“The new normal” is a phrase we hear a lot. Many of the lifestyle changes we see, from some elements of social distancing to an explosion in online grocery shopping, are likely to continue on as people find their way going forward. Online grocery, for example, has been around but wasn’t widely popular before. Now that more people are used to it, it will likely become a regular part of their life. Culture changes and advances over time; it always has. An epic event, a “tree ring” moment if you will, like 2020 and COVID-19, accelerates that change.


There are plenty of book and movie plots about putting someone into a completely new environment. The lack of shared history gives the character a chance to recreate themselves. Sure, you were a nerd in your old town, but with a fresh start you can be one of the cool kids! Set the tone early and you can become anyone you want to be.

It’s a concept I embraced as a teenager. Heck, I actually got to live it for a year even before college! Growing up on a farm near a small town in Iowa, I was awkward and a huge nerd – but the bullying I faced in elementary school was mostly behind me by junior high and high school. Being in a small town (class of 40), there were a lot of blurred lines between the jocks, band geeks, etc.

Junior year, I went to Germany as an exchange student. Suddenly, I was popular. The kids all wanted to talk to me about living in the US, and to teach them American slang. I traveled to Rome, to West and East Berlin (the Wall was still up when I was there), Switzerland, Austria… Such an amazing year. I still did nerdy things but found a way to incorporate them into a marginally “cool” personality.

I came back 10 inches taller (not a typo) with a different appearance and attitude, and largely reinvented myself again for senior year, which rolled into college. The truth is a lot of the “new me” changes I made were not great choices. But I made life long friends, learned a lot about myself (although some of the lessons didn’t take until 30 years later) and became a version of grown-up me.

Fun Story… Where Are We Going With This?

What I take from all this is we can make a choice. I never exercised before five years ago; now basically every day I do something – a walk, a long run, hills, HIIT – some sort of exercise is a part of my life. I choose (now) to work out and work towards my goals. The alarm goes off at 4:30; I get up and do it and keep a steady schedule. Some days it really sucks and I hate it. But I get up. (I have been going to work most days at both “essential” jobs so I’m not feeling as penned in as others.) Again, it’s your choice. Whatever your body allows, you can do it. If you need to, talk to your doctor or a trainer and find something that works for you.

There was a time I was a “eat the whole sleeve of cookies” guy. Now I might not eat any, but if I do, it’s usually just one. It’s a choice. (I make an exception for my mom’s Russian Rocks. They are my Kryptonite – and I’m good with that!) We are dealing with an experience we will tell our grandchildren about. What story will you tell?

You are being handed a perfect tree-ring moment here to make the changes you want. You just need to choose what to do with it. Start today; do one thing for yourself. Walk, run, bike, dance, sing, paint, clean… Make one change and start a new tree ring. Then get up and do it again tomorrow. Remember, a drought doesn’t end in one day. But without that first day of rain, the drought will keep going.

Cover photo credit