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The Great Coronavirus Pivot

How I found new ways to use my talents and passions after the global pandemic crushed my in-person speaking career...for now.

Out for a post-Corona virus hike, brainstorming new directions.
Out for a post-Corona virus hike, brainstorming new directions.

If you haven’t seen Nick Heath’s live sports commentary taken to the mundane every day, you should:

Why? Because this brilliant sports commentator has found a way to use his talents and passions — at a time when there are no live sports to be found.

And in the meantime, he made us laugh. Hard.

This isn’t so easy to do with news of the Coronavirus weighing heavily on our minds. And like Nick Heath, our lives and livelihoods are very different than they were even a few weeks ago.

As I was watching these clips again and again this weekend, I was thinking about my own experience.

Right before the holidays, it was finally announced that Amazon Studios was making my book Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds into a movie with This Is Us star Chrissy Metz producing and possibly playing the role of me.

From late January to February — I had one of the best months of my professional career — I spoke about body positivity at Montana State University and then University of Northern Iowa, Iowa State, University of Iowa and more for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I went to Colorado and made some great videos of a super fun snowshoe event to help others living with binge eating disorder and body positivity. I attended Outdoor Retailer and walked the floor and met brands finally eager to work with plus-size adventurers.

Things were going SO well.

And then everything. And I mean EVERYTHING stopped. All of my speaking engagements, all of those encouraging messages from brands wanting to work with me.

My efforts to reach out about speaking engagements — which I had been working on for months — were now tone-deaf as everyone, including myself, had no idea how long this was going to last.

And even the kids’ schools. Their activities. Our ability to move freely in this world.

All of it was on pause — with no green light in sight.

Even so, with the world stalled out, there seemed to be a collective Great Coronavirus Pivot.

I could see everything around me shifting and adapting to meet this mass change in lifestyle as we stay at home and attempt to #flattenthecurve.

My husband worked at home. My kids all switched over to online school. Our groceries were all delivered to our porch and we had to think of our meals in two-week spans.

In an instant, I had to figure out how to work while not doing the thing I loved doing most — traveling, speaking, consulting and meeting people in person. And while it is easy to take many of these things online (as I am wise in the ways of Zoom and WebEx), I knew that many people were still shaking off the debris of their own collapsed lives to listen.

I, too, had to pivot.

There were other things that I could do to support my mission, which is and always will be my North Star: To change the conversation of obesity and to encourage people to live their adventures in the now.

I also knew two things:

A post-Corona outbreak hike in Jockey Hollow.

Hiking, my specialty, was one of the things that COULD be done in the age of social distancing. And may people were venturing out on the trails — six-feet apart — for the first time.

And obesity — and binging — is likely going to be a growing concern as folks are stressed, living in uncertainty and isolation. I needed to continue to be a voice of healing for them.

I looked back at my career to find clues about how to do so.

I’m a writer, an award-winning one at that. I spent a decade working as a journalist before writing Gorge: My Journey Up Kilimanjaro at 300 Pounds and Weight of Being. I could write again. I churned out the the book proposal for my upcoming Long Trail hike. And then I reconnected with friends at magazines and online publications, offering my services.

I also spent three years working at a branding agency. I thought about how the brand partners could see this moment as time to tell a different story and I reached out to offer my help in the spirit of generosity. I shared ideas freely because we have all felt paralyzed in the mass halt of business as we knew it.

But this new businesses, as I’ve found new ways to share my voice in the world has been a challenge accepted. Something that pushed me beyond my comfort zone and new opportunities I never would have thought of.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly mourned the progress I had made on the speaking front. And some mornings, I wake up wondering if this some kind of dream — or big mistake.

But I know after years of living in depression, anxiety and binge eating disorder, that place doesn’t help me. Even with all of these things — my voice, talents and passion are still relevant and can find ways to help the world.

And this is a great time to do an inventory of your talents and find ways to repackage them for the now.

So even though from here on out, my life may not look like it did back in the glory days of February, it will be different. And that might not be such a terrible thing. Sometimes changing directions can lead us to some of the greatest places.

How are you pivoting in the times of Coronavirus?

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