Covid-19 gave us one heck of an unpredictable year. It’s also been an opportunity for growth and gratitude...
Let’s face it. This year is a rollercoaster of emotions. Fear, anxiety and worry on repeat. We’ve all felt it. But the overwhelming one? For me, it’s gratitude. Covid-19 has been a wake up call to slow down, hit pause and reflect. Where do your priorities lie? How happy are you with your life right now? What changes are a long time coming? This pandemic has been such a life-altering event that you can’t just ‘go back to normal’ afterwards. There is no more Life As You Knew It. We’re on to version 2.0, where face masks are trending and social distancing is the buzzword everyone loves to hate.
The never-ending year
2020 went on for 12 months, but it feels more like 12 years. All those cancelled events, restaurants and shops closing down, people getting fined for breaking the rules, the empty streets, job losses, natural disasters, the worst dengue outbreak ever, Covid-19 deaths, the muted festivities… and the list goes on. Am I the only one who gets a slight twinge of unease mixed in with a dash of nostalgia when I look at old photos or videos with huge crowds of people? It’s strange to think we lived a completely different life in 2019.
It took a while to adjust to the stay-home, everything-digital year. Introverts everywhere rejoiced, while extroverts wept. We missed the simplest things like dinner with family, an afternoon full of laughter with friends and the adrenaline rush of watching a live performance.
Nevertheless, besides the initial apprehension and stress – especially when supermarket hoarding was going strong – it’s been a year of learning and growing for me. Eventually, I pushed away the fear that threatened to bubble up inside and chose not to let negativity in the news affect me. Being out in nature definitely helped – as I’m sure it did for all the people with a newfound enthusiasm for running and cycling. I have a roof over my head, food on the table, loved ones safe around me, a job that allows me to work at home, and a home environment that’s conducive to getting work done. Put all that together, and how can I not be grateful?
Finding routine in the midst of change
I admit, the lines between work and life were blurred at first. And by that I mean I had no life during the circuit breaker, since work was the only thing to do apart from binge-watch countless hours of Netflix. But after obsessive bouts of #quarantinebaking, I finally settled into my new habits, setting better boundaries these days in an attempt to take care of my mental health.
People say lockdown living opened their eyes to their partner’s flaws, but I’ve learned so much about mine that’s more endearing and entertaining than annoying or obnoxious. We each have our own space to get serious work done, and we come together at the end of the day to decompress.
We embarked on a ‘discover Singapore’ journey and walked everywhere – from nearby neighbourhoods to far-off treks. We saw the streets and green spaces of Singapore with fresh perspectives, uncovering hidden gems we never noticed and ticking off places on our bucket list we never made time for. Sure, there have been days when I’d prefer the company of pigeons on my window to that same ol’ face. But we’ve learned to give and take, to allow for space to breathe, to share what we’re thankful for, and to show love to one another in small ways.
One thing I will say about WFH though, is to make your space as comfortable and ergonomic as possible. My back erupted in a world of pain recently, and after visits to a traditional Chinese medicine clinic and a physiotherapist, I’ve pinpointed the cause (or at least part of it). All those cosy days happily lounging on the bed and chilling on the cushy couch with my laptop? Oh, I regret them 100%. Maybe it’s an apt way to end an awful year. Yet I’m thankful to be on the road to recovery. And for the ever-so-real reminder that, no matter how young I think I am, I’m not invincible, nor am I immune. It’s a humbling and sobering realisation.
There’s so much to be grateful for – like the people around me. How they spread the love with care packages during the circuit breaker and beyond. If you haven’t discovered the excitement and joy of sending surprise deliveries to your loved ones, it’s an addictive feeling, I tell ya. Plus, video chats brought our family closer together, with catch-ups across international borders. Now, we make more of an effort to spend time with one another because it’s the small things that count. The shared experiences. The insider jokes. The little moments you treasure that will stay with you through the years.
There are plenty of opinions out there on how Singapore handled the pandemic, but I will say I’m thankful for the safety and security of living here. It’s not perfect by any means. Even so, it’s a community of people who look out for one another. Upon reflecting on 2020, I’d rather remember the good instead of focusing on the bad. Let’s look past the selfishness of a few and think of the heartwarming stories that came out of the pandemic. All those who lent someone a helping hand by giving their time, money and efforts – even opening up their homes to strangers.
Seeing people rally around each other has been inspiring and encouraging. The heartfelt words and donations for healthcare heroes. The fundraisers for the needy and migrant workers. The generous individuals who went out of their way to distribute free masks or provide hand sanitisers in lifts. The jokes! Because we can all use a good laugh in dark times. It was in the midst of a shitty year that we saw people come together with grace and courage, and that was heartening. Plus, Phase 3 is finally on the way. And now that we’ve got a vaccine – no matter your stance on that – there’s a bit of a silver lining to this dark cloud.
It’s about gratitude and appreciation
So was 2020 a wasted year of missed opportunities? Or was it a year of adapting, becoming resilient, holding on to hope and finally realising what’s important? If there’s one thing I’d like to leave behind in 2020, it’s the fear of the unknown (and maybe banana bread – god knows we’ve baked enough of those). There’s only so much we can control. And we’ll never know what happens next, so all we can do is appreciate each moment as it comes instead of constantly zipping around, getting caught up in our own busyness.
People say they’re itching to travel, that there’s nothing to do in Singapore, but there’s plenty to discover if only you look. I’ve genuinely enjoyed exploring this city I call home. And the best part is, I get to do it with my loved ones.
In so many ways, this year has been a mirror reflecting the truth about ourselves we perhaps knew but never acknowledged. That it’s not only about us; it’s about the people around us too. There’s just something about a crisis that makes you realise you don’t actually need all that extra stuff in your life. So even though the year has been one heck of a challenge, my heart is full of gratitude for all the good things that have emerged from 2020.
2021, we’re coming for you.