Living the New Normal

By Emily Korteweg | 22 April 2020

A few days ago I went on a walk and I saw two kids playing soccer in their garden. They were about 5 and 8 years old, laughing and rolling through the grass, and I had every urge to run and join them in the game. Watching them gave me pause  – more often than ‘normal’ these days – and made me think about today’s world and the future. Their future. My future. Our future.

That future was never set in stone. You can plan some, create ‘luck’ through preparation, but a Black Swan event radically changes the foreseeable future in some way or another for everyone. Suddenly the future you thought you had figured out becomes filled with question marks. When can we go about the streets and shops again? When can I openly hug my friends again? How will this virus develop, and will my parents be healthy? Will there be a sustained economic crisis? For me and my business, it is all of those questions and more. When can productions start again and what will they look like? Will the postponed projects cause cancellations altogether? How will distributors’ buying change, and will financing in the short term become even more competitive?

To that end, these past weeks allowed me to put everything I do in business and life, and everything my team and I have planned, under a loop. We’re asking ourselves, “Where are we at, and where do we want to go?”

Overall, we are fortunately not negatively impacted yet. The Climb release, which took up a lot of time, was supposed to be March 20. It was pushed to the summer to accommodate the virus, and this ‘break’ has allowed us to build a stronger foundation under our new company. We are pushing our pipeline of projects in development forward, signing on new ideas and properties, strategizing scenarios, and we even hired a new coordinator. The demand for stories, insight, and entertainment will only continue to grow; we just have to be intentional and adaptable to how we supply it. In other words, we need to roll with the punches… and make sure we have some boxing practice. 

On a personal note, it has been hard at times to be far away from my own family across the pond in Europe, especially when some fell ill. Fortunately, they all came out on the other end, so I can in no way complain. I am very aware that many, many people, their families, and businesses are fighting to survive right now. We are trying to find ways to be helpful outside of donations and volunteering. 

Lastly – because this is after all! – I want to talk about money moves. And boy, has money been moving. My investments were performing well up until two months ago, but have since plummeted, and are now slowly rising or fluctuating. Whether you are in a position to hold, or you suddenly have to cash out for immediate cash flow – you feel the instability, and it’s not fun. But maybe this feeling is necessary; a wake-up call to reassess your position, double-check your risk appetite, and learn that something substantial and out of your control can actually happen and you need to be prepared for it without being constantly frightened by it. Many of our grandparents went through a world war and always carried that reality in their lives. It’s humbling.

Nav.igating Day to Day

With all those moving parts and unknowns, it is easy to go down rabbit holes. The general media and ‘news’ channels, especially in the US, certainly don’t help. Perspective is key, and of course, this perspective depends on the cards you are being dealt with. Focusing on what you can control, your own actions and reactions, rather than shifting to reliance on, blame or frustration over the things and/or people that you have zero control over, will (1.) put you in a much better mood and (2.) make you realise your power.

On a day to day basis, I find that creating a routine and blocking out my days is extremely productive. I am spending quarantine in a household of 8 (including an incredible one-year-old). With work so busy right now, the days fly by. Being structured and disciplined creates the freedom to be completely open and creative, and it feels victorious ending a day having done it all: a workout, buckled down with work, read, walked, cooked for everyone, called my friends and fam, played the piano, meditated and watched a movie. The only danger in this for me (or perhaps it’s a learning curve) is beating myself up when I don’t get it all done. Because some days we don’t, and that is ok too. At the same time, having this routine makes me extra aware of what spontaneous things I miss most, and how big a part of my personality those things are as well.

Even with that routine, when you think you have it all figured out, life happens and you have to laugh if you can. I was dead set on ‘finally learning that epic yoga headstand’ during quarantine. Then I slipped down the stairs and couldn’t lift my right arm for four days. Another opportunity to roll with the punches!

Nav.igating the Bigger Picture

This has undoubtedly been a time for a lot of insight and reflection. The insights I have gained are clearly specific to my personal experience, though I would like to believe they are shared when you boil them down. It’s little things and realizing what you miss most, versus what you really might not miss at all. I can’t wait to travel back to my family and drive to my friends, though I don’t mind wasting less time running around the city. I am going to make my own coffee more often, but treasure the cup that I buy at a cafe. I can’t wait to get back out in the field with my work, but I will be more mindful of protecting ‘my’ time. And I can keep going.

And then there’s the bigger picture. I hope this experience leaves us less polarized. I hope we don’t stop banging pots and pans every once in a while to honor everyday heroes, and acknowledge each other. I hope we don’t rush back to ‘normal’ without remembering what we learned. I hope we think rationally, deliberately and freely about the choices we are making in terms of what powers we want to put in governments and corporations, and what power we vest in ourselves. Because I believe challenges like this, ultimately, will make us stronger.

As I continued on my walk, thinking about the future, I passed another garden. This time, a young girl came running up the driveway – a tea towel wrapped around her head, a mop triumphantly in hand. Her little brother jumped next to her, with some kitchen paper the length of a receipt waving behind him like a cape. 

“Come on, we’re superheroes. We have to keep going! Let’s go!!”

Let’s go. 

We’re changing the narrative around money but change can’t happen with a one-sided conversation. That’s why we’re excited to bring different voices and experts to share their wisdom. Send us an email and let us know what you think. And remember the money app offers you free tools like debt repayment calculators and checking in and managing your money moves.

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Head of Development for Watch This Ready and founder of Linchpin Pictures, Emily Korteweg

Emily Korteweg is the Head of Development for Watch This Ready, a production company with an overhead deal under Topic Studios. Emily faced her fears head-on when she left her home country at the age of 18, studied the male-dominated field of finances, and is now making moves in Hollywood, armed with empowering advice for all women on their career and personal finance journey.

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