Reflections of life before COVID

Do you have a COVID hangover? For many, life has changed in areas of relationships, work life, routines, schools, finances. What parts of your life have been irrevocably changed, and what things are back exactly as they were?

October 10, 2023
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I went to the Twin Cities Startup Week,


is an event here in the Twin Cities. Super fun, right? It's an event where, uh, there's fellow business owners, people trying to start companies, very early stage companies, um, Getting together for a bunch of different talks and discussions and get togethers and we get to talk.

We get to talk shop.

Panel discussions and advice if you want it. Experts in different parts of business building.

yep. It coincides with a business competition called the Minnesota Cup. It, uh,


small business showcase called Beta MN. Uh, it's great. It's super fun. It's super, uh, energizing. And I ran into... Some like old kind of acquaintances from that startup world. Kind of like when we were doing coreology, um, some of those same folks were, were around and, and, and I, and I bumped into him and one person in particular, I bumped into, um, his name's cam and I was like, Oh, I know that guy.

And he, you know, I remembered his name. I'm like, hey Cam, what's up? And then we

remembered his name. Okay, we could do a pot on that. All right, and we're back.

It's remarkable.

Oh, that's remarkable. Oh,

But then, then I stood there and I was like, how do I know this guy? Like I, I couldn't remember how I knew him. And the only thing I could actually remember is that, that one time we went and got tacos and margaritas

my gosh, which could be basically any of your networking events.

Right, I try to base them mostly around, around

Yeah. Tacos. Oh,

I could not for the life of me remember in what context could I have possibly had tacos with this person?

god, that is so crazy. That would never happen to me in a million years.

then I was like, then I asked him, I'm like, Cam, dude, how, why would we have been having lunch together? I have no idea why. Um, so it took us both a little while to remember. You know, kind of how we how we crossed paths, but it got it got me thinking because um Um, yeah, we're, we're a good kind of, I say past COVID, but certainly like the whole lockdown experience and the big surge of the COVID stuff, like we have enough distance from it now that, you know, we're pretty much back into, I would say pre COVID


maybe, or, or lifestyle, um, and, uh, and, and again, doing this event, like this is an event, these venues are packed with people, you

Yeah, that's what I was thinking

Even maybe a year ago, that would have been, people would have been awfully nervous about it, and two years ago, it wouldn't have been possible. So,

And I think even this year, people are a little nervous, but they're all doing it. Everybody's just doing it.

oh yeah, the, I didn't see a single, uh, anxious person about COVID. I mean, if they were, they'd probably stay away. Yeah. No masks, no signs. Everyone's just piled on, piled and packed and into these small spaces and, um, good, you know, really fun, good energy of, of being together in the room with people again.

yeah, yeah.

it just got me thinking of like, like. I was like remembering myself before COVID. You know, when I was trying to figure out why I went to lunch with Cam, I was like, what was like, I like, what was life before COVID? I can, it's like, it's like a wall that it's almost hard to remember back before it.

Yeah, it's like an insulated piece of time out of a book.

Mm hmm.

It really is. Yeah. I think that's such a good topic. I mean, I think we still, we still have pockets of the, I think the hang, the, the hangover, the COVID hangover is the workplace. I think that's where there's still substantial COVID hangover in terms of the hybrid

Did you just coin that phrase right now? Have you heard that phrase? I've never heard

I just, I just coined that

To the Melissa originally, you heard it here first, folks.

It's a COVID hangover, um, but people at work. So that's still a thing. Like, you know, some people are really fighting to not go back to work five days a week. But yeah. Other than that, I

to me, to me,


that's exactly the kind of thing I want to talk about because, uh, is that actually a I'm scared to get a virus and get sick reaction. Or is that a, I have felt the, uh, I have felt what it means to be trusted and autonomous. And I want to keep that feeling.

hundred percent. A hundred percent.

So I don't want to like, like, uh, talk a whole bunch about specifically about COVID, but I do think it'd be a great conversation to talk about, like use COVID kind of as.

Like a marker, right? When we think back to our, our, our younger selves, it's easy to think about, Oh, what was I like in middle school or high school or college, but then kind of when you hit this, like, and maybe kids would be another like significant marker that you can look, remember, you know, how, how was I, or how was life when. You know, the kids were little, right? But there's a lot of stretches of our adult life where we don't really have these points in time to reflect back to. Um, as, as just like a a reflection point, right? Like, oh, how were we then? What have we done since? And how are we thinking and feeling now? And, and what, what maybe progress have we made?


So, while you were just talking, I just started, like, pinging, like, oh, what are the pieces and parts? In my life that I've noticed there are differences or people around me that I've noticed our differences and I have like one, two, three, four, five, six, seven areas where I think things are really different than where they were before COVID.

Now, this is

what are they?

yeah, it's isn't, they're not better, different or worse, different or anything like that. There's no judgment in the different. They're just different. Yeah. Um, our friend relationships. Our work life, our beliefs about who's in control governmentally, our beliefs about if we believe the government is, has our best interest in mind and how much do we trust them.

Like I never considered it that way before. Okay, there's more. Our routines,


um, our kids in schools. I can't read what this other one wrote what I wrote


And then the last one the last one is finances how we've altered so I think all of these things um, oh, I just think all of these things we've Shifted somehow


uh, so while you were at that thing Um, I was out With my friend Mary


and Mary and I have been friends since we were in our early 20s, and she's been on our

hmm. Mm. Mm hmm. Mm

She and I are we we do a lot of work stuff together And we just have so much fun together, and I was just thinking to myself After hanging out with her we went for a five mile walk, and then we went and got a beer It was so much fun And, um, and I was just thinking that my, how I, how I spent time with my friends, my choice of time was altered during this COVID period.

But during that time of however long it was where we were on lockdown or where we were no longer able to just have our normal, regular, regularly scheduled programming, I think a lot of people shifted how they have relationships with their friends.

Yeah. So how, how do you, like, and specifically in what way do you think?

Yeah. Well, I think, um, we weren't able to gather the way that we did. And then there was almost a fear when we could start gathering, there was a little bit of a fear, you know, who's this person been with? Like, even if they're your best friends, you do look differently upon them during that period of time.

And it, and now that we don't have to worry about it, are you completely back to the way you were before?


Or has it shifted subtly some of the energy or some of the relational pieces of those friendships? I it's just an interesting thing to think about.

Yeah. Yeah. There, I, you know, the thing that I really didn't like about COVID, especially for the kids is like, we taught them that other humans are scary and you should stay away from them.

Mm hmm.

You know, that was like the core

Oh Hey,


that's what I couldn't read. It said fears our fears. Yeah, that's what it was fears. I Thought it said far as I'm like, it can't be far as Melissa. What is that? Damn, I wish I could read my own writing. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Sorry, go on.

other, the other thing that, that COVID did for, for your friends group is depending on how, uh, How, again, sensitive maybe or concerned you are or your stance on things like masks and, um, how, how conservative you are with staying, um, distance or maybe not even going near anybody else. Um, that really highlighted some like kind of, uh, I wouldn't say moral, but, but, you know, like some pretty core decision making between different

Yes. Yes, I totally

going out and getting together and who's not. Um,

And why? Yeah, I mean, I think it really did highlight, I think what it did is it, um, nevermind the specific fear that it brought up within you. I think it made us all aware that we have fears that we may not have even known about. Like, because, you know, at the height of it, people were losing loved ones.

Um, people were in the hospital. Um, we were hearing stories about our friends losing loved ones and I think it does bring up all of these fears that you don't even really realize run in the background. You know, about losing loved ones, about what's our responsibility? How do we support? How do we grieve?

Am I doing this right? Will I have time to think this through? Um, a lot of overwhelming stuff that made, made it really obvious that we have fears we maybe didn't even realize.

Yeah. Yeah. That's a good, good call. Uh, work, work is way different for me than it was before COVID and in that vein of routines it's like I used to For, I don't know what that was, 15 years, 20 years, get, get up, take a shower, get dressed, get my coffee, commute into work, probably at least 30 minutes, if not 45 or an hour.

Um, spend eight ish hours there and, uh, come home and, and then do it all over again. And this idea that, that I had is very strong. Kind of nine to five, Monday through Friday routine. Um, and that's all, that's all different. Work is, work is very different now.

For me too. Like my, my routine is now very much, um, so much more coaching than it was before.

Hmm. Oh, you got, yeah, you even kind of shifted your work product.

Mm hmm. Yeah. And my, my. My company has shifted. It's kind of focuses many times over the last 20 some years. But, um, yeah, it did. It went from team group stuff to individual coaching sessions over zoom.

Sitting in a chair and I had never, even in my coaching, it was always face to face, meet someone somewhere. Um, so that did also really shift for me, not just, not my, not just my habits of where I went and when I went, but also the work product I was doing was

Mm hmm. Yeah.



of people experienced that, you know, some kind of shift like that.

Well, certainly it's um, there's. There's all sorts of stuff. There's was there was fully remote for a while. There was hybrid. There's

Mm hmm. Mm

idea that everyone's got to be back in the office. Meanwhile, frontline workers had we're going in every single day, no matter what. And, you know, it was, it was pretty chaotic from a work perspective.

Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.

And that kind of dovetails into the chaos of the finances to was like, you know, you shifted or some people got laid off. Um, Um, you know, lots of, I, you know, a lot of my peers, I know like really struggled trying to figure out how to even keep their businesses afloat. Um, some of them went out of business, but just couldn't make it.

Yep. And, and some people self selected. Um, some people self selected to

Oh yeah.

model. Right.

actually. And I, I actually kind of forgot about that whole wave of like people that were on the cusp of retirement took early retirement.

Mm hmm. Yep. And then a whole bunch of people in the workforce that just said, it's not worth it. And they quit their jobs. They just quit their jobs and they figured out a different way to live financially in their homes.


I mean, think about,

I don't know, you know, maybe not. But, you know, using that event as a, as a, as a thing to say, Hey, I'm going to just change lots about my life.

yeah, well, I mean, I think it certainly gives us pause to think when you were, I mean, five years ago. Would you have ever thought in a million years that an event could happen that people said I'm pulling my kid out of school, I'm quitting my job, I'm going to be at home, I'm going to shift what I'm working on, I'm going to shift my friend groups, and I'm going to really focus on my greatest fears.

And buy a tiny house, like, you know, if you think about five years ago, would that, would we have ever imagined that a single event could cause such a massive change in a person? It's just mind blowing.

The interesting thing about that is you can make that decision at any


without having a global catastrophe.

Yeah, but people won't.


don't and people won't. And,

Need a little push. encouragement. So what do you

yeah, but I just like, again, without even the judgment piece, it's just like, so amazing to me that, that we can think about it like this, you know, and just how much our routines changed, and how,

is different about your routine now than it was before?

um, I, um, so I was constantly running before COVID. I was constantly running. I had something going almost every night. And usually,

gonna snicker at you because like, like that's different than now.

I will

how is it different? I asked

I don't do

not how is it exactly the same?

this week, this week. Okay. The pod drops on Tuesday. Okay. It's Friday. I've had two nights of something going this week.

That's it. That's

before you would've had five nights, is this is what you're

Yes, exactly. I would have had five nights and then the weekends, but now I'm like, Oh, two nights. Oh, oh, and they're back to back. Oh, I don't think I can do that. I don't know if I got the energy. I feel more tired from it. Stop judging.

I'll stop judging, but your

No, but

routine is different because you do kind of have a different job now than you did.

Yeah, well

your routine is different because you're, you're doing a lot, a lot of the coaching has got a little bit of different cadence to it than, than your bigger events.

Yeah. But also my personal routine is definitely slower, 100 percent slower. Like on the weekends, there will be, there will be weekends where I literally have not one thing planned and I love it, where I used to feel like, Oh, I need to have something going. Now I sort of like, Oh, do I really want to do that?

Yeah. So what is

have, have a different thought.

What is the same about your routine? Is some, has something like persisted through COVID through that period of time, or do you think it's all very

yeah, no, I think a lot, a lot of it has. Persisted my, um, connectedness with my kids, um, you know, making that a priority, um, spending time outside, doing things outside. I've always had that be a thing. I think a lot of people discovered outside during COVID, you know, where

So a lot of the, maybe the things that grounded you before have really stayed.

hmm. What about you?

are the constants.


I was asking you questions. I wasn't thinking about these.

Yeah, well, tough tickets, mister. I just spun the dial. Mm

the thing that's different about my routine and it, I was, I was not super, super routine before. I've never been a

hmm. Right. Right.

kind of person, but my routine is there. I have almost no routine. Like, almost none, it's, it's like, um, you know, even, even recently I, I rarely even set my alarm to get up in the morning.

I kind of, I kind of architect my day where I don't really have a lot of super hard commitments, especially early

Mm hmm.

Um. And, you know, sometimes Amber gives me crap. She's like, what, what's, uh, like what's on the agenda tomorrow? I'm like, I don't know, we'll just kind of see where life takes me tomorrow.

You know, she hates that,

I bet she hates that.

but I say that, but like I say that, and that is such an absurd thing to say, given that I like run multiple companies and, you know, have like, you know, like I have a pretty like demanding job and. job and responsibilities, yet the thing I try to do is have no

no schedule.

around it. Yeah.

That's so funny. I saw this very, very,

Oh, go

this very, very funny YouTube once where a guy was on stage and he had two plaster busts. One was a woman, one was a man, and he was talking about the difference between women and men. And it just, this just reminded me of that. He was standing there and he put his hands over the man's and he's like Men's brains, they're all individual boxes and none of the boxes touch, okay?

There's a box, there's a box for, for working on the car, there's a box for, okay? And then he said, and then here's the box that women hate. It's the nothing box. So if you are sitting in the living room and your wife walks by and she says, what are you doing? And you say, Nothing, that drives her crazy.

But the truth, like, what are you thinking about? Nothing. Like, literally, I'm mostly thinking about nothing.


to think about nothing. Yeah.

So then he steps over to the female head and he puts his hands on that and he goes, now this, there's stuff happening everywhere. Everything's all interlinked. It's all touching. Everything's touching and everything leads to another one and it's all happening at the same time. Oh, anyway, when you said Amber gets driven nuts when you say you've got to relax, it just reminded me of that.

Oh Well,

I think that's like my biggest thing. Well, I know the question for you. Um, is so what thing, what thing do you miss about your, your pre COVID Melissa? Is there something that like, like you used to do you used to have that you don't really have anymore?

do you know what I miss I miss the feeling of political rest


I miss When we weren't all so amped up now, it isn't just COVID. There's been a number of things within that same period of time. But I just feel like when I reflect on prior to COVID, um, there's always the, there's always the typical political hubbub.

I mean, there always is, but, um, I just feel like it's gotten people. became a lot more harsh when they tried to enter back into normal reality.

Like more polarized or or,

polarized and more willing to just be less human with other people because people kind of got in the mode of self protection, you know, and fear.

I think this whole thing caused a lot of self protection and fear and so when people have come back out into our


there's an edge now with many folks that wasn't there before, I

an interesting societal change is this idea that if you, if we did spend the whole COVID time Uh, saying that other humans are scary and we should stay away from them. We went very internal, protect me, myself, and my family unit, um, and, and now how is that going to be, that self, that, uh, that self view, how is that going to be reflected back out in society?

Yeah. Exactly. I mean, it's almost like the fight or flight. Mm hmm. Yeah. It's that fight or flight times a million. Yeah. So I feel kind of sad about that. So I do miss, maybe it's the innocence.


it's the, maybe it's the naivety. Maybe it was my naivety

Mm hmm. Mm

how people could be on a bigger scale.


Um, and now I don't really have that.

And I feel sad about that. Although I'm still very hopeful. I'm very hopeful and positive about the human condition, so I don't want to make it sound like I'm not. I really, really am. But I do feel like there's, that's a little bit of a difference.

hmm. Mm hmm. What's, uh, what is something you, that you really like that's come out of COVID? Like, what do you like that's on the, now on the other side in today's world? Mm.

You know, I did a lot of self reflection, and I think that I really grew up a lot. I think I grew more in my self awareness. I think I,


I learned how to be a lot more open and accepting of everyone where they are.

hmm. Uh huh.

And I always have worked to be that way, but I feel like, I feel like that period of time really amplified the learning.

Hmm. That's great. I mean.

And I feel good about that. Like, I feel it's way easier for me to be in deeper conversations and say things to people I never would have before, um, with the benefit, with, with a benefit in mind, you know?

Mm hmm.

Just being more open and honest with people.

Yeah. Yeah, that's good. I've been,

Oh. Mm

I've been learning to do that same thing too. I, you know, being, uh, being more clear and, and more open with some of my answers to people. Um, I've been, uh, I've been really working on also. Because sometimes it's like if you're in a tough conversation with somebody, it's easy to kind of like try to smooth it over and try to, you know, sand the edges off of it a bit.

Um, but sometimes people need those edges, not in a harsh, harmful way, but they need to know the truth. Right.

Yeah. Right.

yeah, one, one thing that I've been working on is, is, you know, not, I'm not like I was lying before, but. Yeah, not maybe wrapping so much cotton around, uh, the rock to use your phrase. Mm

Yeah, no, it's really, it's, that's really good. And I think part of what helped all of us become a little more like that, cause I think a lot of us are, is this idea that time isn't forever,


you know? Yeah.

we talked about last week. Was that last week? I don't remember.

Oh yeah. It was

Ha ha.

or the week before. Um, what's something that you're really happy about?

Well, the thing... From a work perspective that I really like, I've always been a super big remote work advocate. I've always placed a huge importance on autonomy and trust at work. And the thing that really got so much awareness was that there's a different way to work and it actually creates a personal lifestyle that can be really, really much more fulfilling than like nine to five in the office.

Yeah. Mm

So I will continue. advocating every single day for, uh, kind of an alternate schedule at work because we can, we can both support people, families, and our work stuff without a classic nine to five and be happier and more productive at the same time.

Right. And people like you and me have always known that, but the people that were very much focused on everything I, everything I am is because of my work product. The 9 to 5 is where I gain all of my Personal strength. I think a lot of people are now in this camp where they're like, Oh, actually, that's not true.

A lot of, lot of false narratives got. broken during COVID.

That's a really good way to say it. I agree.

Cool. Well, this, I think this was a good exercise for everybody to do the, again, the idea that, that we don't have a lot of these, these checkpoints to look back on during a lot of our adult years. I think COVID and not the, the meat of COVID, but just what was it like a little bit before that as a, as a great reflection for everyone to do.

Yeah, I absolutely agree. And what what's been what's benefited you? Actually, I also think it'd be really interesting to focus on that positive piece of it. Because I think there is a lot of positive stuff that's come out of this.


Discussed in this episode

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JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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