I’m a very social person. My wife would say it’s pathological. This will put it in context: I used to teach karate but haven’t practiced in probably 20 years. The other day a FB notification popped up that a club I used to train with occasionally was having a summer barbeque. Not that it’s entirely clear why I’m still following the group on FB, but my very first instinct was to check my calendar to see if I could make it. Three seconds later I came to my senses – was I really going to drive from Boston to NYC for a barbeque? And in any case, everyone I knew would be long gone and I have literally zero connection to them anymore. But the fact is, I did consider it for a second, as unrealistic as it would have been. I’m in touch with friends from my fraternity, my high school and my elementary school – that I left in 1971.
Against that backdrop, I’ve been known to say in public that I don’t need any new friends. At my tender age of 62, it’s almost like investing in a biotech startup – I don’t have time to wait for it to be profitable. In the Webster’s Dictionary under curmudgeon, there’s a picture of me.
I started November Project to support our close family friend and NPWoo co-founder, Sam Kenary. When my wife told me about it, I thought *groan* some new cause I have to get behind. Candidly, the whole concept wasn’t explained very well to me. That may have been intentional. Something about pointlessly climbing stadium benches at an ungodly hour. Was it a charity? A self-help group?
Against my better judgement, I went. I got about a third of the way around the stadium and was ready to pass out. I started skipping entire sections just so I wouldn’t hold up the rest of the dozen or so people who were there in those early days of the Worcester pledge and who were already in a reasonable state of fitness and were light years ahead of me. What I didn’t know then was that my curmudgeonly self was about to make some new friends. But hold that thought.
Over the last almost four years, I have gone from that inauspicious beginning to now completing the full tour plus a few additional sections on a good day. In one memorable run early in my NP career, I distinctly remember huffing and puffing up one of the sections about two thirds of the way around Holy Cross when someone about a third my age passed me with a hearty “good work!” I remember thinking “Fuck you. You’re on your second lap.”
I had an injury that left me with a bum ankle, and not to be dramatic, but every step is painful. Indulge me in one more humble brag: this past Saturday I screwed up my courage and decided to run with the group that does a “5-ish mile” tour of Worcester every week. Running has never been my strong suit, but since the accident, it’s really a challenge. I confess that I had to peel off from the group and walk a mile or so of it, but I estimate I did about four of the five miles. For me, this was huge. I’ve never run that far in my life. It is impossible to fully express the sense of accomplishment and gain in personal fitness that I’ve experienced in the NP journey.
Back to the friends thing. What I discovered on that run was that even though I was one of the slowest and eventually had to peel off, the group waited for me when we’d stop to take a picture or just for us laggards to catch up. That’s what friends are. I certainly wouldn’t have done that run on my own, and it’s unlikely I would have ever done it with a bunch of runners. They surely would have been less accommodating.
NP is a lot of different things to different people. To me, it’s certainly about fitness and rehab. My ankle is actually better now than it was before I started, and my body is in a much different configuration. But importantly, even though I’m not looking to “win friends and influence people,” I’ve managed to make a whole new raft of friends. I like to think that if I were the one coming in first, I’d be waiting for me. I’ve also been to tribes in Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, LA, London, NYC, and of course, Boston. It’s tough to explain to someone who’s never been to an NP workout how you can #justshowup at some location in some city and experience the joy of working out with a bunch of friends whom you’ve never met.
I really don’t know how to say thank you to Sam and all the others, like my wife, Ivan, Peanut, and Jim and all my other NP friends for pushing me and for just being there and creating the sense that you’re letting your friends down if you don’t #justshowup. Those days when you feel like shit; when it’s cold; when it’s raining; when you’ve had four hours of sleep. I think they understand the impact they have had and will have on people at one level, but I don’t think they can fully appreciate all the ways their efforts change lives. I am in constant awe at the level of dedication tribe leaders have. Despite being the crabapple I am, I’m happy to have these new (and old) friends.
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