This morning, I woke up in a different world. Instead of the blasting of car horns, I heard birds singing. I panicked, frantically checking whether or not I would miss my train. Then, I remembered. I was no longer in Brooklyn. There would be no train to catch.

Like many others, the spread of COVID-19 resulted in remote work for myself and my co-workers. And rather than stick it out in NYC, my partner Kyle and I decided to flee to the house I own in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“Please come home,” my best friend and tenant, Katie, had begged me the week before. “Come home before it’s too late.”

I didn’t believe that it would ever be “too late” to leave New York, but I came home anyway. It seemed like a better alternative than working from home in my apartment. Now, after hearing about curfews, empty grocery store shelves, and friends who are stuck in their apartments, I know we made the right choice. We’re squeezed into a 900 foot square space with Katie and her roommate, Brian, but we made the right choice.

I know that I’m one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends and family members are at risk for losing their jobs. Many have lost them already. I feel useless and stupidly optimistic when I promise them that everything will be okay. But in this season of our lives, I’m willing to be that fool. What’s the alternative?

I’m not naive. I know this pandemic is changing the world as we know it. I know that many people will die, many will go broke, many will find themselves with work and at times, without hope. Still, I find myself looking for the silver lining. Despite how cheesy it was, I can’t help but remember a scene from the 2016 film Collateral Beauty.

“Just make sure you notice the collateral beauty,” Helen Mirren’s character says to a mother about to lose her daughter.

The mother, of course, was slightly offended. Out of context, it’s a jarring, insensitive statement. But my brother and I, who saw the film together, were fixated on that part. We share a similar balance of cautious optimism and realistic cynicism, and found it fascinating.

What a concept, we said on the car drive home, to find any kind of shine in such dark times.

In these dark times, I may not have any guarantees, but I have the flexibility of working from a safe space. Kyle is by my side. Without our typical distractions, our relationship is quieter, but more intimate. I cook and bake for him. He bought us fishing rods for the creek near my house.

Despite a 50 foot tree branch landing on my back porch on the same day we arrived, no one was hurt. I can actually spend time with my best friend, who I never get to see. I’ve talked to my Mom more in the past two weeks than I have in months.

Without the noise of everyday life, my creativity has returned. I’m doodling. I’m writing. In lieu of quick, unhealthy options, I’m back to making my own dinner. Bars are closed, so I don’t have weekly $50 tabs anymore.

For those who are suffering deeply, I know how I come off. But I choose to be positive. There are only so many roles to take during a pandemic, and the only one that interests me is the cheerleader. Because the collateral beauty is here. And right now, it’s all any of us have.

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