners while taking swings at a pinata. They seemed to be having the absolute best time; one guy even offered me a mimosa as I ran by. While I declined the bubbly, I knew instantly that I wanted in on whatever it was that had been going on. A little post-race googling brought me the name November Project (or PVD Project at the time), and a look at the group’s twitter feed yielded even better news: the group was completely free and accessible. No fees or products, no weird initiation rituals (okay, maybe a few of those); to join the screaming, jovial masses, all I had to do was show up to the Rhode Island State House on Wednesday morning at 5:27 or 6:27 am.
Of course, it still took me another couple of months to take the plunge and “just show up,” but thanks to the gentle prompting of my friend/coworker/fellow tribe member Ronke Ilegbusi, I finally made it one Wednesday in mid-August. My first workout (A PR day, no less) went less than auspiciously — walking to get my water bottle after my first ten-ish sets of stairs, I quite literally tripped over my own feet and sprained an ankle. But it didn’t matter — I was already hooked and couldn’t wait to come back again the next week (this time wearing my ankle braces).
Since that fateful Wednesday, the adventures and opportunities have only kept coming as NP PVD has pushed me to challenge myself in new and meaningful ways. There was Hell Week: a previously unimaginable feat of waking up before 5 am for five days in a row, but somehow after experiencing the first awesome workout, missing a day seemed unimaginable (plus I may may have had some insider info that a Friday surprise would make attending the whole week well worth it ;)). In October, I tried my first obstacle course race. Sure, I didn’t *actually* get over all of the obstacles, but I did have an absolute blast stepping out of my comfort zone alongside my fellow NP-ers.
I knew that I was really and truly “in it” when, learning of our family plans to spend the winter holidays in Washington DC, I was less excited about visiting any of the museums and cultural sites than I was about traverbaling (which, ohmygoodness, is a portmanteau of travel and verbal?! brilliant.). Thus, while my parents and brothers slumbered at the wee hour of 5:30 am, I found myself in the lobby of our hotel waiting to meet my new friends (aka, complete strangers. Sorry, mom.) who were run-pooling to the workout. My two workouts with the DC tribe did not disappoint. I ran stairs while watching the sun rise over the Lincoln Memorial, met many awesome people (special shout-out to Blake, Betty, Tax Judge Ron, and the pilot who bought me a pop tart, if any of you happen to read this), and learned something truly special: that I could be anywhere at all on a Wednesday morning but as soon as the bounce starts, I’ll feel at home.
There have been more “big” moments in my NP journey since then: Sometime after returning home from DC, I was honored with the Positivity Award which was equal parts shocking and thrilling. Just this weekend, I ran the Providence Half Marathon again. This time, it was me who had November Project spray painted across my shirt (although I still politely declined the margarita being offered by the cheer station).
But perhaps even more significant than any of these accomplishments have been the countless little moments — the hugs and high fives exchanged, carpools shared, wacky workouts embraced, and burpees executed — that have turned an eccentric group of early-morning exercise enthusiasts into a family. My family. These have become the people who have pushed me on my best day and hugged me on my worst, the ones who have lifted me over obstacles, physical and emotional, and reminded me of my strength when I wanted to give up. We’ve watched each others’ dogs while on a honeymoon, shared meals and merriment, and provided last-minute rides when plans fall through. My tribe has shown up for me — every week at workouts, or run club, or an hour early to a live podcast event so we can get the best seats. They are — all of you are — simply the best people.
It’s hard to fully express everything that November Project Providence has meant to me and how it has enriched my life during this past year. But I’ll sum it up like this: November Project has pushed me to become a better, grittier, more positive version of myself by welcoming me with open arms into a unique, inclusive, and (most of all) fun community. Soon I will be applying to medical school, which means that next year may find me somewhere else entirely (unless someone can put in a good word for me at Brown, then I’ll stay forever :P), and while starting over is a daunting prospect, I know that so long as I work hard, stay positive, and above all, not be afraid to ‘just show up,’ I will be just fine.
So thank you, November Project Providence, for everything. This post-grad is no longer lonely; she’s found her tribe.
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