The last four months has made us all take a good, hard look at our lives. So much has changed.
Fragility is everywhere. The coronavirus is still spreading. Many have been laid off, or furloughed, or aren’t sure if they will be. We’re still confronting our country’s racial inequities. Black people continue to deal with the effects of racism on our health, wealth, and mental well-being. And many who’ve benefited from whiteness are taking a look at the role they’ve played in systemic racism.
So who are we going to be on the other side of this?
“We’ve collectively realized that we had work to do to get to a better place in the new normal,” said Ebony White, a professor of counseling and family therapy at Drexel University. “It’s become a time of self-reflection. We’re asking the questions: Who am I? Who do I want to be? It’s natural and at times like this healthy and necessary for growth.”
The bottom line: The time for personal change is now. Some changes are incremental. Some are big. But the heart of it: learning to let go of the things that don’t serve us.
We talked to some people — some you may know — about what they’ve let go during these last four months and the changes they’ve made that they will hang onto.
HughE Dillon, 56, Philadelphia paparazzi, Center City
Let it go: Not getting enough sleep
“I was always known as the guy who never slept. I am now getting a lot of sleep. So when I return back to the world, I’m going to get some sleep. I learned the value of sleep, the value of balance, the value of friends and the value of sacrifice. I sacrificed it so I could cover Philadelphia for Philadelphia. I wasn’t living a healthy life. Maybe that is why I was one of the first to get COVID. COVID revealed to me what a blessing and a gift I had in life.”
Jessica Byrne, 42, owns an automotive repair shop with her husband, Collegeville
Let it go: Shopping as entertainment
“I used to spend a decent amount of time shopping. We [My family and I] were doing that out of boredom. We would just go to the mall and walk around. I don’t think we will be doing that anymore. It’s just not necessary. There are better ways to spend my time. I prefer to do something that’s enjoyable. For example, we bought bikes at the end of last summer. We didn’t ride them a lot. But now [this summer] we’ve been riding them as a family of four. It’s so therapeutic. I think the kids are able to open up more. We are having better conversations as a family in the car and on our bikes.”
Cindy Gelman Singer, 56, makeup artist, Northeast Philadelphia
Let it go: Being complacent on social justice issues
“Before COVID, I would I would listen to a news story and feel badly but not feel the need to participate in change. Now I do. [Especially when it comes to Black Lives Matter.] My son, who is a part of the LGBTQ community, is involved in social action, too. We are protesting. We are talking to people in our circles. It’s something we do together. I actively began to pay attention on a more deeper level. All of our voices have a collective impact.”
Susan Johnson, 47, stay-at-home mom, King of Prussia
Let it go: Processed foods
“I’ve gone back to making everything from scratch: bread, pasta, corn tortillas. I started doing that when the kids were little but now I’ve gone back to do it to save money and because ultimately it’s better for me.”
Joan Shepp, 70-something, owner of Center City boutique Joan Shepp
Let it go: Working too much.
“Once I got past the feeling like I was living in a movie and that this was real, I realized that I had time. I noticed I wasn’t always running to the next thing and I found myself writing more [about] thoughts I wanted to keep thinking about [or] snippets of ideas. I realized that I was just working too much, just too much. I’m planting flowers. (I even talk to them.) But it’s the writing that has really helped me. I’m even laughing more. People say funny things and I’m not trying to get to the next thing. I have time to laugh! I’m bringing laughter and writing into my new normal.”
Douglas Green, 38, principal of MSC Real Estate in Center City
Let it go: Not planning for my future
“When this first started I was going from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on conference calls and Zoom meetings and I never have time to do ‘real’ work. So I’ve carved in time to think. I want to use this time to be thoughtful about where I’m going and what the future is. I’ve [now] allotted time on my calendar every week to plan ahead and be thoughtful about the future. Even when we get back to ‘normal’ I’m really going to find time every week to plan. If I can do this three or four times a week I’ll be able to move the needle differently four or five years from now.”
Mike Jerrick, 70, anchor Good Day Philadelphia
Let it go: Going out all the time
“I was going out up to four nights a week to make public appearances. Mostly it was about promoting the show. I had a built-in excuse to go out. The truth was I always looked to go out to get away from myself. I wanted to stay busy, instead of sitting at home. Now I’m forced to hang with myself. I’m visiting a lot with my children with Zoom: my two daughters, my children and grandchildren. We are all closer now because of quarantine.”
Garden Wellington-Logan, 49, adjunct journalism professor at Temple University, Fishtown
Let it go: Not listening to my inner voice
“I always wondered why I had anxiety, why I didn’t feel good, why I didn’t feel rested. My inner voice was talking to me. She was telling me to slow down. She told me to sit down, to rest and to recover. Now while I’m home more I listen to her. I let her talk to me, especially when I’m soaking in a hot bath. It feels so good to listen.”
Mike Jackson, 46, IT specialist, Delaware County
Let it go: Throwing big parties
“I used to love throwing parties, but now that we can’t… Now I just post up in my backyard, maybe have a drink, smoke a cigar and have real conversations with people. I just really appreciate being with people in a meaningful way whether I’m on Zoom or with my family. When I can be home, I just want to be home. I realized through all of this if I can be home every day with my kids, that is where I want to be.”
Tamala Edwards, 49, 6ABC morning news anchor
Let it go: The idea that things have to be a certain way
“During the time of COVID, I’ve been doing this segment called, ‘Be Encouraged’ It’s the most ‘me’ thing I’ve ever done. I’ve taken a step back and I’m doing the things that are truly me, like wearing my hair curly on air or pulling it back in a bun. I’m doing the things that make me feel good about me.”
Ernest Owens, 28, Writer at Large for Philadelphia Magazine, West Philadelphia
Let it go: Grocery shopping
“So I’ve fallen in love with produce boxes, and the delivery and whatnot makes me more inclined to eat healthier. I hardly go to the store unless to pick up some meat and spices. But pretty much, it’s been a convenience that I don’t want to let go of.”