Both Hills and Valleys: Hi, My Name Is…

Unexpected, Life changing Encounters

There are people you meet in your lifetime who change your course in unexpected ways. They almost never introduce themselves with “because of me you’ll find your life’s work”, “I’ll introduce you to your future husband”, “together we’ll uncover your hidden talent” or “in twenty years I’ll support you through the loss of a parent”. A kind of fortune-cookie-nametag would come in handy. But, keeping this in mind, I try to go through each day open to those chance encounters, friendly exchanges and unexpected connections.

FortuneCookieMJLife put me in the same room with my new friend, Donna, many times before we took the bait. A networking meeting here, a creative workshop there but even settling us into the same neighborhood failed to do the trick. We’d see each other, say hello and sometimes joke about how we might as well be friends. It wasn’t until the unexpected loss of a local artist that we seized the opportunity to get to know each other better at the memorial.

A mutual friend finally said it out loud, “You two should be friends! You even live in the same neighborhood.”

And so we started walking two mornings a week after dropping our kids off for school. We were surprised by how much we had in common and only later admitted to each other that we were afraid we wouldn’t have enough to say to fill the time. It’s never been a problem. We laughed, shared very personal stories early on and trusted in our friendship from the start. It turned out that life had been trying to put us together for years. We attended the same college, took turns living outside DC and both moved back to Florida before having our families. I even substituted at a lunch meeting the same week she brought her newly adopted daughter from China to introduce to everyone. It’s no coincidence that I was there to share that special moment with my future friend.

It was Donna who asked me to train with her for the Princess Half Marathon in February 2014. She ran the inaugural race and wanted to get in shape to complete the 5th anniversary run in 9 months. I’d never even run a 5k but thought it was about time to set a fitness goal for myself so I climbed onboard. It was a long, hot summer of very slow training and we didn’t register until November, one week before the race sold out. Donna was already having doubts about being able to join me because of back injuries and other health issues. I pushed ahead knowing I might do it alone.

That’s when I found Moon Joggers late in December on a Princess Half Marathon FaceBook page. My Moon Joggers miles built up my confidence and by the time I left for Princess I was excited to meet half a dozen new friends the morning of the race. Donna made the trip and spent the weekend cheering for me. Even though she didn’t participate she was happy to be the catalyst that spurred me on. I was dressed as the Mad Hatter minus Donna’s Queen of Hearts and she yelled my name several times near the finish line. She laughed on video because I was so in character that I didn’t turn until I heard, “Mad Hatter!!”

I thought about that day when I spent the weekend with some Moon Jogger friends in New Orleans in August. I drove six hours with Calla who took the time to meet me in the hotel lobby the night before the Princess. Her shocking pink hair and wide smile said, “Hi, My Name Is… Calla. Because of me you’ll imagine yourself completing your first marathon and find the bravery to let your uniqueness show through every morning of every day of every year from now on.”

We stayed with lovely Carolyn in New Orleans and her accent told me, “Hi, My Name Is…Carolyn. You’ll tear up to see how proud your daughter is to finally learn to ride her bike after I post a picture of my first bike ride at 60 years old.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Angie’s Mom, Shirley, who runs a half marathon every month. “Hi, My Name Is…Shirley. I’ll be a wonderful example of putting your health and fitness high on your priority list no matter how many children you’re raising. Oh, and to keep a sense of humor. A great sense of humor.”

Then there was Angie, Mission Control herself. “Hi, My Name Is…Angie. I’ll bring the world to your doorstep and connect you with new friends from around the globe. I’ll even reunite you with your first love, writing.”

But it was a message from Carolyn weeks later that taught me to consider what’s written on my own nametag. After talking our way through 13.1 miles that weekend she thanked me for helping her reconnect with a family member. Something I said allowed her to see things from another perspective. More detached and miles high. From that tether she could see things as they were and accept them without judgement.

She said I was sent at just the right time. Turns out we all are.

The years will pass. The miles will, too. The happy detours, new friendships and lasting connections all make it worthwhile.

No nametags necessary.

Surprise me.



ABOUT: Michelle Roberts lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her husband, Paul, and two children, Ashleigh (10) and Philip (8). She ran her first 5k in October of 2012 and her first half marathon in February of 2013. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2001 and maintains a healthy balance without the use of medication thanks to a job she loves, a supportive family, regular exercise, her writing and therapy. A wonderful life of “Both Hills and Valleys”.

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”
Helen Keller




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