This is a “Guest Letter” written by my friend, Megan, who leaves Chicago tomorrow for the Texas heartlands. Megan and I met through a fitness (cough, semi-cult) group here in Chicagoland called November Project. In the time I’ve known her, she’s run marathons in superhero costumes, given fierce hugs, and even listened to some of my rambling stories and ideas.
This idea in particular– writing a Guest Letter– was prompted by a post-happy hour sushi eating session in which both of us wound up gushing:
WOW MOVING AND LEAVING PLACES AND PEOPLE REALLY SUCKS.
AND IS ACTUALLY SO SO SO HARD.
So here is her letter– with all the pieces of how moving around can tear at every single heartstring imaginable– but how in moving, we have the amazing opportunity to constantly learn and grow from the community of people around us.
When I decided to move here in the fall of 2014, I chose to look at the experience as a safe haven for the mess going on in my life.
Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the city before setting my sights on it, locking on, and refusing to let go. I had just finished a short-lived dancing career in New York City that had ended in an abrupt series of unfortunate events, including a housing scam that left me momentarily homeless and sent me running back to my parent’s home in Upstate NY.
During that time, I began to believe that I wouldn’t be able to stay dependent on others for long, that I would have to do things on my own.
But soon after, I met a guy online.
This is widely regarded as one of the stupidest things I have ever done. But I cannot deny that it was one of the only reasons I was able to figure out how to live, how to exist, here in Chicago.
Initially, I found an apartment to share with a woman in her late twenties who had a spare room in the southwestern neighborhood of Bridgeport. However, during the layover between my connecting flights, she decided she no longer wanted a roommate and rescinded her offer. Not having a lot of options at my disposal, I took advantage of the kindness presented to me by someone that was little more than a stranger– aka the guy from online.
The two years I was with him seem to blur together– he had a very set schedule and I adhered to it like clockwork. During this time, I didn’t get to see a whole lot of the city and stayed almost exclusively in the West Loop, Wicker Park, and the South Loop. It wasn’t until we broke up that I really started coming out of my shell and really started to see more– started to see the map of Chicago in my head without having to use Google Maps.
However, despite two years of living, breathing, and working in Chicago, I didn’t feel any type of loyalty to the city. Didn’t feel like I belonged.
This all changed in April 2018 when I decided to join November Project Chicago, known as NP CHI for short.
For context, when I joined NP, I was in a very dark place: a few close family members had recently passed away, I had been facing some health issues, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life, I had zero friends.
One day, I reached out to one of the co-leaders of NP CHI, Chris. After a 2 year Facebook lurking streak, we finally met at a mutual friend’s birthday party. He told me about NP– the burpees, the hugs, the high-fives– and I politely told him:
“I’m glad you have that, but it doesn’t sound like my thing.”
As things go, I went to one workout after the 2018 Shamrock Shuffle and became instantly hooked.
It didn’t matter what job I ended up taking on or what ended up happening outside of the two NP workouts a week, I knew this– the people, the movement, the good vibes– was going to be my new outlet.
Gradually, Wednesday and Friday mornings with NP became my safe harbor, the two moments I looked forward to throughout the entire week. I’m not saying that this one group of people magically made everything better, but the support and the care of these people– who quickly became my friends and family– gave me the courage to treat myself better and to work harder to figure out what I wanted both in my career and in my life.
They’ve also, perhaps most importantly, taught me how to be a better friend.
I’ve known countless brilliant people in my life; talented, giving, productive, hardworking, inspirational beings that you look to in awe whenever you think something cannot be done.
But I’ve also moved so many times, had to sever so many relationships with these people that oftentimes, it’s left me struggling to figure out how to make sustainable friendships work. Add in Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression to the mix, and I have often found myself just giving my time and energy away to people who didn’t necessarily deserve it.
But being a part of NP taught me what I find truly important in friendship: just being there.
Just Showing Up.
Whether this means being on the other end of the phone or going to the workout to support others or when you’re not really feeling it that day but you haul your ass to the Bean on Friday’s anyway to give someone a huge hug–
We show up for people when they need it most.
We are each other’s nets. No matter what.
November Project is not about being the best or being the paragon to end all paragons–
it’s about being the best version of you.
If the best version of you is barely breaking an 11min/mile, you’ll be no less applauded. Our slowest runner is just as important as our fastest.
That’s one of the reasons I love the cheer tunnel that we do at the end of the main workouts. It encourages us to cheer for everyone.
What it says is: “We’re all doing the same workout, we’re all trying our hardest, and we’re all in this together.”
With this encouragement and support, I was able to push myself further and further. Over the past year, and with the support of my NP Fam, I completed my first 5k, 8k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon. I fell in love with staying active again. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t have had the courage to do any of these seemingly crazy things without my NP Crew– and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Among so many many other things, NP CHI has also taught and given me the courage to pursue happiness for myself.
And so, though it may seem slightly counter-intuitive, I’m leaving Chicago to explore life as a Texan.
I’m hoping I can take with me all the lessons NP has taught me.
I’m hoping I can be the kind of friend they’ve been to me and to so many others.
And I’m hoping they– and the entire city of Chicago– know how much they’ve changed me for the better.
Lots of Love,
aka The Flash