When I started CrossFit in 2013, I didn't know how to make friends. I was 26 years old and apparently never learned this essential skill, and apparently it was the root of 99% of my issues. I had some friends but for the life of me I can't figure out how or why they wanted to spend time with me. I was a real gem back then. Read: a huge pain in the ass and a loose cannon.
If you go back and read some of my first posts about CrossFit, I talk about being nervous about having to sit alone and be awkward until class started. It sounds a little stupid to me now, but it never occurred to me to walk up to anyone and just introduce myself. And that wasn't just at CrossFit. I confidently navigated work situations, but the whole meet people, decide you like each other, and then start hanging out thing was really out of my wheelhouse.
CrossFit changed me from the inside out. I wrote in this November 2013 post:
I think I've just never felt truly a part of anything until now. I wanted to be in the CrossFit community so badly that I have entirely stepped out of my comfort zone. Instead of being quick with sarcastic comments, I am quick to encourage others and cheer them on. I introduce myself to strangers, high five folks I met 5 minutes before, and care about my classmates' success as much if not more as my own. I ask if I can join too when folks are discussing fun plans in the locker room, I sign up for 5Ks because people post about them in the Facebook group, and then insist we all need to have brunch together afterwards to celebrate. I don't recognize myself and for that I am glad.
Five years later and I am this person all of the time. I love when new people come to the gym and I try to be the first person to welcome them. I say hi to everyone, even the people who I know don't like me, and the people I don't really like. We recently had a group of Olympic weightlifters join us and they are going to be a part of our community if they like it or not! But I hope they do like it, because I love it.
I moved to Atlanta without knowing anyone. Every single friend I have in this town is because I walked into the gym and introduced myself (or I made one of my friends move down from New York and then we appropriated his boyfriend's friends, but that doesn't really support my argument here.) I'm sure there's got to be some people who feel comfortable moving to new places and just build new lives easily, but I didn't think I would be one of them. It was a big leap for me, but I knew that I would be okay if I just could find the right CrossFit, and I did. To put this into context, I signed a lease at the first apartment I visited, but I went to see four different CrossFit gyms before signing a membership contract. CrossFit Identity is my chosen family, and I wouldn't have the life I have without them.
Each year on my CrossFit anniversary, I think about the people I've met at CrossFit gyms around the country who have had such a deep impact on me. Anthony Preischel saved my life. He will always be Coach. Chad Syniec taught me to love the barbell. Alex Booth showed me the right way to make a visiting CrossFitter feel at home. Abby Cervantes taught me how to be a good friend. There are so many people who have made my life so much better. I hope that they can say the same of me. I am blessed to call them friends.
CrossFit gave me a community. For that, I am infinitely grateful.