How the Pandemic Changed Us

It’s been three years since our world shut down and, wow, has life changed. 

I have worked to keep a journaling habit for most of my life. I even wrote this post about trying a new way to journal, more of a scribble technique. I now alternate my journaling practices based on mood, but rarely do I feel compelled to re-read the words I wrote from years ago. 

Then last week, as I was digging through my desk I pulled out an old notebook. I giggled reading the entries starting in 2019 and ending in early 2020. The entries from 2019 detailed our process through the casting of The Amazing Race. It was surreal to read the hesitation in my writing. 

Even as we were about to leave I was nervous. I was on edge to board a plane without a phone (you leave all technology behind) but I was grateful for this forced phone fast because I was (and continue to be) addicted to the device in my hand. 

An entry from February of 2020:

“Here’s the thing, I can’t let this anxiety win. If I let this vibrating feeling in my chest stop me – I’d never leave the house. I also need to show my kids what hard work and overcoming looks like. You have a brain that plays tricks on you – but you can win.”

I want to go back and yell some encouragement to the person writing those words. She had no idea a pandemic was coming and how life would change. 

The Last Three Years

This month, three years ago, just weeks after I wrote those words, our season of The Amazing Race famously halted production due to the spread of Covid-19. We returned home, full of more anxiety than when we left but praying that staying home for two weeks would, “flatten the curve.” 

Little did we know. 

As a family, we’re still learning ways the pandemic changed us.  My kids have had their own struggles and I’m sure they mirror what you see in your house. They may want to talk about those someday, so I’ll allow them to tell their own stories.  But as a mom, I can say I’m incredibly proud of how they’ve navigated such a delicate time of life while under quarantine. 

In the last three years: 

  1. We stayed home and created new videos almost daily. People will often stop us to say kind words about how that weird form of comedy helped them in a dark time, but it’s important to know that it helped us even more. Having a project, a task, or a goal every day saved our sanity during an uncertain time. 
  2. We published our first book! Doing a press tour from our couch was less than ideal but it topped several lists and we’re proud of the work. Stay tuned for news about a second book (this one with a focus on living and partnering with ADHD). 
  3. Penn’s father passed away last summer. Now, his mother’s health is failing. This part of “adulting” really sucks. 
  4. Our kids grew up! They went from “kids” to teens in a blink. 
  5. We won The Amazing Race. 

How Did the Pandemic Change You?

I posed the question, “How did the pandemic change you?” to my husband, and here is his response.

Penn here! This was a great question posed by my genius wife.  These lists tell us not only a lot about ourselves and how unique we are, but I am guessing they will also affirm how connected we are to each other. I don’t mean any of these things as (political) statements of fact, they are just personal findings.  If yours are not the same, I respect that 100%. Remember we are all unique!

  1. I am much more drawn to the serenity of the outdoors. Listen – I am still a raging extrovert.  I still recharge when I am around people.  But the silence of my backyard during those shutdown months did something for me as well, and that’s never been the case for me before. I still find myself drawn to a chair about 60 feet from any house at the end of our property so I can listen to birds, the sound of the wind going through the trees, and even the sound of my own breath.  Now, if you think that means I’ve become an all-out fan of the sound of silence, keep reading. 
  2. I am much more annoyed by the sound of silence INSIDE my house.  Not sure why.  It feels fake.  I look out the windows and I want to hear that. I think we spent so much time in these walls, that it became a source of slight anxiety to me. I want to get out whenever I can and when I have to be in here (like I am now) I need something to occupy my attention other than the sound of air conditioning. 
  3. I am more aware of germs, and how to stay away from them. How in the heck did I never want to wear a mask IN A DOCTOR’S OFFICE WHERE EVERYONE IS SICK? We’ve had these things for a long time, they cost pennies to make. Now that my eyes have basically been retrained to see everyone breathing out the same way a black light sees DNA, I see it everywhere. As an asthmatic who has a much tougher time with the Flu and colds, I personally should have figured this out way before COVID.

    Again, not political, but something that has happened to me personally. 
  4. I am more convinced of our effect on the environment.  Did everyone see the picture of LA about a month into the lockdown? The typically smoggy skies were clear to reveal the mountains standing near. In all of our trips to Los Angeles, I’d never been able to see through the air pollution to see those mountains so clearly. That picture changed me.

    I am trying to find a more fuel-efficient car.  I am turning off the lights more (or trying).  I am riding my bike around when it’s not too far.  We live in a beautiful world and I would like to try and do what I can not to screw it up.   I probably am getting a C-plus right now, but I feel like I was a D-Plus before COVID.  I will keep trying to do better.
The Los Angeles skyline on April 6, 2020 from Twitter user @MikeSington

Still More To Unpack

Kim here, again. As for me, personally, I am still uncovering the full impact of the last three years. 

I am a raging introvert, but I’ve challenged myself to say “yes” to more outings with friends and I’m actively looking for ways to get out of my comfort zone. I am a work in progress, but the pandemic taught me how desperately I crave in-person connection. I’m more inclined to give you a big, awkward hug than I was in 2019. 

I’ve realized much of my anxiety around parenting was about sports and activities I thought we “should” be doing. Now I know, none of it really matters. 

It’s hard to appreciate what you have until it’s taken from you. I’m still working to be a better version of myself now, so forgive me if I give you a big, awkward hug if we meet in the aisles of Target. 

How did the pandemic change you? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Xo, Kim and Penn