When I first heard of this new strain of coronavirus haunting China, it seemed a little surreal watching as trucks spewed white fog through abandoned streets. “That won’t affect us,” I thought at the time, but here we are a few months later and it’s seriously screwing up our lives. Worse yet, it’s probably only started, so we have to get ready for the long haul. I hate to be a drag, but some medical professionals are predicting twelve to eighteen months, the expected time for a safe and effective vaccine to start mass production. Numbers the World over keep increasing and will continue to increase regardless of our efforts. Remember, we are trying to “slow” the curve, not turn it upside-down.
I’m seeing a lot of things coming up on Facebook and news channels suggesting various types of games to entertain ourselves during the Mother of all Pandemics. (Has someone called it this? If not, dibs!) People are having dance parties, doing jigsaw puzzles, and making all sorts of make-shift activities to entertain themselves and their children, but I think this is also a time for personal growth. Here are a few ideas.
First, make an effort to learn a new language. There are several phone apps that can assist in this task and they are easy to access when you’re bored and/or sitting on the toilet. The last thing you need right now is to worry about your toilet paper supply. I started using Duolingo and it’s not bad. The problem is, Duolingo forces you to translate, which I’ve never been a fan of, especially since many former students who insisted on translating learned slower than students who just dove in, so dive the heck in. Unfortunately, you are not likely to travel there for a good long while.
If you’ve ever dreamt of being a rock star, now is your chance: beg, borrow, or buy an instrument and dive in. If you’ve hidden that old Rickenbacker in your Mom’s cluttered, mothball smelling basement, dust it off and learn some new songs. Show it some love. The Internet is full of lessons and materials to get you started. If you want to learn how to play drums but cannot afford a drum set then buy two sticks and a drum pad. Start working on those paradiddles and develop some dexterity–trust me, you’ll need it. The important thing is to choose a real instrument, not Rockband or Guitar Hero. The skills acquired through those games will not sustain you for these many months and, when it’s all over, you can emerge from your jam cave and impress the world (well, family and friends) with your skills. Send me an email if you need a half-assed drummer!
The third thing you can try is writing. I know some of you are saying, “Gosh, that’s easy for you to say, because you’re already a writer.” Well, yes, that may be true, but I only became a writer because I started writing. There is no job application for writing, you just have to wing-it, as I did when I sent my first travel story out to a group of friends in 1999. I got so much positive feedback I kept going and within a few years was able to compile a hundred pages of pseudo-quality writing. Write about something that interests you, or if you have a story rattling around inside your head, start writing it. I always said I could never write fiction, but challenged myself to write a fiction story and loved it. (Hint: you can write anything you want!)
Once I am officially laid-off, which I fear is coming soon, my goals are to get back to learning Japanese, playing more drums and guitar, and writing another story. I may start a novel. When this whole bizarre virus thing is over, I’m going to look back and think of how productive I was and not just how much beer I drank and how many belt sizes I increased. Are you willing to join me? Pick three, I dare you.