I showed up to my first November Project workout, and almost left right away. I was ten minutes late. Everyone was already split into groups and taking off. I couldn’t figure out a safe spot to put my bag, much less who to workout with. A bunch of what-ifs and a wave of social anxiety flooded my head. I was terrified, maybe showing up was a bad idea.
“Do you want to join my group?” Winnie Lok noticed me being all awkward and lost. She motioned me over, and in less than a minute, I met a Gaurav, Tammy, Terri, Nick, Marc, and Vader. And in that first workout, I already had people cheering for me as I timidly did suicide sprints. At the very end, when the tribe called out the birthday peeps, I watched in absolute awe as Jeanie Tinnelly danced her butt off in front of everyone. She was unapologetic and bold, and geez I could never do that. I was too shy.
I grew up shy. People find that hard to believe sometimes. But it’s true. If I got bad grades in school, it was mostly due to lack of participation. I didn’t know what to say, was afraid of this and that. It led to a lot of spectating and not a whole lot of participating. After that first November Project workout, I left on such a high. I had to go back, even if it meant forcing myself through my own social barriers. I clung onto Winnie Lok like a barnacle, latched on for dear life. She was the only person that recognized me, she was my only friend at November Project. After workouts, I never lingered. I hustled to work and prayed that the streetlights would be green. I dreaded having to stop on street corners for red lights, because that meant people could see how awkward and friendless I was.
Three months into my foray with this free fitness movement, I was early to a workout. There was already a group of neon-clad humans gathered at the park. What if I had no one to talk to? So I walked around the block by myself until it was absolutely and exactly time to start. That’s how it had been–you’d never find me at the workout earlier than 6:28AM. That same morning, I felt kinda sad, thinking about how long I had been showing but still not having a whole lot of friends. That same morning, April Cargill said I looked familiar and asked if I was part of a particular run group. That same morning, Darshan Rangnath asked, “Hey, you’re Maggie right?” John Honerkamp, former co-leader of NP NYC, sent me a Facebook friend request (note, he has 3028501 friends on this platform alone). Let me repeat that, the person who oversaw the entire mass of a tribe, sent ME a friend request.
This stuff seems trivial. How much effort went into John clicking the “Add Friend” button? Or Darshan asking to confirm my name? Or Winnie inviting me to her group at my very first workout? It got me to stay, to keep showing up, to participate instead of spectate. It made a world of a difference. The simple act of recognition has such a profound echo. This is especially true when you live in a big city or have a big tribe. It can be overwhelming and intimidating to be around so many people. What happens when someone cheers your name as you haul ass on PR day? Or when your tribe makes a cheer tunnel for you? Or when the co-leader asks you to start up the bounce? My heart tingles. I smile like a goof. And then I shake a little bit because let’s face it, homegirl’s still a bit shy.
These seemingly-small interactions make a great impact, they do. These interactions provide individuals with an opportunity to illuminate. Find a newbie, a traverbaler, someone you kinda sorta know, your dad. Tag them on the Facebook photos, tell them exactly where breakfast club is, compliment their left nostril but not the right because it’s full of boogers, remember their name.
“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
-Maggie (@maggie.maykay)Share via socials: