Friday, March 16, 2012

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Everyone needs a place - besides home - where they feel comfortable and appreciated and, to put it frankly, liked. Before we moved to Texas, that place for me was the Red Cross. I'd worked for the organization for eight years, the last six at the same chapter and with the same people, and I knew exactly and was comfortable with where I fit into the organization's complicated social puzzle.

I couldn't, nor would I have wanted to, immediately replace that home-away-from-home with a new Red Cross Chapter. Though I've started to affiliate myself with the Red Cross Chapter in my county, I don't think it will become "that" place for me anytime soon.

I've found a temporary replacement, however, and as ridiculous as it may sound, it's my gym.

I've always been an avid exerciser. I started playing soccer when I was five or six, and that sport - thanks to the many games, practices, and endurance and strength workouts - kept me physically fit through the end of high school. When I started college, I substituted regular aerobic workouts and strength training at the gym for all that soccer playing, and now, 15 years later, the gym has stuck. That's not to say my gym has always been my home-away-from-home though. My gym in Ann Arbor was dark and gloomy, and in the FIVE years I worked out there I only talked to one person...and she thought my name was Lisa.

I realize that technically I'm paying the front desk staff, group fitness instructors, and childcare center staff to know my name, be nice to me, and take good care of my kids.  But it feels like more than that to me.  I'd like to believe they've learned my name because I've learned their names, they're nice to me because I'm nice to them, and they take good care of my kids because I let them know - every day - how much I appreciate the peace and support they give me.

Beyond the staff members, I've enjoyed getting to know my fellow College Station exercisers.  At first everyone was a stranger, but eventually strangers turned into familiar faces and familiar faces turned into faces with names.  I see these faces at church, at the mall, and in the grocery store, and we always smile at and greet one another.

There's a unique bond that forms between gym acquaintances.  You may never become the best of friends (though there's no rule against that of course), but there's something about the shared experience of working incredibly hard toward a similar goal, especially when sweat is involved, that brings people together.  Oh, and there's something about running into someone when neither of you look your best - as in you just rolled out of bed and into your gym clothes and your hair looks like you haven't brushed it since Wednesday and you're not wearing any make-up - that also brings people together.  (Whenever I run into gym employees outside of the gym they comment on how nice I look.  I always reply that it's because I took a shower.)

It helps that my kids are big fans of the gym.  They love the childcare staff (two of whom are our AMAZING regular family babysitters), they love the toys and children's workout equipment in the childcare center, Will enjoys the weekly Zumbatonic (Zumba for kids) classes, and Will has a little man-crush on one of the group fitness instructors, Chris, after whom they named our Christmas Elf.

Not familiar with Zumbatonic? Here's a quick peek. It's adorable.

I guess this post is, in some ways, a thank you note to the gym.  I joined just a few days after we moved to College Station, knowing that while I needed a place to work out - thank you very much, Christmas cookies - I also needed a place I could call my own. A place where I could work on myself and step away from my kids and my responsibilities, a place where everyone would know me as "Erin" and not as just "Will and Hallie's mom" and/or "Dr. Ferris' wife". The gym delivered. And I have the sanity to prove it.

1 comment:

  1. I totally get this!! At Christmas each year I find myself wanting to bake/gift my "co-workers" and since I don't really have co-workers that I see each day, I end up gifting the employees and friends at the YMCA! It's the same kind of relationship that you've described here. :-)