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By Jeff D. Opdyke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I sit. Through the skylight window above my desk, the sky in Prague is a brilliant, cloudless cobalt. Birdsong from the courtyard just beyond my balcony is the soundtrack to my morning. And here on day number umpteen in quarantine I wonder what life is like outside the walls of my comfortable prison.

Who knows how long this will last. I saw in recent days that French President Emmanuel Macron said the lockdown might remain in place until September. If so, I have to imagine something similar would take shape in the U.S., given that Europe is a few weeks ahead of the U.S. in terms of the corona progression.

Certainly, the economics of this moment in history are painful. Lost jobs. Bankrupt businesses. Bankrupt lives. But there is a flip side to this coin for those who look for it.

If you’ve read my columns over the last several weeks, you’ll know that I’ve been writing about opportunities hiding in plain sight in this corona crisis—the chance to build new skills or hone existing ones so that you can pursue work-at-home/work-from-wherever income possibilities when this all passes. And it will pass.

But The Savvy Retiree isn’t just about making money and saving money.

It’s also about living a richer life.

And it’s in that context that I want to share with you a brief exchange I had on WhatsApp with my friend Ellen. She’s a psychologist who splits her time between Boston and Prague. At the moment, she’s locked down in the Boston side of her life…and she doesn’t have as much to do jobwise because of the quarantine and social distancing and whatnot.

So, she has taken up screenwriting.

She and I have spent many a night eating burgers and drinking beers here in Prague, and hashing out ideas tied to the story of her childhood: an East Coast city girl spirited off to rural Wisconsin and an odd, Brady Bunch life from a lower-class perspective.

But neither of us—particularly her—really had the time to devote to shaping and writing that screenplay. The demands of daily life, at least in the pre-corona world, got in the way. But here in the Bizarro World of Coronalandia, Ellen suddenly has a lot of free time in her days. And she’s making use of that time by taking a screenwriting class.

“It’s only a month-long course,” she messaged me, a reference to the intensive, one-year screenwriting program I took at the University of California, Los Angeles…her way of tempering my expectations that she will become the next Sofia Coppola.

“Still,” I replied, “It will get you thinking about the structure and the story you really want to tell. This is the perfect opportunity actually.”

“I have already learned so much. I wouldn’t have been able to take this if it weren’t for coronavirus.”

“Look—something good comes from corona,” I wrote.

“Let’s hope so,” she concluded.

This is what I mean when I talk about pursuing a richer life. We all have those things in life we’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s a hobby you’ve wanted to take up, maybe it’s a language you wanted to learn…maybe it’s screenwriting or learning to play piano…or whatever. But you’ve just never had the time because, well, life.

Now, however, time is suddenly in abundance. How long it will remain so—who knows? A few more weeks? A few more months?

Either way, see this moment as an opportunity. Exploit it to your benefit. Yes, this is a stressful time. It’s frustrating. It’s worrying. So much about our near-term future is unknown and unknowable. But by doing something for yourself, something that makes you happy, you take back some control over your life. For a while, you block out what’s causing you stress and you replace it with whatever brings you happiness.

And you will emerge on the other side of this crisis a better person with new skills that, in turn, might just open up other opportunities you never expected.

 

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