COVID-19; the Most Effective Reset in our Lifetime
Transformation is an open door to a whole new world that most people are too scared to walk through.
I have gone through several transformations in my life and I suspect many of you reading this are on the cusp of a transformation yourself. COVID-19 has slowed the world down and without our usually hectic schedules comes the time to think. Thinking gives way to ideas and ideas form an ideology.
Think of life as a journey on a bus. There are stops along the way but eventually, each journey ends and you have a decision to make. It’s your choice whether you stop travelling, or you catch the connection. Allowing yourself the chance to transform (catch the connection) is one of the greatest experiences you’ll ever allow yourself to feel.
Take it from a guy who understands transformation, but for some context, I’ll fill you in my most recent transformations and how allowing them to happen enriched my life.
My Transformations Pre-COVID
As a kid, I was a shy geek with a mushroom cut and purple glasses, scared of his own shadow. Whatever you’re picturing in your head right now; it was so much worse.
As a teenager, I was bullied quite a bit. I got beat up a few times, thrown into an icy river, and the assholes in grades above stole whatever I had on me that day constantly. A kid 3 grades above me once hit me in the head with an apple that shattered on impact and knocked me out cold. I still blame my weirdness on that MF.
My parents were busy on the capitalism hamster wheel and my principal was quite complacent about the subject of bullying. So, it was kinda on me to figure out how to dig myself out of the black hole that was high school.
My First Major Transformation: Grade 11
I became a DJ and by proxy; I was accepted into the cool kids’ club. Seriously, it was like someone flicked a light switch. In less than 2 weeks after becoming a DJ, I had kids that once mocked me as I walked by, asking where the next party was.
For a good amount of time, I was a hip hop kid who also loved business, which earned me the nickname JamCo ( [Jam] out while taking care of [Co]mpany business). I ran events and entertained thousands of people.
During this time I also got my Rocky moment. For those of you who don’t know what a Rocky moment is, let me paint you a picture.
The man you now know as Dwayne Johnson was once thee most electrifying man in the WWE. He cut the best promos and had truly entertaining matches. A Rocky moment comprised of him standing in the middle of the ring and everyone standing on their feet chanting his name.
Granted, when I had my Rocky moment it was in front of 7,500 people and his were often in front of 20,000–100,000 people. It was still pretty cool nonetheless.
Had I not embraced transformation I would have deprived myself of a moment so many kids grew up dreaming about as they watched The Rock on TV and so many other incredible stories.
My Second Major Transformation: I Write & I Debate
Then I became a writer, and I lived behind the scenes in politics simultaneously. My first book isn’t very good, and that’s probably because it was never intended to be a book.
My second effort was much better, but still … I wonder what it could have been like if I had the patience to sit on it longer. As a person behind the scenes in politics, I was able to stand in the footsteps of history and witness human indecency at its grossest.
This transformation got my written word on bookshelves around the world, a ton of positive press, and gave me what are still to this day the most exciting and life-altering moments I’ve experienced; working on the Obama for America 2008 Presidential campaign.
Again, without embracing transformation I wouldn’t have had a 42-minute conversation with Bill Clinton, met Barack Obama twice, stood in Grant Park on election night or been present for Obama’s swearing-in.
I would have been at home watching TV or planning another routine event.
My Third Major Transformation: The Dark Side
In 2016, I became known for an “ism” (falsely) and it destroyed my life. I also broke my back that year, ended a long-term relationship and had to rebuild my entire existence from the ground up. If you’d like to know more about this transformation, check out this blog.
I then became a workhorse. It’s not that I wasn’t a workaholic before, but at this point, I went hard in the paint.
While it could be argued this transformation was negative, it ended up teaching me to grow up a bit and look at the world through a new set of lenses.
I woke up, and a negative turned into a positive.
My Biggest Transformation: The F-Word
Then, at the end of 2017, I became someone I never saw coming. We’ll call this latest full transformation, The F-Word.
I call this my biggest transformation because it taught me a valuable lesson. I never intended to feel the way I did or learn the lessons I was taught. I never wanted to experience this slice of life but I was pulled in.
This transformation taught me that despite our best-laid plans, sometimes the universe just seems to introduce you to new possibilities that you can’t ignore.
Up until this moment, my life had gone down one consistent path; grandiose.
But then the craziest thing happened. I, Jay Hall, was becoming somewhat of a family man. Not The F-Word you were expecting from me, huh?
For those that know me, you are quite aware of how unlikely this transformation was. I had no use for children, was known as a serial dater, still had one foot in the bar industry, and I often left my hometown on a whim.
Literally, a friend in Chicago once told me about a new pizza place he wanted to try, so there I was trying it with him the next day. Side note, if you’re ever in Chicago, check out Pizzeria Da Nella on the Southside.
My carefree, wanderlust lifestyle changed when this boy met a girl who had a son. I’ve largely kept this transformation to myself, but I feel comfortable writing about it now.
About the Girl
This girl … she blew me away. Let me give you my top 3 reasons why.
First, her cuteness was (at best) underrated by those she surrounded herself with. I mean, she had an honest to God light to her that was infectious. Just the way she would say, “Hi, Jay,” or “OK” got me in the feels constantly. I had never experienced cuteness like that before. No woman had ever moved me as she did.
Second, I could have conversations about hyper-intellectual topics and she was right in there with me. We once spent an entire night talking about everything from pseudo-science and quantum math to medical science and the future of medicine itself. This was an enormous change for me.
I feel like when I look back on previous relationships; the conversation was boring and forgettable. Of course, there are exceptions, but she and I connected on an intellectual level unlike any other. Our first conversation lasted on the phone for over 8-hours in the middle of the night and I remember most of it.
To top it all off, her beauty left a lot of jaws on the floor.
We had our ups and downs, of course. That’s the nature of relationships. In hindsight, I feel like she didn’t quite get who I was. I’m fairly certain that she was never convinced I was ready for the transformation that being with her and her son would bring.
A friend warned me in the beginning that she and I would eventually split because you can’t have 2 alphas in a relationship, but I — in my infinite wisdom — decided that he was wrong. Ultimately, more than anything, I’d say our alphaness is the number 1 reason we don’t speak anymore. She dug in; I dug in … sometimes there were fireworks and other times there was just a huge blazing fire that destroyed everything in its path.
She Made Me Certifiable … & You Want That
From the first time I saw her, there wasn’t a single moment when she didn’t make me completely Nutso in my head. It’s why I made so many mistakes in our relationship; I couldn’t think straight.
She’d walk in a room and for minutes, sometimes longer, all I wanted was to tear her clothes off or run away with her; keeping her to myself.
When she had a terrible day, I would come up with these elaborate ways to make her feel better that never went according to plan. When she’d be cute, I’d picture our future 50 years later. I could never be fully present in the moment with her because she made me certifiable with every breath she took.
I messed up loving her because I was so distracted by her.
I know it sounds strange but I assure you it’s all true.
I could go on and on about this girl, but alas, that’s not what this blog is about. I’ll leave it at, she was a total fucking rockstar.
So, I now digress …
About the Kid
There I was with a girlfriend who had an 11-year-old son. The day I met him was scary as hell for me because I knew what I felt for his mom and if I couldn’t pull off a relationship with him (the first kid I’d ever spend more than an hour with), it would surely sink us.
Turns out though, she has the coolest kid. I would eventually develop a great relationship with him. But something else happened; I respected his place in my life. I remember all those times I heard friends talk about dating girls with kids and how hard it was. To be honest, it freaked me out.
This kid made it easy though, and I found myself excited to hang out with him. It was kind of like having a son of my own; I guess. There was a rush to having someone with energy around because as my friends and family know, I’m constantly on. I learned through him that I am just a big kid at heart.
What’s the line from that John Mayer song? So scared of getting older, I’m only good at being young. Preach, Johnny, preach.
I found myself confronted by questions I never had to ask myself before. What if she’s the one? Do I have what it takes to be a partner and a stepfather? What do I do the first time I hear him disrespect his mom? Boys will be idiots after all. When was the appropriate time to let him know what he meant to me? How do I handle the situation if he ever wants advice on girls?
Turned out, I actually got an answer to that last one when he was 13. He came to me; I provided some advice and last time I spoke to him, their story was continuing to unfold.
Sure, it was his first crush and absolutely not to be taken seriously like all first crushes but I read a book about stepping into the role I found myself that offered an interesting perspective.
The author reminded me that:
Every moment is a new moment to a kid and as such everything seems important.
So, that’s how I treated the situation. It was important that he managed his expectations, didn’t go overboard, and found genuine moments instead of forcing them.
Untold & Unexpected Pride
How we both handled his first crush left me with an incredible amount of pride. That pride was similar to how I feel after I successfully crush a gym goal or a campaign I make for my company goes viral. I actually grew to love this woman and her kid.
The entire situation was foreign to me but uplifting. Here I was helping get him to hockey camp, weeding a garden, BBQing burgers on the kid’s birthday, and spending time on a farm with their family.
And then there was July 19, 2019. To call this the happiest day of my life might be a stretch, but it definitely ranks in my top 5 because it was the last time the 3 of us were a team.
The kid (who I’m calling the kid for privacy reasons and I realize now that might sound strange to you) and I hit my boxing gym for a while and then an arcade.
Once his mom was done work, we went to a football game where we had a ton of fun. She was her, and she hadn’t been her for a while at that point. Given her job and station in life, she often put undue stress on herself and couldn’t fully enjoy her downtime.
On this night, her shoulders were low, smile full, and mind settled.
He was happy, too. Excitement would burst out of him constantly. After the game, the 3 of us joined several dozens of people on the field, throwing a football around and getting autographs from players. Just like his mom, the kid was smiling widely.
The 3 of us had a really exceptional night. As we left that football game arm-in-arm with the kid buzzing around us I remember thinking, “if I could stay in this moment forever I would never have to achieve another goal as long as I live”.
They were my family, if only temporarily.
I almost felt like I was watching myself do these things. The concept of 3 was so foreign to me that it was hard for my mind to accept that this was the me I wanted to be.
Sure, there was a part of me trying to break out and be the old JamCo but he had lost his power over the future. Friends would call from down south about wild shit and I just didn’t care anymore.
I finally understood a subject that I had only thought I understood previously — love. How do I know that I now understand it?
My love for this woman and her son was far different from any other “love” I had experienced before. It was overwhelmingly powerful.
It felt like I only needed that feeling to complete me.
Vegas was no longer calling because these 2 were my home.
I legitimately knew that I would take a bullet for either of them. In the past, when I heard someone say this in a movie or TV show I would roll my eyes, but that’s just because you don’t know how powerful a feeling can be until you experience it for yourself.
I guess there is actually a fifth reason; when I lost them it absolutely crushed me. 6’4” Jay became 2’ j.
Could you imagine if I would have resisted this transformation? Think about everything I would have missed out on. I now know what it’s like to be in love. There’s a good chance I could pull off being a dad. I had some of my best life experiences. I was terrified of this transformation and I now know that fear is simply a lack of understanding.
I should probably tell you why I’m even writing this article.
Well, I know many people are going through their own transformation because of the pandemic. You’ve had to live outside of your norms and for some of you, this is the first time you’ve ever done that. As the world re-opens you might wonder which you, you would like to be.
Hold on to the change and maintain it after the world flips right side up again. To sacrifice the growth you’ve discovered since being quarantined would be a real shame.
Think about it, the caterpillar can never be its truest self without transformation. If you are happier right now than you are usually despite the uncertainty in the world, that probably means you do need to shift your priorities going forward.
While scary, accepting the transformation you’re experiencing can be highly rewarding. I caution though, transformation can be damaging too. Many of my transformations have seen me progress, but a few have set me back. I realize now that the transformations that did their damage were simply those that I went against my instincts to achieve.
My Next Transformation
And on that note, after losing that girl and her kid, I started another transformation, and it has culminated into who I know I have to be to find a shred of that former happiness ever again.
But, I applied a lesson I learned during my last transformation. I discovered that the biggest mistake a person can make when changing their life is to not take the time and mourn who they were before.
Ending an adult relationship sucks, but I was prepared for that empty feeling. What took me by surprise was mourning for my relationship with that kid. No one really talks about what it means to be the other guy in a kid’s life and how it affects you to lose that.
My lesson was that it’s okay to care for a kid and put his needs above your own. It didn’t mean I had to lose myself, but rather, I was just building a new version of me that incorporated my past selves along with who I am as a result of knowing him.
I learned another very hard lesson.
I once believed in destiny; rushing to catch a plane, bump into a girl, miss the flight … marry her. That sorta thing. I believed in big romantic gestures, a soundtrack to your life, real honest to God, ride or die.
And I hate that term, but honestly whoever came up with it knew what they were talking about. I would have given her magic, but it turns out I was just under some spell that eventually wore off. Destiny in love doesn’t exist.
We date a hundred people, and when we find the one we call it destiny.
That’s not what it is; it’s trial and error mixed with superb timing and some luck.
I don’t believe in such concepts anymore. It’s not that I’m depressed or anything like that. I’m just not hopeful and I’m settling into the idea some people are just not destined to be understood or good at relationships. Still not sure which was my biggest problem, but it’s a moot point now.
So how do I breakdown my COVID-19 transformation?
I experienced love … genuine love for 2 extraordinary people and now I can move onto new goals. Sure, I’ll still date, but I’ll do it differently now — without expectations.
As we all come out of our homes and into the sunshine of a world post-coronavirus, I will emerge once again a workaholic, but my goals are much more defined. Any version of love can wait because in my deep self-assessment I have learned that I’m not ready for it and I may never be.
COVID-19 slowing the world down allowed me to process, plan and put into action a plan that pulled me out of the F-Word transformation and into who I need to be to deal with the crisis we have all found ourselves.
We Transform Together
I hope your transformation is what you need in your life because most people I know were struggling with their identity prior to this crisis. But, if you’re fighting against the change, take it from someone that has been 15 different people in his time spinning around the sun on this giant rock … don’t.
This moment in time has been both scary and a gift.
To ignore that would be to short-change yourself the chance to experience something incredibly humbling as I did. It may not be permanent, but it will be exactly what you need. I needed to fall in love with a woman and her son to gain perspective and understand that world just as I needed to interview killers for my second book. I know, that sounds like a weird comparison but you too need to experience more to be more; good and bad. We all have that voice in our heads. If you are anything like me, COVID-19 has made it louder and suppressing it is not an option.
I leave you with this little nugget of wisdom. It’s profoundly interesting how the smallest things can make the biggest impact.
COVID-19 is an enormous problem, but deeply personal and small as well.
Our individual choices directly affected everyone around us. We woke up one day and the entire world changed because someone ate a bat. Think about that for a second. Really absorb that message. Do you want to be the person you could barely stand before this or the person that you’ve become without social norms?
I guess there are some unexplained phenomena out there yet, and as long as that is true I’ll continue to search for more out of this life than just a house, a car, and a family. Do what feels right for you … that’s the moral of this story. She did, I did, and if you’re honest with yourself (and learned anything from the sudden change in our world) you will too.