About two weeks ago, I texted Nikole about my experience dropping in at a gym, and she said “Hey, why don’t you write about it?” Fast-forward two weeks and I still haven’t, and I know exactly why.

This post will be far more emotional and personal than I typically share, which makes me uncomfortable: like most of CrossFit.

It’s impossible to dive into this post without disclosing some things about myself. As an adult, I have moved a lot. The last almost six years in Wisconsin is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere as an adult.

The first move was so hard and finding friends as an adult, without school, is a skill.  I’m an extrovert in the truest sense of the word and I crave human company, so I’m pretty good at being friendly. I try very hard to extend this friendliness to the new people in a crowd. I immediately introduce myself and likely invite that person to do something.

You may have noticed at the gym, I almost always pair myself with the drop-ins or new members. It’s really important to me that people feel welcomed in any situation. In fact, I probably go over the top. It’s not unusual for me to meet someone and invite them to brunch the next weekend or to join my running group, or to JUST SPEND MORE TIME WITH ME. Okay, the point has been made.

I carry this trait with me when I drop in at other gyms. I travel a fair amount for work and it’s not unusual for me to pop into a gym wherever I am. Most of the time, my friendly nature gets a lukewarm reaction from regular members. I get it. I’m dropping in, they will likely never see me again, and it might not be a good use of time. Most of the time, I’m nonplussed by the whole thing.

Two weeks ago, I dropped in at a gym in my hometown of Chicago. I was home for a week because my mom is currently undergoing treatment for cancer and I was helping take care of her. To be fair, my mom doesn’t need much caring for; she’s a trooper.

On my first day in town, I went to the gym at 9:00am and explained my situation and that I would like to drop in a couple of times that week. The staff were friendly and the rate for the week was reasonable, so it seemed like a go. The time is important: it was 9:00 am. My mom’s treatment began at 7:15, and it’s Chicago, which meant a 5:30 wake up call to battle traffic to get to the hospital on time. I tend to be an early riser, and at 9:00am, my facilities are still fully in-tact and I’m at functioning on all cylinders. I left the gym really looking forward to a workout in the evening.

Fast-forward. After I left the gym, I drove to Racine to complete an evaluation on an offender in the jail there. I tried to work my actual job as much as possible during this week at home.

By the time I rolled into the gym for the 5:30pm class, I was no longer at my best. I was tired and hungry, hangry if you will. More importantly, as I’ve discovered over these weeks of treatment, by the end of the day, my emotions are at the surface. Despite a really good prognosis, cancer is f-ing scary and I’m terrified every single day. It’s hard to be at my best when my emotions feel more intense.

I arrived early, like any good Recursive athlete would, having been taught by Dirk and Nikole the importance of good etiquette when dropping in. There were a lot of things that felt wrong at that point.

First, I couldn’t figure out the programming online, which evidently dovetailed into some of the warmup, that I just totally missed. Second, several people commented on the size of the class, noting the classes never run that large.

We began to WOD and no one asked me my name or how I stumbled into the gym. It was kind of like I wasn’t even there.  To be completely fair, my heightened emotions also prevented me from introducing myself to other people.

When it came time to grab barbells, there were no women’s barbells available. And not one person offered to give me theirs or help me find one. I’m not much of a princess, but I was stunned. The coach provided me with a men’s barbell, but he had no idea my skill level to know if I could handle a warmup with that weight (I know it’s only 10 pounds, but still).

Later, he presented me with a short women’s barbell; good thing we weren’t snatching. In my head, I had a very Dorothy moment. There’s no place like home. I missed our community, knowing that such a thing would never happen at Recursive. Perhaps, had I been in a more centered place, I wouldn’t have been bothered by this seemingly minor occurrence, but I was.

Overall, the workout was fine, and I went back for a second day. The gym is a mile from my parents’ house and I’ve been back home twice since dropping in, and felt no inclination to return to the gym.

This experience was a reminder that I’m grateful for our little space in the world and that on any given day, we’re all carrying our burdens to the gym. It’s helpful to lighten the load with a friendly face. And please, introduce yourself to our drop-ins and make them feel at home. Their journey to Recursive could have been a rocky one.