My People

Find your People, Find Yourself

Life has a crazy way of placing you in situations and then leaving you high and dry, to see how you’ll handle yourself. Sometimes these little situations are small scale- your car breaks down on the day of an interview, you get the stomach flu on vacation, or you lose a big deal at work. Other times, life throws you bigger zingers to the effect of, “hey, smarty pants, how about a lay off, hospitalization, or the dissolution of a marriage… what do you say to that?” Your reaction depends on the situation, but mostly you handle things in a way that feels good to you, by yourself. For the more difficult times, one often finds themselves in need of some help.

And often, when back up is required, it calls you to look outside yourself- perhaps to “your people”… if you have them. If you don’t have them, miraculously you are provided with them just when you need them the most. It seems to be a part of the survival pulse of the world- just the right person or people show up just when we need them the most. Usually, these people are just there, and we really never think about it- in fact, if we think back on life, our people made guest appearances at different times. The people you sat with at lunch throughout grade school, the summer vacation people, the neighborhood people, the people you lived with in college.

I had forgotten, or perhaps never thought of, the concept of my people until I met mine five years ago. Today, I am a different person for having met them. At the time I met these people, I was lost and absolutely not wanting to be around any people… especially those I didn’t know. I was in the midst of a divorce and the concept of starting over and meeting new faces, new friends… seemed beyond hard. At 31, I had been married for eight years- most of my adult life. Because I had married so young, I never really found “my” people. Instead, my husband and I had couple friends, family…these constituted “our” people. It didn’t even dawn on me that I should have had some of my own.

And then came the divorce and suddenly every “we” and “our” changed to “yours” and “mine.” Needless to say, it messed up our entire people structure, among other things. The concept of “our” people became tied up in the division of couches and linens. Sure, I could have kept some of the wives of couples I had become friends with, but frankly, I didn’t know how to go about that, it was too painful. I was left in the land of the lost and found myself missing those people, even the couples/wives I never really liked.
In fact, I was missing everything- my old life, my ex husband, and all that went with that world. The easy solution at the time, then, seemed to be to find someone to replace him. So, I went about the business of dating- dating anyone and everyone who was put into my world. Not dating in a “Sex in the City” way by any means. It was dating in the form of, “Your best friend’s cousin’s godson is single? Sure, I’ll go to dinner with him.” “Your neighbor’s professional skier friend is in town? I’ll read up on skiing and give it a shot.” But, regardless of how nice, successful, or even tolerable that godson, grandson, or co-worker was, one date was all I would give. I found myself unable to let anyone even partially into my universe. It was simply too painful.

Somewhere in the middle of that frenzied dating, I realized that the void I was feeling in my life wasn’t necessarily going to be filled with a new boyfriend/potential husband. I realized that the loss was much more significant- I had lost a part of myself, and had no idea of where to find it again.
Thankfully, the expression “when one door closes, another opens” proved to be true for me. The door to my old life had closed- slammed in fact, and was secured with a humongous dead bolt reminding me I could never go back. A new door came in the form of an opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do- run a marathon.

I was at a party when a friend of my cousin asked me if I wanted to sponsor him in a marathon he was running for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Sure, I said, I’d gladly do it. This proclamation was misunderstood, and my new friend thought I was agreeing to do the marathon, not give him money. Instead of correcting the misunderstanding, I found myself thinking it wasn’t such a bad idea. What did I have to lose, after all?

The very next morning I was to meet my new friend at a group run. This part made me nervous. All of these new runners would be faster, more stylish, and of course more experienced in this sort of thing. What was I doing, anyway? But, I went to the run, trying to overcome all of my insecurities and concerns, telling myself it was only a run. When I got there, I found my friend, who introduced me to several people who were actually… nice. And friendly. Not that fast, and ironically 80% were preparing for their first marathon as well. That first day, I hung close to my new friend. I didn’t talk to many of the other people, but listened to their conversations, trying to get an idea of who they were. They talked to me too, but I was cautious, not really wanting to give away too much of my story, too much of myself.

While I admit to scanning the crowd on that first day, looking for my potential soul mate, that wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. I was really just enjoying the vibe, the essence of this group as a whole. My instincts told me they were good people- that I should come back the next week. I did come back and signed up for the marathon. And, in the months that followed, I got to know those people better than I knew some of my oldest friends.

The runs we did together- 8,10,12,14…. 20 milers were grounds for sharing the aches, pains, and highs of running, along with the aches, pains, and highs of our lives. We told each other things that we wouldn’t necessarily have told our families or close friends. I learned that the funny thing about trusting people with your story is that you get to hear it too. Hear it, and learn from it- discover yourself while you let someone else in on your secrets. My people saw me through my divorce and listened to my stories of dating and adjustment. They were my advocates, my audience, my confidants. And, for the first time in my adult life- they were all mine- they were my people.

I have had other running partners since that first running group, and I still run with some of the original members. Yet nothing will compare to that first group, those first people who I trusted enough to let into my world. In turn, mine was opened up once again. And with my world opened up, I continued to run marathons, support the cause of the organization, and meet more of “my people,” a group I feel honored to call close friends. And, five years after that first run, my original group of people gathered to celebrate as I married the most wonderful running partner- one that life threw to me, at just the right time.