It’s that time of the year again.
And what a year it has been. Let me attempt to tell you my 2020 story.
How 2020 started
The start of this year marked one of the longest time I had stayed in Singapore continuously without leaving the country. I hadn’t traveled since our Nagano trip in October, the absolute last time I could travel while pregnant – You can’t fly 30 weeks into pregnancy without a doctor’s note.
Little did I know that the trip would be the last time I would travel out of Singapore for a long time.
Living in Singapore, which has close ties with China, we’ve started hear about the virus we now know as COVID-19, as early as December. Back then, it was just a “possible new type of flu virus strain, possibly pneumonia, in China”.
I didn’t think much about this virus. I was inexperienced and frankly rather shortsighted when it comes to a contagious diseases, having never lived through SARS as I wasn’t in Asia when it hit back in 2003. My husband on the other hand, is more observative. He was the first person to highlight concerns about the virus to me. “This could get really bad”, I remember him telling me. And even then, I still didn’t think much of it, because I didn’t have time. I was a new mother, too busy learning how to parent, and if I were to be honest, postpartum wasn’t very kind on my mental health.
But It didn’t take long before I was forced to notice. Things escalated quickly in Singapore. By the time I went for my first postpartum checkup in mid-January, hospitals had required us to sign a declaration form citing we had not been to China in the past 14 days, and to wear mask only if we feel unwell (remember that narrative? oh, how times have changed). Soon, even shopping malls started requiring temperature checks and the same declaration forms.
Then, Singapore closed its border
Then the Singapore border started to close. Slowly at first, but accelerated rather quickly. It wasn’t long before Singapore decided to effectively shut down its border from March 17 to any visitors aside of its citizen and long-term resident. I remember this date clearly because my mom, who came to Singapore to help with the baby, had just left to go back to Indonesia the day before the announcement. Already fragile with postpartum stress, I nearly had a breakdown upon hearing the news. I felt helpless and afraid.
I still haven’t seen my mom since then. Singapore still hasn’t really opened up its borders again even as I’m writing this post. While I know this is a necessary move, I am saddened for my baby to grow up without any family in his life, aside of my sister who is also living in Singapore and has been pulling all the weight to support me.
And then the lockdown happened
… Or “circuit breaker” as it is referred to in Singapore.
Essentially, the country went on a full lockdown for two months, from April 7 to June 2. And when I say lockdown, I mean a real lockdown. We were limited to seeing only those we live with, and you really do not want to be caught visiting another household. We were only allowed to go out for essential purposes.
I know a lockdown was the right thing to do, but it doesn’t mean I felt amazing during. I still have PTSD whenever I’m reminded just how somber life was during that period. I distracted myself by cooking a lot. I lost all my pregnancy weight, then it continued to go down that I actually became 4kg lighter than my pre-pregnancy self.
Grocery shelves were sparse at times. It’s easy to feel detached from reality when you’re locked down with a newborn and a lot of things on your hands, but seeing sparse shelves at the store and all the closed shops in the dimmed out mall during my grocery runs was a reminder that this pandemic was real.
I don’t ever, ever want to go back to that time again.
Easing up to the new normal
The strict lockdown worked. Singapore managed to bring down our case numbers to almost no community cases. Most new cases are imported, meaning it is traced to a person coming back from overseas and was caught under quarantine.
Life in Singapore has pretty much returned to be as normal as it could be, given the circumstances. For most days, we could go on with our lives without having to worry about catching the virus. We still have to wear a mask when outside the house though!
How 2020 ended
So as you can see 2020 was far from being the best year for me and pretty much EVERYBODY in the world, but… to my surprise, it wasn’t the worst either.
Firstly, I recognize how lucky I am to be able to say this. Even though I lost nearly all of my passive income from this blog, I still have a full-time job that pays the bills. Not only that, our industry is one of the few that were positively impacted by the pandemic (e-commerce) and we were acquired by one of the major players in tech. Overnight, I went from working at a small start up to a big company.
And as much as I hated the lockdown period, being forced to stay at home was quite possibly the greatest gift for a first-time mother like me. I was able to continue working on breastfeeding my baby. Many mothers would know that breastfeeding is a full-time job on its own, one that I am positive I can’t continue if I had to go back to the office.
So I have to admit though my mental state was not the best in 2020, looking back, it was actually one of the better years for my personal life.
What’s in store for 2021?
I’ve put off writing the year in review post for this year for a long time. In fact, I’m publishing this post at the half-year mark of 2021, so that tells you how much I did not want to write this post. Mostly because… I’m dreading writing about this very part you are reading. I’m not quite sure how I should end this post, because for the first time in awhile, I feel that I have no control over my future. I don’t know when I’ll be able to travel again. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see my parents again.
I suppose, one thing for sure is that I’ll be spending more time getting to know Singapore, my home for the past decade. Which isn’t such a bad thing per se… but if I’m being honest, I can’t wait to be able to travel, if only just to see my family again.