Up Hills, Down memory lane

My favorite part of November Project is not #free fitness; it’s not scampering around my world-class city like a middle schooler on a playground; it’s not even so many hugs.

My favorite part of November Project is this rare quality that somehow, this is a community where being cynical or snarky or self-deprecating is not cool. Here, sincerity is the coin of the realm. Unmitigated enthusiasm and irony-free pep talks. It’s so cool to wear your heart on the sleeve of your grassroots gear.

Speaking of which. I got the Positivity Award this morning. The tribe leaders couldn’t have known, but my emotions were already running pretty high. Today my friend Dan should have turned 30.


He should have been finishing up his neuroscience Ph.D. in Lisbon. He would have been recovering from the Berlin marathon this past weekend, and when I called to wish him Happy Birthday he would have teased me about this perma-happy workout group that’s taken over my FB page.

Dan died a few years ago in a very sad and strange accident. And when I woke up today I thought back to that morning, when the call came and my heart stopped and all that was left was numbing grief, crumbling belief.

His life was cut off, all promise and potential severed at 25. In those days we had a lot of plans for how things would turn out, such expectation that good things were coming our way. Had to be – we were smart and well educated; bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We weren’t so much entitled as unwise.

Dan’s death is a line of demarcation in my life, a clear point of before and after. The past few years have been hard. Sometimes terribly so. The plans didn’t come true for me either. This life is not what I imagined. … but it goes both ways.

I could not have imagined willingly rising before the sun to run up and down a hill for thirty minutes, breaking only for jumping jacks and push-ups. I could not have imagined lucking into two roommates who cheerfully do the same (and a third one, equally delightful but less pro-morning) (also named Emily!). I could not have imagined this absurd combination of the toughest workout I can handle channeled through the most affirming group of people I know.

This morning wasn’t the first time I thought of Dan during a November Project workout. He was a lot of unmitigated enthusiasm too. So much unswerving sincerity, and an unshakeable belief in my ability to do well. It’s easy to imagine him dashing past me up Cricket Hill, pausing to shout an encouraging word over his shoulder. I think he would have liked this group, this ethos. I think he would have liked all of you. I know I do.

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~ Brenda

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