One year and a lifetime ago, I became part of something totally
unexpected, desperately desired and completely wonderful. It still mystifies me at times to this day. One moment in time that changes your life forever. It began with the sound of a sweetly, haunting bagpipe and a smooth, warm voice saying, “People disappear all the time… most are found, eventually.” Well, I didn’t exactly disappear but I could definitely have been categorized as lost. But, as the song Amazing Grace goes, suddenly, I was found.
In the summer of 2014, my attention was caught by a coming attraction for a new series being launched on Starz called Outlander. From the very first episode I was immediately and completely drawn in, hook, line and sinker. That’s when the magic began. I was literally transported into the 18th century and I did not wish to leave. I was intrigued by the idea of time travel and by the strength yet femininity expressed by Claire, the female lead. Of course, at the first sight of Jamie, my heart skipped a beat and the normal rhythm has not been the same since. I had no idea that this little discovery would catapult me into the future and into a new chapter in my life.
I continued to watch, week after week, eagerly anticipating each new episode like a puppy wagging its tail, waiting for its treat. And each new episode did not disappoint to feed my eyes and my soul. My love for the show grew as steadily as the love between Jamie and Claire. For the entire first season, I watched alone and I did not mind one bit. It was a sweet, guilty pleasure. For nearly a year I asked around but found no one else who watched or was interested in the genre. I finally got my sister on board and at least we had each other. This was all happening at a time in my life when all on the surface was fine. But something was missing. I was, and still am, happily married to a wonderful man who is ironically named Frank, though he is my Jamie. I was a busy, involved parent raising a pre-teen boy. I had lots of friends but, since I had a child late in life, most of my friends had children 5-10 years older than my son and most of the new friends I met in the community were a good 10 (+) years younger than I. I found myself floating between worlds, never really feeling that I fit in and in some ways was a Sassenach or “outlander” in my own life.
Then without warning I was a fangirl! What??? No way!! Yes way! What does that even mean? Signs that you’re an Outlander fangirl… 1) Ye start speaking in a wee Scottish accent from time to time, ye ken? 2) You can’t go a day without seeing the show or making contact with social media OL fans to make sure you’re still sane. 3) You can’t say the words Sam or Jamie without smiling. 4) Somewhere in your car, house or Social media username appears the words Sassenach, Lass or Outlander. 5) And there’s a wee bit more plaid decorating your house than ever before. In fact, “Plaid is the new Black” for you. For me it’s even come to the point that people tell me I remind them of Claire. I can’t deny this gives me a tiny thrill. Perhaps it’s because I have an outgoing personality, a medical background, and curly, often unruly hair that causes me to curse under my breath when brushing it. But that’s where the similarities end. I used to poke fun at celebrity stalkers and seemingly obsessed show followers. Now, not only was I a fangirl, I was a Heughligan, an Outlandish Lass. It’s been difficult at times to explain to non-followers of the show why I’m suddenly obsessed with my Scottish heritage, why I’m attending Comic Cons or waiting outside Department stores for hours hoping to get a glimpse of Sam or Caitriona. And I’ve received more than a few eye rolls and snarky remarks. But, as they say, “Find your tribe and love them hard.” Well, I finally found mine and it’s a CLAN of intelligent, diverse, humorous and caring people.
So how did I get here? In summer of 2016, I met a wonderful woman through Heughan’s Heughligans Facebook page when someone posted a shout out “Tell me where you’re from.” and we realized we lived within 30 minutes of one another. Our kismet connection gave me deep appreciation for the expression “Fast Friends”. We were both so giddy and grateful to find each other. We considered starting our own local FB fan group only to discover there already was one so we both joined Long Island Outlander Fans (LIOF) Soon after, I hosted a meet and greet of members at my house and within months we became friends with nearly a hundred more local lasses. We shared not only our love for the show but the books, the actors and the charities they support.
Like so many fans, the love for the show is the tip of the iceberg. The allure of Outlander quickly morphs into a fascination for the beautiful and mystical land of Scotland and her rich, often tragic, history. It carries fans like leaves upon a Scottish mountain stream to vast new horizons and awareness of philanthropic organizations such as World Child Cancer, Bloodwise, Cahonos, as well as the promotion and support of wildlife protection, environmental preservation and Youth Theater projects. These are just some of the many causes spearheaded by Sam Heughan, Catriona Balfe and many of the other cast members of the show.
Soon after discovering the show for myself, I researched the organization that Sam Heughan had so often been associated with called My Peak Challenge. By now most people know this is an amazing group with a dual purpose to promote optimal health and positivity in its members and to raise awareness and funds for Bloodwise, Leukemia/Lymphoma research. Just days after registering in 2016, I fractured my ankle and was out of commission for 3-4 months. It was quite a disappointment. However, the warmth and support I received from the MPC community was enough to keep me motivated and confident that I would come back stronger than before. The upside? It gave me the down time to research Scotland and plan a trip to her shores with my family and friends. I signed up the day it launched again in 2017. Since then, I’ve met Peakers, as we proudly and lovingly call ourselves, from all over the world, both on-line and in person. We’ve attended numerous physical fitness events, hikes, walks, Tai Chi classes etc., in and around the Tri-State area. As a yoga instructor, I’ve even held several free yoga classes for Peakers as one of my ways to give back. I also had the esteemed privilege and pleasure to have a private session with MPC co-founder John Valbonessi at EDA, Everyday Athlete Gym, in Glasgow, Scotland, and lived to tell the tale. Well barely…but I was still smiling. The people and the experiences have been, in short, amazing.
When I think back on just the past year and a half alone it boggles my mind because I feel like it’s been a lifetime. In addition to all the MPC activities, I attended and co-hosted a Q & A panel at a local Long Island GeekCon. I attended the Outlander in NYC fundraiser event, meeting Steven Cree, Rik Rankin, and Murtagh himself, Duncan Lacroix, just to name a few. Several months later went to the Starfury Highlander 2 Convention in Blackpool, England, where I met the enchanting Caitriona Balfe and other beloved Outlander cast members such as Gary Lewis, Graham McTavish, & Lotte Verbeek and many others. I returned to Scotland, this time with just friends, and enjoyed a week-long Outlander tour of Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands. And the cherry on the top of the icing of the cake… In September 2017 I finally had the heart melting, over the moon experience of meeting Sam Heughan twice over three days at NYC events and fundraisers. Most importantly, for me, it’s been the sheer joy of meeting a wide spectrum of beautiful people and creating an entirely new circle of friends. Caring, intelligent, supportive women who not only share a passion for all things Outlander and MPC but who have become deeply and happily entwined in each other’s lives, bringing endless laughter and warmth with the unspoken promise for more. It’s an unbelievable gift. This is not a bragging list. I write it as a means to pinch myself as well as to encourage all those out there that think life holds no possible unexpected and joyous surprises. Think again.
So if all this categorizes me as a “fangirl”, so be it. As I told a friend recently who mocked my recent activities, “I make no apology for my happiness!” Because if someone told me several years ago that by 2017 I would have a hundred new friends, that I’d be meeting and hiking with people from all over the globe to better our health and raise funds for worthy charities, that I would travel to Scotland not once but twice and that I would be attending swanky cocktail parties and fundraisers in NYC with the actors from my favorite television show of all time, I’d say they were either drinking too much whiskey or living a fairy tale. As it turns out, I’m the one living the fairy tale. That’s the magic that is Outlander.