Updated: Apr 28, 2019
My first month on medical leave, my dear friend invited me to a gym class she had been attending for years. I felt embarrassed since the gym was within walking distance of my house and I had never entered the doors before. As we were walking in I asked, what class are we taking. My friend said, dancercise. I took a deep breath and reminded myself my commitment to yield to help. As we walked into the class studio and I walked down the stairs, I looked at the many grey and silver hair ladies in the room. All shapes and sizes. And I noted, they were ‘old’. I felt out of place and really uncomfortable as my internal messages were deprecating even before the class started. I was still in shock that I had let myself get this far bad.
I started to fondly call this group, my Silver Hairs. They are an inspiring group of strong, smart and wise women. They welcomed me into their community. They surrounded me, led and encourage me through this season of my life. These women are all over the age of 69; retired, and full of life and energy. The oldest is 93. She comes to silver and fit classes on Tuesdays. The Silver Hairs and I meet at the gym every morning to attend a structured schedule of classes together. Dancercise are on Mondays and Wednesday. Silver and Fit is on Tuesdays and Zumba is on Thursday and Fridays. When I don’t show up, they call or have even shown up at my door.
We all go to coffee on Monday at the Greenlake Starbucks. Every other day a few of us generally meet at Peets for coffee and fellowship. Often the familiar faces we meet when we walk around Greenlake frequent Peets. There is a welcoming community here that intersects with my silver hairs at the gym, my neighbors, and broader community of Greenlake. I am continually amazed at how the intersects of this community cross at church, local grocery stores, writing groups, previous colleagues.
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The Silver Hairs have shared with me their stories about their passions, careers and family. Each of them has provided insights from striving to be at the top, their experience of hitting walls in their careers, having to make hard and humble choices of family over work and struggling with identity without work. All of which has resonated deeply with me. I’ve heard stories of how my industry and experience is a drastically different environment than others. Though I have loved what I have got to go do every day for the past years, I realized from their stories that loyalty and kindness is very different in other professions like education, researchers, hospitals, etc. They are a different community than what i experienced, and one I didn’t know I needed. I also found a community of my neighbors at the gym. These are the people who live on my block and whom I had never taken or had the time to ever get to know.