Going Out on a Limb:
How November Project Taught Me Courage.
Dear Superintendent Gay Vietzke,
As the superintendent of Washington’s National Mall and Memorial Parks, I know you are an incredibly busy woman. I truly appreciate you taking the time to read my e-mail! I am writing to tell you my personal story with November Project D.C., and I hope you will take five minutes to read my whole story and be inspired in some, small way.
On Monday, September 1, 2014 , I moved from Ohio to the DMV. I had a handful of connections, a closet-sized room in Springfield, VA, a lemon of a car, and no job aside from a few shifts at T.J.Maxx. I was 23 years old and hoping to make a home here. 2014 was hands down the hardest year of my life. Throw in moving to a new city, making new friends, finding meaningful work — that year stretched me in ways I did not expect. I was scared, and I’m not usually one to admit I’m afraid. The growth that happened HURT.
Before moving to D.C., I came across an article in Runners World about the November Project. I went online and found a video that explained the group. I was so inspired by the energy and the community created in Boston. I watched that video over and over, wishing I could be a part of it. I excitedly showed all of my friends and family…I was hooked before even going to a workout. The positivity of the video was contagious.
When the opportunity to live in Northern VA unexpectedly presented itself, I couldn’t WAIT to go to my first November Project workout. But when my alarm rang at 5:00am on that first Wednesday morning (my 3rd day in town), I chickened out. “It’s so early and it’s cold out, I’ll go another day. Looks like it might rain..gosh, stairs?! Where will I park? Nah.” And I went back to bed. When I woke up, I saw photos and videos from the workout at Lincoln Memorial, and I kicked myself. It had been warm. It had been sunny. I had missed a great sunrise and a great workout with hundreds of happy, energetic people. And I needed those kinds of people.
I went to my first November Project workout that Friday. I dragged myself out of bed at 4:45am, got dressed in all black, and drove to the Springfield metro. I parked and rode to the U Street metro stop. From there, I walked to the Scottish Freemason Building. I knew no one except for a friendly November Project tribe member I met on the metro. There were over 50 people of varying ages, all dressed in black and ready to start their day together. Everyone was welcoming. An older woman named Mary excitedly introduced me to the tribe leader, Danny. People encouraged me. People cheered me on. They learned my name and made an effort to remember it. The tribe challenged me on so many levels. I was pushed out of my comfort zone, challenged to make friends, and I left knowing that 1+ hour on the metro and $16 for a 50 minute workout was one of the best decision I made for myself as I started a new life in D.C. I started to go to workouts every Monday and Wednesday. I quickly made some friends and was continually pushed to work harder and to dig deeper to complete workouts. But in addition to that, I learned what it meant to have courage, and that maybe the future wasn’t quite so scary.
Superintendent Vietzke, yes, the D.C. November Project tribe got me in better shape and helped me make friends. But ultimately, I learned how to be courageous and self-disciplined, and I slowly learned how to accept and love others as they were, including myself. Who knew a workout group could teach you that? The November Project tribe embodies health, happiness, self-discipline, and a mission to love people right where they are at in life. November Project taught me to go out on a limb and to make friends I normally would never have bonded with — friends of different ages and with different interests than me, friends with different political views and religious beliefs. But most of all, November Project showed me a community in which people were not quick to judge, but rather, quick to love. I wasn’t judged based on my speed or my clothes or my physique or my career. I have always been my harshest critic and as a result, I have been quick to judge others unfairly. But as I went to more workouts, I started to see my mindset shift slowly; I was becoming more open and I didn’t judge so quickly. I was showing up to challenge my body and my mind, but November project also challenged my heart and my ability to love. The stairs of Lincoln and the hills of Meridian allowed for this growth.
I truly believe that our mission is one that you, Superintendent Vietzke, should go out on a limb for. Take a chance on us! Why? Because by continuing to let the tribe workout in D.C. at the locations we have come to love, you would be allowing this movement to thrive. You are probably thinking, “Why do they have to work out at these two specific spots in D.C.? Why do they HAVE TO have the stairs of Lincoln?” Because the Lincoln Memorial and Meridian Hill Park aren’t just tourist sites to us. They serve as the home for our tribe, places where each one of us has gone to share community during times of joy in our lives, but also during times of great sorrow and difficulty. Lincoln and Meridian have shared in our sweat, our toil, our laughter, and our joy: some members have fought through heartache and battled cancer while running those stairs; others have fallen in love and been proposed to on those stairs. Personally, I ran those stairs as a way to cope with my depression. I felt so hopeless and lost after a traumatic breakup and being unemployed in an unfamiliar city. But those stairs and the people who ran with me — who fought with me — gave my life meaning again. And it is while running those stairs that I realized I wanted not only to live but to thrive. Running up and down those stairs and the hills of Meridian was my way of fighting for my life, fighting to become strong and healthy and happy again.
The stairs and the hills have witnessed and facilitated in each of our individual growth. November Project truly loves these sites and we promise to respect and care for them; that includes every single one of the 87 stairs that leads from the reflecting pool up to Lincoln. And so, my respectful plea to you, Superintendent Vietzke, is to rethink your decision about allowing us to workout on the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and at Meridian Hill Park. I also want to invite you to come to a workout with us one morning and see how the November Project community changes lives every week. Just show up! The tribe welcomes everyone with open arms, and isn’t that what we want the entire world to look like?
Thank you for considering our requests and reading so many of our stories.