Most runners I know have mileage and speed goals. They plan their running sessions strategically and rely on routine. Whatever. Depending on what drives you, I suppose there’s a place for that. But I need the fun factor to be high in order to stick with it. This weekend, I ran with friends, which always helps me stay motivated. And we changed things up from the normal routine. We called it the Muse Run. Essentially, we took five-minute turns leading—calling which direction to turn—and the entire experience was like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates…”you never know what you’re gonna get.” As a result of our spontaneity we ran through a renovated shopping district decked in lights and Duke gardens (which I’ve always wanted to do). We ran past students camping on the lawn near Cameron stadium presumably to get Duke/UNC tickets sometime after Christmas (they hang out there for weeks to be among the first in line), down (and up) stadium steps to do a lap around the track and through the Duke campus quad. We stopped briefly to peek inside the Duke University Chapel and to give directions to a couple of lost drivers. We ran through a series of Christmas trees decorated by various non-profits in a theme that matched their mission (picture Habitat for Humanity’s tree with hard hats as ornaments), and ended at the Farmers’ Market downtown. It was full of laughter over the crazy last-second directional shifts and the time passed quickly. I think life should be more like this. Less planned, more social and guided by the inspiration of friends who also want to make life more fun.
I’ve recently discovered some signs that I may finally be going native. I no longer stand at the copy machine trying to rid my head of the code from my old job and remember the new one. I no longer have to interrupt someone every 30 minutes to find out where something is. Where are the post-it notes? The fax cover sheets? The postage machine? The coffee? (Oh…no community coffee machine? We walk across the street to the co-op? Got it.) I don’t have to plan every trip to the store like it was a vacation (looking online to see if and where one exists, their hours, the shortest route to get there, writing down directions). I actually just go without thinking. I occasionally whine about not having a 24-hour Meijer and about feeling like a loser walking in the “ABC Store” if I want to buy liquor, but I’ve stopped complaining (as much) about not having a good breakfast place now that we’ve discovered that Sunday offers the best options. Apparently the “after church” crowd likes their brunch, so restaurants have decent breakfast options on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong. I still miss my Golden Harvest and long for some Hippie Hash at the Fleetwood Diner, but Crook’s Corner is outstanding and Milltown has some surprising options we need to try. Relationally, we’re finding ourselves in the six-degrees of connection circle now. The other day we were having dinner with two couples and the other two women were discovering how they each had a mutual acquaintance in a third woman. One had worked with her in the past and the other had met her recently while in Puerto Rico. I tuned out for a few minutes assuming I couldn’t contribute to the conversation as a newbie. Then I said, “Wait a minute. Is she about so tall with dark hair and she just started her own organizing business?” They looked at me. “Yes,” they both said. “I think I ran with her this morning,” I replied, amazed that the circle was getting smaller. And the other day we were telling people who’d lived here much longer than we had about a few places that were good for hearing local music or had some delicious food. I’m not there all the way though. I didn’t know the bumper sticker that said TI stood for Topsail Island until a co-worker schooled me on their placed-based shorthand. OBX is Outer Banks by the way. And I nearly caused my colleague a heart attack when she asked me where I was watching “the game” last week and I said, “What game?” This quickly led to an intervention with people pledging to help me understand the historic rivalry between UNC and Duke. The book, To Hate Like This Is To Be Happy Forever was offered as an orientation. Clearly, I’m still wearing the camera (you know, like the tourist who stands out like a neon sign). But I’m not on the corner wearing a backpack with the unfolded map in hand. And that feels good.