Creating a Village

I recently considered changing my gym to one that’s nearer to where I live. I would save money in tolls and gas. The new place is only five minutes from my home, which would be a big savings in terms of my time. To reach my current fitness center, on good days it takes an hour total to commute; on bad ones, when the bridge is backed up, it can be much longer.

So I visited the new place, a sterile feeling “Planet Fitness” with its jazzy purple and gold colors and slick unfamiliar equipment. It’s replaced what used to be a Safeway, but it has retained the vibes that make Safeway stores anathema to me: everything mass-produced and corporate. Planet Fitness manages to convey a similar feeling. I left, trying to convince myself it wouldn’t take long to adjust to the new place. I wasn’t successful.

My current gym has been nurturing my body for at least ten years. The owners are local and have a handful of other sites in the Bay area. The space itself feels like a big womb where I go to work out. I don’t spend much time talking to other members. Most of us focus on our routines, occasionally smiling or nodding at one another. So it isn’t the camaraderie that I would miss. It’s the familiarity. I like seeing the same faces day in and day out. I know how to make the space work for me, as well as the equipment. Yes, of course, I could adapt to a new gym. But I don’t want to.

This experience has made me think about how important comfort zones can be. In such an impersonal world, it’s uplifting to have places like this to visit, places where we have left our imprint and where we feel at home. It’s why I have shopped for over 30 years in the same locally owned market, and I’ve had the same hairdresser for almost as long. I love being reminded that, yes, even in an otherwise indifferent universe, we can still make connections and create a kind of village for ourselves.

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