I know that the Zumba instructor at the main YMCA I go to is studying to be a physical therapist, that she writes papers by hand before typing them, and that she loves MAC lipstick and satin-lined caps.
I know the BodyJam instructor kits and hasn’t let gluten-free restrictions deter her from bakeries.
Recently the man who was always the only man in step aerobics, before it became Hip-Hop step, mourned with me about the stolen presidency and ongoing disaster.
One day, I walked into the Y 15 minutes late for the class I normally attend, saw another regular just arriving, and said to her, “You’re late!” Before she could catch herself, she said, “I know. Traffic was just—hey, you’re late!” And we laughed.
The other night, the three teenage girls who are always right in front of the mirror in Zumba class said hello to me as I walked past them in the hallway before class, and their mother and I talked about the stylized t-shirts I always wear.
They’re all important, these seemingly random occurrences and details, because they mean I’ve turned a corner. It’s taken me a year to do it, but I think I might be on the verge of friendship with people in Philadelphia I know outside of my MFA and my jobs.
Should I take that next step—hey, what do you do outside the gym? Class made me hungry; I’m about to head to the Jamaican place, come on!–I might have people to hang out with. Probably not people I trust with my problems but people I could see a movie with or share needlessly large pots of chili with. I might make use of the new buzz-in system at my apartment building!
I’m serious. Making friends as an adult is hard. And toiling away at home on a thesis above a loud, annoying neighbor so you don’t have to give a coffee shop your money isn’t exactly conducive to building community. Nor is being so used to doing everything alone, you don’t even think to ask for company.
I want to be at the point where my neighbors and I know when we haven’t seen each other in a while, when my graduation date looks really scary not just because there’s nothing on the horizon, but because I like where I am, feel like I’m part of a community, and don’t want to leave.
Author’s note: This essay is part of the #52Essays2017 series. Every week in 2016, Vanessa Mártir published one essay on her blog. After a phenomenal year of challenges and growth as a writer, she invited other writers in various communities she’s a part of to join her as she endeavors to write weekly, relentlessly, again in 2017. I’m in on the challenge because I saw how very little space I gave personal reflection in 2016. This is my thesis semester, and I expect some challenges and growth as I write it. The weekly essay challenge provides a space to document that growth (though I’m already thinking I might screw with the genre a little).