Elyssa and I get attached to places. We go to places that are ostensibly buildings or other structures, but end up getting attached to them because of how they make us feel. We develop emotional connections like joy, comfort, and security to those places, and we frequently do not realize how deep those connections are until something strains or severs them.
Elyssa and I have been members of the same gym for the past 2 years. When we started at the gym, we would have been rated fairly low on any objective fitness scale. Still, we showed up a few times a week, worked hard (well, Elyssa worked hard, I worked hard-ish) and started enjoying things. We made connections to the people there, and we became friends with the owners and the instructors. When an instructor left or couldn’t teach a class that Elyssa and I enjoyed, it felt like a major hole in our lives. Sometimes that hole was never filled, and sometimes someone would come along and provide us with a different sense of joy and accomplishment. The new instructor would never truly replace the original instructor, but we would get attached in a different way.
When Elyssa had her brain surgery, the owners and instructors at the gym rallied around her. They provided her motivation to go from someone who could hardly walk without help to someone who will be running a half marathon in a couple of months. On the one year anniversary of the doctor’s finding Elyssa’s brain tumor, the gym held a special spin class in her honor that included inspirational songs and a little touch of Disney flair. Elyssa cried. I cried. The owners, the other instructors, and the rest of the room cried along with us.
At one point, our connection was so strong to this gym that when Elyssa and I would discuss possibly relocating (whether within our current area or to another area entirely), one of the prime concerns she had was moving away from the gym. She loved that place.
Recently, things have changed. The managing owners that we had a connection to stepped aside, and new managing owners took over. Instructors we loved left. Classes we had taken for years came to an end. Despite hardly any physical changes to the building, we started to lose our connection to the place. It started becoming “just a gym” instead of a place we were connected to.
Looking back now, it is easy to see what had been our real connection to the place: the people. The owners, the instructors, everyone who made us feel welcome, supported us, and drove us to become better. The community of other members who pushed us to ride faster on the bike and then clinked beer glasses with us after. A lot of that has now faded, and so has our connection to the place.
This entire experience has also given me new insight into how people might react in similar situations, including how they may feel about one of Elyssa’s and my favorite places: Walt Disney World. I used to read posts from people saying “things aren’t the same” or ‘I can’t believe they’re closing that thing which I love”, and I couldn’t really relate. Now, I know what that feeling is like. I used to have a place that I loved, that felt like home, and now that place isn’t the same.
In the end, Elyssa and I will continue getting attached to places. It’s who we are. We throw ourselves into things that we love and end up loving them more. It’s why we go to Disney World so many times a year, and it’s why we used to go to this gym every day of the week (sometimes more than once in a given day.) Unfortunately, it looks like our gym has gone from a place with which we had a connection, to just another building.