It’s six weeks into the new year and it’s been pretty eventful so far (despite a national lockdown). I’ve managed to break my ankle, catch covid, lock myself out of the flat (on crutches) and also had the water supply temporarily cut off without warning. But all in all, I feel pretty good.
I think in some ways, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have felt so all encompassing in their isolation and how much they affect you, that more trivial or common mishaps in some ways breaks that doom and gloom feeling. Shit still happens. Life still happens, it’s just a little subdued right now.
Crazy to think we’re fast approaching one full year since I started working from home. Trying to remember how it felt back at that time, it felt like such a bizarre occurrence. There was such disbelief from friends, loved ones and also myself that it would last any longer than 4-6 months tops. And how we’ve all learnt since.
We’ve taken a lot from 2020 in terms of teachings, although definitely more of the tough love vein. My hope for 2021 is that we end this year having been able to implement those learnings and grow positively.
At the end of a year, it’s natural to do some reflecting on the year past. Particularly what with time off work for the holidays, it’s natural to start thinking with more time on your hands. Having just watched Death to 2020, it just really hammered in what a bizarre year it’s been. With the Hong Kong security law, Brexit, the Beirut explosion, a new intensity of wildfires due to climate change, the trash TV show that’s been American politics, ending with a big finale of the election all drawn out to the overture of covid and all its complexities… It’s hard not to have felt fatigued from reading the news this year. Opening a news site became associated with an ominous feeling of dread “what new development awaits us now?”. And that’s all stuff on the global news cycle that I have no control over. In fact the main mental health implication is how those breaking news stories bled over and impacted personal life. Not just mine, but everybody across the globe. It’s hard to imagine another development positive or negative that has simultaneously affected everyone globally.
Personally I’m doing well which I recognise and am very grateful for. My partner and I are both working for companies that have not only survived but had very good years despite covid so our jobs are stable. In fact, my job has been incredibly stressful and busy since August which brought on its own issues. I work in an industry which has historically been vulnerable to budget cuts so my company has been cautious in spend (i.e. hiring people), and being in a world situation where job losses was at an all time high it meant you had to just suck it up and pull in the intense and long hours in order to meet client demands. Which has sucked. My mental and physical health has suffered for it. It’s scary to think that I am still considered one of the lucky ones and I do still think that.
Mental health wise, being in London has been incredibly tricky. It’s so easy to feel stuck, London has always had its own centre of gravity that made it difficult to leave, but now public transport was made to be something to fear, it meant you couldn’t travel 45 mins to get to the other side of the city to do that thing you wanted to like go to a restaurant or a climbing wall. With restrictions changing on a weekly sometimes daily basis like the menu of a bougie hipster cafe or restaurant, just flip flopping between being stuck indoors and being able to go out and see friends, it’s been really hard to adjust and get through it. You’re having to adjust every two seconds with very little consistency. The loss of control and ability to actualise what I want to do is the thing I struggle with the most. It will be interesting to see what the mental health implications of this will be. You don’t have to have had covid to be affected by the pandemic.
With vaccines being approved one by one, and distribution starting, I know the start of 2021 won’t look much different from the end of 2020 – I don’t think we’re under any illusions there. But I do fervently hope along with the whole world that we can reach a point where this becomes manageable. Covid isn’t going away miraculously, no matter what outgoing idiotic world leaders say so. It may mutate out of existence (which is random and small in chance), but likelihood is that it will continue to exist and infect people so if we can get to a point where there are protocols to manage it like smallpox, we might be able to get back to some semblance of life before. Where we were able to go about our lives without having to worry about an invisible enemy.
With a sudden curtailment of the freedoms a lifestyle in a western city offers, it removes all of the glorious distractions that makes such a place attractive to live. Suddenly in a densely populated city where people are living upwards, you find it suddenly feels very claustrophobic. This has been ever more highlighted in the recent week where restrictions have loosened and allowed sunbathing in parks. Right near where we live on days with beautiful sunshine, it somewhat resembles a field at a music festival.
So in this busy, crammed city where your normal routine is completely dashed and time for your thoughts is exponentially increased, it leads one to question “what restrictions would need to be relaxed in order to make things more bearable?”. For some people it’s simply seeing friends, for others it’s pubs, and others it’s travel abroad. The more I thought about it, the less I am sure about how to answer that question. Suddenly without the distractions I’m yet again faced with the question of what life it is I want to live. What makes my life worth living?
It’s hugely interesting to see on the news how countries are starting to put measures in place to allow businesses to open and international travel to take place again. In the face of a likely second wave or possibly even a third, it feels like they’re saying they’ve had enough and life cannot continue the way it was.
This pandemic as with every other trial in life will pass, eventually, how we choose to handle it is entirely up to us. If I could possibly leave this period with more idea and motivation towards a life I want to lead, that would be a great result of a very weird period in this life.
That is the phrase I have tattooed on my leg in Hebrew. “Gam zeh ya’avor”.
I got this because a friend had said it to me during the really dark period of my life a couple of years ago. It was such a short phrase said almost as a throw-away attempt to comfort me (nothing brought me much comfort in those days). It stuck and it seared itself into my memory becoming some sort of mantra.
This too shall pass.
This time shall pass. This awful feeling will pass. This horrific time will pass. This journey will pass. This amazing time in South East Asia will pass. It will all pass, good and bad, all of it.
There are so many things to take away from that phrase. It did bring me comfort. In the days where I was hurting so much I wanted the world to burn with me, it comforted me to know that at some point it probably will. In the days after where I went travelling to heal, it reminded me to savour every beautiful, precious moment out there, because it too, undoubtedly will pass.
And now, in my more settled state in London, I find myself still lost, having been lost since I got back. I know what direction I want to go but I’m scared. It will require sacrifice of time, effort and hope. The last one being something I know how scarce and valuable it is. So I don’t dare dream, I don’t dare strive. I try and build towards my dream within the tiny sandbox that I have penned myself in. It’s impossible to build a real castle inside a sandbox.
Today was the first time in a long time where a conversation with the right person ignited my enthusiasm, my passion if you will. It was there all along, it’s never changed or waivered. I just needed the right person to help me unearth it. I don’t belong in a sandbox. And it is scary to try and invest in this. There’s no guarantee it will be a good investment. But time will pass, it doesn’t hang around. You don’t have eternity so get moving now. You’re never going to be as young as you are now so what are you waiting for?
I have to start this post off by admitting that I am, for the most part, a bit of a weird individual. I don’t really believe in normal – I think everyone is on a spectrum but just hide things – but I do have a lot of idiosyncrasies and behaviours which are odd. This I am aware of.
In the past, I’ve always had to restrain or tone down parts of myself in relationships. My oddities made my partners uncomfortable or confounded by my behaviour. It is not until this relationship that I truly feel accepted as who I am.
This man, the more I am weird, the more he laughs and expresses joy at seeing it. Going so far to even say he likes my weirdness. Having had the fixed idea that I will always have to hide myself in some ways in relationships, it feels so liberating to be truly be accepted for who I am, unapologetically.
Feels bizarre to hit a new decade. The realisation hit me only two days before the new year began. This year I will be three decades old, which is quite an overwhelming thought for some. It’s interesting speaking to friends in similar situations and seeing the breadth of reactions. One friend admitted they had gone to therapy because of anxieties about turning 30. They weren’t where they thought they’d be in terms of career or relationship/family. I guess that’s why it’s important to manage expectations and see the importance for setting goals (to encourage motivation and ambition) but accept that things may not quite go to plan.
For the most part, I have always had fairly little long term expectations of where I would be. At my roots, I am a dreamer so I have a thousand things I want to be, but the realist in me knows that I cannot be all of those things at once so I compromise by having an attitude of trying to be the dandelion puff that rides on the wind. Except, perhaps with a tad more self-determination.
A decade is a long time. 2010s saw me grow into an adult and learn some hard lessons. I wonder where 2020s will take me.
Just said goodbye this evening to my parents before they fly back to HK tomorrow. They’ve been living there for almost a decade, and yet I still haven’t quite got used to saying goodbye to them. Weirdly it’s just got worse as time goes on. I struggle to not well up when saying goodbye. It’s always awkward, and looking at my dad always sets me off – he’s the one who’s also welling up. Then comes the awkward shoulder grip and pat that’s loaded with emotions as we force smiles that are a mix of happy of having spent time together but sadness to be separating again.
They brought us over here in ’96 to help enrich our lives and give us a unique opportunity that many kids in HK would never get – for that I will always be grateful. But it has caused a difficult conundrum when they moved back to HK and we stayed here. Trying to navigate familial bonds when your parents are a 12 hour flight away and 7/8 hours ahead (depending on time of year) is difficult at best, painful when you or they are going through harder times where other families may band together, we don’t have that luxury. I hate that word is even somewhat applicable.
It certainly forced me to become self-reliant in a sink or swim fashion and that is something that I identify as a fundamental part of my personality. But still I want to acknowledge the pain that come along with this process.
In a bittersweet way, the distance does make the time that we spend even more precious. But until next time, I will go back to being the island that I am.
I remember when I was a young teenager, when coming across someone who was in their mid/late twenties and thinking “Wow, that’s so old! I’ll never get there”. It just seemed like such a distant concept that my mind couldn’t quite comprehend how I would get there.
Today, as a 28 year old, I look back and recognise that version of myself. I am no longer that person, but that person is part of me. The person I am today encompasses every single day and every single version of myself I have been but I am more than them. And the person I am today, will be less than the person tomorrow, next week and in a year’s time.
There is no wasted time, for all that you’ve learnt, thought and gained comes from the people you have been whether that’s been the life you wanted by design or lived but desperately wanted to get out of. Those circumstances have left you with the motivations and viewpoints you have now so as with so many things in life, acceptance is the key to be able to make peace with who you have been and are. This will enable you to harness all the powers you have in your fingertips. The person you are today is magnificent and I look forward to seeing who you are tomorrow.
I have tried and struggled to put into words the multiple times that I have attempted to process this relationship. It’s a very new and slightly puzzling experience to try and express how I feel but never feeling like I’m doing it justice.
Throughout my life thus far, I have been learning – always learning – particularly about things I may not want in a relationship. I had resigned myself to the fact that to be in a relationship I will end up having to compromise a fair amount because where am I going to find someone particular in the same ways as me? I still pinch myself from time to time to make sure I haven’t just made him up in my mind.
It’s a weird feeling to have, he makes me so happy but the kind of happy where it’s not overly animated. In a way that you are content with life. I know this is something special.
What is the root reason that we as a species seek romantic relationships? If familial bonds and friendships are close enough, why is it we still sought out that additional dynamic?
Maybe part of it is the level of acceptance that we seek from these relationships that we cannot gain from others. We bare our souls to reveal our weaknesses and vulnerability in the process. It’s a terrifying process with no real guarantee that you will be truly accepted, but if you hold back then you limit the gains. It’s hard to let go like that when you’ve been hurt, and we as a species can be awful to one another.
I’ve met someone who I’m still learning as a person, but we have been uncensored in the way we have shared ourselves with each other. It feels amazing to not have to restrain myself in any way and be able to speak about all thoughts. It feels even more amazing for him to say what he thinks, express what he likes and for me to naturally be able to accept it. He is an incredible human being. I didn’t really think this level of not having to compromise and admiration in a relationship could exist. Long may it continue.