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While the pandemic presented its share of challenges, it also forced many to look inward and take inventory of what was or was not nourishing us in our often dizzyingly “full” lives. As restrictions lift across the South, some are re-entering spaces and circles of friends hesitantly, while others are diving in head-first. But all of us, we argue, have a newfound clarity about what’s important to keep close, and what’s weighing us down that we should let go of. We asked 10 prominent Southerners to share what they’ve eliminated from their lives once and for all, now that we’re getting a little closer to putting the pandemic behind us.

what 10 southerners eliminating post-covid

Top four, left to right: Laura Vinroot Poole, Randall Porter, Liza Graves, Ed Nash. Middle three, left to right: Dr. Zion Ko Lamm, Patrick and Merry Dougherty (+ pup Jax), Melissa Cookston. Bottom three, left to right: Sarah Frick, Tommy Tomlinson, Brittany Cole. Image credits at end of the article.

The One Thing I’m Eliminating from My Life Once & For All

1. Laura Vinroot Poole
Founder and Owner of Capitol, Poole Shop, Tabor

“North Carolina’s motto, Esse Quam Videri, or To Be Rather to Seem, has never meant more to me than it does in a post-pandemic world. I’m not sure whether it’s being close to turning 50 or a hard-core hangover from the pandemic, but sartorially I am completely and utterly finished with caring what other people think. I am finished with wearing 110mm heels and pretending that I’m six feet tall … I’m absolutely not six feet tall. I am done squeezing into the size that I believe that I should be … I want clothes that fit and feel luxurious and make me feel like myself. I am never again going to wear something that I am uncomfortable wearing, and luckily, that is also the feedback that we’ve gotten from the vast majority of our clients. It is a wonderful shift for our buying team to be able to craft wardrobes for people that bring them great joy and make them feel beautiful and like the best versions of themselves.”

2. Randall Porter
Brand Strategist + Style Enthusiast

“COVID gave me the time to realize what I want and who I am. It allowed me the space to eliminate that imposter syndrome lingering in my mind. No longer dwelling in self-doubt. While for some people, impostor syndrome can fuel feelings of motivation to achieve, this usually comes at a cost in the form of constant anxiety. To combat that anxiety, I faced my challenges and celebrated my wins but got over them quickly. Complacency kills. Win. Celebrate. Start again.”

3. Dr. Zion Ko Lamm, M.D.
Board Certified Internal Medicine + Viral TikTok + Instagram Skincare Star

“In order to prioritize holistic wellness, I eliminated unnecessary negativity. My husband and I did this gradually, but one thing that really helped was turning off the television/phone/computer and spending time sharing five things we were thankful for each day. Without fear, we all die, but the fixation on fear, uncertainty, and doubt sucks the ‘living’ out of life. After trading in fear for hope, and worry for joy, life hits differently.”

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4. Brittany Cole
Speaker, Coach, Author, and CEO of Career Thrivers

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve worked hard to eliminate pre-COVID expectations for how things ‘should’ be. I believe that the beauty in change, challenge, and even loss is that we get an opportunity to reimagine and reinvent in new ways. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had to completely reimagine my perspective on what’s normal by releasing the expectations of what was and staying open to create and experience life in new ways. I intend to continue extending and receiving grace in order to reinvent on this other side of the pandemic.”

5. Tommy Tomlinson
Author, Podcaster, and Former Award-Winning Sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer and ESPN Magazine

“The one thing I’ve given up on, post-COVID, is certainty. I used to plan out the day, the week, the month, the year — not obsessively, but enough to know the course I’d set. COVID sank the ship. It threw me sideways, all the plans that vaporized, all those open-ended days of not knowing when things would change.

Now, I hope I’ll make my life more supple. I’m still going to make plans. But I’m going to try not to be so discombobulated when life has other ideas. One of the things I learned from these times is that adaptation is a real skill. It’s a skill I’m still learning.”

6. Liza Graves
Founder and CEO of Blueprint.Inc (the parent company of StyleBlueprint)

“I’m eliminating kicking the can down the road. For the most part, I had already stopped doing this a few years ago, but COVID-19 definitely made me confront a few things in my life that I seem to put off perpetually. Both hard conversations and big dreams … I’m embracing the today better than ever before.”

7. Sarah Frick
Founder and Owner of The Works and The Works Cycle

“The need to look a certain way to show up for my community, my work, and myself. Being in the fitness industry can be daunting at times on the old psyche, and even those of us who preach body positivity can have our moments of self-doubt and body shaming. During the pandemic, I gave myself and my almost 40-year-old body a lot of grace I had never given it before to enjoy my children, my slower pace, fewer rigid workouts, and some extra treats. I can tell you it hasn’t slowed down my work or my joy! Letting go of that fear to look perfect has opened my heart up to the possibility of other areas I can do that as well.”

8. Merry and Patrick Dougherty
Interior Design Gurus and Owners of Merridian Home Furnishings

Merry: “During most of COVID I was less disciplined, so during Lent of 2021, I gave up processed sugar and I’ve kept going. I feel better than ever.”

Patrick: “We have both given up stress because we started meditating, and it’s AMAZING.”

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9. Melissa Cookston
Chef, Author, Restaurant Owner, and Seven-Time World Barbecue Champion

“I’ve tried to eliminate impatience. Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve all learned just how valuable the little things, like sharing a meal with family or getting together with loved ones, can be. I remind myself not to worry about the small things too much and practice more patience.”

10. Ed Nash

“Since there was no toilet paper, bread, or cleaning products in the stores, I have given up all three forever!”

Carving out more time for joy and ridding ourselves of unnecessary anxiety are two refrains we heard time and again. As exciting as it’s been to reconnect with loved ones, this is also an unmatched chance to act on the mental and physical self-awareness we’ve honed — and the sense of humor we’ve leaned on! What have you eliminated from your life? We hope that these words from your Southern neighbors have shone a light on the positive.

Image credits in order of quotes: Chris Edwards, Graham Yelton, submitted, Drea Nicole, Travis Dove, Grannis Photography, Taylor Jarvis/Pale Girl Photography, submitted, Jay Adkins, and Elijah Rodney.


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