Feeling Stuck in Life? Use This Crisis to Your Advantage…
Let’s immediately dispense with the bad news…
The U.S. economy will not rebound quickly. We lost 5% of the economy in the first quarter, and another 9.6% in the second quarter. Those are epic numbers. On a more human scale, tens of millions of jobs are gone and more than 100,000 businesses have shuttered for good. The notion of a V-shaped recovery was a pipe dream from the very beginning because the growth on which that right-hand upstroke was predicated relied entirely on Congress keeping Americans afloat with $600 weekly unemployment checks. That cannot continue. I’m thinking a Nike swoosh recovery—with a lazy upstroke.
Thanks for raining on my weekend, Jeff. I suppose you’re going to spin this positively?
Why, yes…yes I am.
I’ve noted this before but it’s worth repeating: People often get so consumed by the door closing in front of them that they never think to turn around and see that there’s a door opening elsewhere.
I’m not trying to downplay this crazy coronavirus crisis. This might well turn out to be the most economically destructive crisis in U.S. history—and that says nothing about the human cost and the societal destruction it has wrought.
But for those who’ve lost a job, there is an opportunistic way to look at this. This moment can serve as a mulligan—a do-over. I know a great many of us end up in jobs/careers that were never really our calling. We just landed there, and ended up stuck there, because of circumstance. And at some point, inertia takes the wheel and, well, easier to stay seated than stand up and rock the boat.
Sometimes, however, events emerge to upset the boat for us. We can either lament these events and fret about our future, or we can choose to label them a “fortuitous opportunity” and exploit them to our benefit. You see this scene in movies all the time: Someone loses a job and is on a downward spiral until some other character reminds them that they hated that job and that this is the chance to go be that chef (or whatever) that they’ve always dreamed of becoming.
Rethinking career and redefining ourselves is the hallmark of those who successfully navigate personal crises. I’ve used my example a few times, but it fits today’s theme well, so I’ll repeat it briefly. Losing a job I loved freaked me out. Unemployed for the first time ever? And in my 50s? I took a couple weeks to grieve and to gather my bearings. And I realized that fate, the universe, happenstance—whatever you want to call it—had intervened. Yes, it was an emotionally and financially painful intervention, but that was the necessary path. It cleared away the obstacles and catalyzed and clarified my thinking.
As you might already know, I ended up back at the University of California, Los Angeles in pursuit of a screenwriting education—a long-held dream. Today, I’m using that education to earn a bit of cash through a side hustle, though not in the obvious way. While I do write screenplays—and while I await that elusive “overnight success”—I’m earning freelance income editing, proofing, and improving the screenplays of others. And I really enjoy it.
Better yet, I’m doing it from parks and pubs and, well, wherever I want to be in Prague (or elsewhere in Europe or the world, prior to COVID). That, too, was another long-held dream—to live abroad and travel the world, a dream dating to my childhood when I was traveling globally with my mom, who worked for various international airlines.
Losing my job opened up these opportunities for me. Sure, the opportunities were always there. But when you’re neck-deep in your everyday routine, it’s so easy to push your dreams aside and promise yourself you’ll pursue them later. You’re too busy right now—meaning you’re too comfy and/or too scared to shake up your status quo.
But, of course, “later” rarely comes.
Except now, later is actually here—by way of a pandemic.
So, if you’ve lost a job—or even if you haven’t—take a moment to consider those dreams you’ve been putting off. What did you reallywant to do with your life? What did you reallywant be when you grew up? Where did you reallywant to live?
This might just be your chance at a mulligan.
Look, I know exactly how you feel. Been there, done that, as they say.
But, as they also say, there’s no time like the present.
And maybe if you turn around and look for the newly opened door, you’ll see that the present is calling you to chase that dream.
By Jeff D. Opdyke