My husband Zach and I purchased two one-way tickets to my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas on March 30. It had been a scary few weeks in New York. We looked forward to sheltering in place at my mom’s house, with modern luxuries like a dishwasher, a laundry room, and central air conditioning. We weren’t sure when we would be back, so we gave our second set of keys to our close friend, Ryan. We were certain that when we ultimately returned, we would meet Ryan for dinner, share stories of perhaps a month or two outside the city, give Ryan a cheap bottle of wine to say thanks for holding onto our keys, and then go back to life as usual.
Well, it’s been almost six months, and it’s clear that none of us are going back to life as usual. Zach was laid off from his photography job. My younger brother, Nate, evacuated Tallahassee, Florida and joined our newly formed commune. Nate isn’t sure what’s next for his teaching career and his pursuit of a Ph.D. in Poetry. My mom now has both her adult children living back at home, plus my new husband, spanning ages 27-41. Even at work, I’m doing projects I’ve never done before, with colleagues I’ve never actually met in real life. As a Type A, ENTJ Virgo, I would have thought this amount of life upheaval would have me losing my mind. But — and it actually thrills me to share this — I’ve never had a clearer sense of personal purpose. As I reflect on the last few months, it’s clear: When I stopped trying to replicate my pre-pandemic life, it became possible for me to embrace change.
When I first started working from home and living at my mom’s house, I felt this sense of urgency to:
- Create a personal office space that would ensure I never had interruptions.
- Commit to a daily workout routine that would be safe considering the global pandemic.
- Be a hilarious, stimulating, uplifting housemate to my husband and family members.
- Keep in touch daily with remote friends and family across all digital platforms.
- Etc. etc. etc.
The reality is that none of this was essential for me to figure out. Being healthy and safe is such a gift. It’s actually no big deal when my dog barks during a Zoom call, that I’m not as active as I was in N.Y.C., need way more alone time than I used to, and am terrible at keeping in touch. My eagerness to re-establish personal order and routines was really just my fear of being vulnerable and of more change. Once I let go of unrealistic expectations, there was room to say yes to new projects, friendships, and adventures.
For example, a few months ago I was given the opportunity to work on the Thrive ZP Challenge. Our team gets to share the stories of Challenge participants (like Darren Reisinger) who have made better, healthier choices for 21 days, and it’s incredible to see how small choices truly do change lives. I’m working with colleagues all over the world and I love making new friends virtually. There’s so much intimacy and authenticity in waving at someone’s kids speeding through their Zoom background, seeing their house, and eating lunch together on camera.
Another moment of clarity for me came when Ryan (my friend with my keys!) visited me in Arkansas. For a week, we worked remotely at our very different jobs from my mom’s workshop, surrounded by heavy machinery, spiders, and kayaks. It struck me: We are out here in the middle of nowhere, and Ryan is coordinating his projects as the Global Content Director at IBM, Zach is doing a remote photoshoot, and I’m listening to my colleagues give each other gratitude during Thrive’s weekly all-hands meeting. How incredible!
I’ve realized I’m actually really happy with the changes in my life. Zach and I gave up our apartment when we realized that we love spending time outdoors and being close to family. I’m going to learn to drive again. I indulged in an inflatable kid’s pool and some astroturf, so I can spend weekends “poolside” reading thrillers on my Kindle (from the safety of my backyard). One of my favorite writers, Brianna Wiest, wrote this post that really resonated with me, and I couldn’t agree more: Whatever step we’re on, we must remember that this step is not our final destination.
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