Wednesday, March 8, 2017


I have a lot of reasons for why I run. Mostly to burn calories so I can gorge myself on cookies and pies. But one more reason that's become clear lately is a sense of belonging.

I've struggled with this all of my life. I've always been an introvert, and still consider myself one. I used to drink partly to have camaraderie with other drinkers. I took up photography so I'd have a reason to hang out with musicians, performers, and the like. I need a "prop" like this, because otherwise I'll just stay at home with my cat. I'm too selfish otherwise. All my intimate relationships have imploded because of this selfishness.

I like to give, to be generous. I like to make people feel good, to applaud their successes and inspire them to achieve even more. But I need a switch. Something that I can use to turn on my extroversion. It doesn't come naturally. Running is a solo activity. I've run with friends, and that's great! But usually it's just me, pounding out the miles on the pavement so that afterwards I can eat, like, a bucket of french fries.

But through running I've met an astonishing number of astonishingly amazing people! I didn't mean for it to happen. But it did. And I didn't realize how much I needed that community, that sense of belonging. And I'm thankful that these amazing folks have let me squeeze into their lives.

Technology these days is magic. It allows us to connect with people all over the world. It allows us to talk to old friends we haven't seen in years. It allows us to track family that are scattered thousands of miles apart. But it's also a double-edged sword.

Certainly we are more connected than in any other point in history. At the same time though, we no longer feel like we belong anywhere. Our ancestors may have only known the people in their village, but they were deeply rooted there. They played with, worked with, and lived next to those people all their lives. Those relationships by their nature were deep and meaningful. And even though our ancestors had much less in the way of luxuries than we do today, they generally felt happier.

Being part of a group of people is key to our happiness. Being alone is usually miserable. And though in the modern era, we are all "friends" online with hundreds if not thousands of people, we feel entirely isolated. We post a picture of our smiling faces, doing something cool and interesting. But that's a momentary blip in our lives, and gives absolutely no indication of how we live and feel. It's superficial.

What we post online says almost nothing about us, other than how good our timing is with our cellphone cameras. We like to create a perception that our lives are exciting and full of joy. But we know that none of the folks who "like" our posts really know anything about us. There's no sense of deep connection. No sense that we belong anywhere.

I'll admit that when I post my runs and selfies online, a big part of it is vanity. I like to show off my fitness. Certainly I inspire others as well, and that's awesome. But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't largely selfish. But then that's the reason many of the others post their workouts as well. They want to have that acknowledgment and appreciation. And I don't hesitate to let one of them know how awesome they are!

It's a community. And we all belong to it. And when I first joined it, I thought it would stay "online". But I was wrong. I've met some of these runners in real life. I've run with them. I've partied with them. I've laughed until tears streamed down our faces with them. We've hugged and fist bumped and toppled over each other.

And each one of them that I've met is amazing. The strength and energy that propels their runs suffuses every aspect of their lives. It bubbles out of them in the form of love and laughter. They do not leech off others. They give to others. And when we are all together, the vibe we share is palpable. It's intoxicating.

It's a little sad that I get to experience that level of intimacy and friendship so rarely that every time I do, it feels like I'm high. But then again, maybe it's just because I've been blessed to meet some of the best people in the world. However, even when I'm alone with my cat, I still feel that I'm a part of something now. Even when I'm apart from these strong and beautiful people, I still have that sense of belonging.

Even in my loneliest moments, I can think of them, and feel the warmth of happiness envelop me.

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