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Unhappy Anniversary to Mask Wearing

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A year ago, it was the start of my mask-wearing journey.

It was my last evening in New Zealand and I wore the mask moments before leaving my accommodation to enter the private hire car (Ola) which brought me to Auckland International Airport. It was a lonely departure but the situation back then couldn’t justify having friends/acquaintances’ sending me ‘off’ as the airport was a danger zone for COVID infections. Throughout my stay in New Zealand, I have ‘sent off’ many friends (and my family) at the airport hall so I didn’t really expect that I will have to end my working holiday journey alone. Back then in my mind, it had been somewhat of a whirlwind as the whole world was panicking and countries all over the world had been closing off their airports, in an attempt to ‘contain’ the outbreak.

The return flight that I had booked was six days later than my actual flight (it was the last day of my visa) but the fear and anxiety of the situation back then made me expedited my journey home. Till today, I still think about the ‘what-ifs’ as if I did not change my flight tickets, I would have been automatically granted a visa extension (to remain in New Zealand for 3 or more months). Even till today, I still have friends remaining in New Zealand, exceeding their intended six-month/1-year stint; cause everything ‘paused’ for COVID and things ain’t back to the norm yet. As much as I regretted my decision to return to Singapore early, I always remind myself that there are many things that have worked out well because I returned – getting a job, hanging out with my friends, attending friends’ weddings, being in the same timezone to support my ‘hobby’ and the extended family time which I know I will appreciate before my parents get older.

I always remind myself that time shouldn’t be wasted on the ‘regrets’ and the ‘what-ifs’ but I guess it will take time for me to get rid of this bad habit of mine. I think a lot and often it may not be to my advantage. Well, at least now I am aware and conscious of this bad habit of mine. That’s an improvement.

Anyway, I guess I was really lucky to have masks in New Zealand. The masks I brought were originally from my 2018 Japan trip where I had been coughing so badly. When you’re ‘sick’ in Japan, it was rude to not wear a mask and furthermore, it was winter and the mask helps to keep your throat warm with the humidity. When I was in New Zealand, I was pretty much in the pink of health and did not need the mask at all.

(Continuing on my mask story)

I wore my mask throughout the flight duration (~9 or 10 hours), only taking it off when I had to drink or eat. Even after landing in Singapore, I kept my mask on throughout until I entered my parent’s car. I still remember that my flight landed 1 hour earlier at dawn (5/6am) and I had to wait a while for my parents to arrive. After I reached home, I started a self-imposed home quarantine as recommended by my mum. It was a little frustrating initially but I soon got used to it. During this period, mask-wearing became compulsory in Singapore (You can get fined for not wearing a mask) and a few days before my ‘quarantine’ ended, our government announced a lockdown. During that lockdown period, only essential workers could go to work and all non-essential activities had to be halted. Office workers had to work from home and dining out was no longer allowed. Eateries could still operate on a delivery/take-out model and you should only get out of the house to buy groceries/food or to ‘exercise’.

I had 5 days of freedom between my quarantine and the lockdown and I did meet up with some of my friends, although it wasn’t encouraged by the government. Unfortunately (or perhaps deserving), I ended up with a super random traffic offence which they couldn’t elaborate on what my mistake (nor could they provide me with evidence) and I was slapped with a $200 fine + demerit points. ouch. Adding on to the agony, I had food poisoning as well so perhaps it was a ‘punishment’ for going out.

(Yea, I am scrolling through my Instagram stories to figure out what life had been like for me in the past 1 year..)

During the lockdown, I paid for ‘Just Dance’ 1-month membership as an attempt to ‘keep fit’. I did a lot of baking (there was a widespread shortage of baking ingredients as everyone scrambled to find something to do), I did a lot of online courses, played a lot of online games (The Sims, Theme Hospital, Werewolf Online, Draw Something etc.) and applied a lot of jobs. Despite having so much time, there was one thing I failed to do – which was to pack my room. I struggle with this for the whole of my life and somehow Marie Kondo can’t inspire me (yet).

I was leading the ‘retirement life’ – having nothing but time to do anything/everything I wanted (as long as it was within the lockdown rules). I could sleep at 5am, wake up at noon. I could listen to audiobooks for 10 hours each day. I could binge-watch the entire drama series through the night if I wanted to. It was a life of everything and ‘nothing’ at the same time. Oh, and the ‘lockdown’ which was supposed to last for a month was extended by 7 more weeks as the numbers didn’t really drop. >< I had a potential job interview for a temp position which got ‘canceled’ due to the extension of the lockdown. I was disappointed (it sucks to watch your savings deplete) but hey, everything worked out fine in the end.

Singapore finally ‘exited’ the lockdown on 19 June and outside dining/visiting was now allowed up to a maximum of 5 pax. (FYI: It got increased to 8 pax in Dec 20 and this number had not increased since then and it is now Mar 21.)

Life got a lot better for me after I could get out of the house. I realised that I am pretty much still a social person that needed face-to-face interaction. It was nice to see my nieces around again (before they had to fly off elsewhere) and it was nice to be ‘unemployed’. I still remember this thing that someone told me.. I was ‘better off’ than those who got retrenched or lost their job due to COVID as my ‘unemployment’ had been self-imposed. Others had something ‘taken away’ from them while for me, I had ‘nothing’ to begin with so I should feel less ‘upset’ with myself.

Oh, and another memorable part of my then-life was that I worked a couple of weeks as a deliveryman / GrabHitch driver. It was something that allowed me to improve my driving skills by being on the roads more, and at the same time earn a bit of money (though it was nothing of significance). I had conversations with some of my passengers, nothing memorable but it was nice to share and reminisce my memories and experiences with them. It made me realise that I enjoy talking to strangers somehow, this had been something I knew but somehow long forgotten as I grew older.

To add on, I started trading in the US market. While I’m still ‘positive’ on my balance sheet right now, I’m still not happy that I am unable to practice self-control and discipline in many things. It made me realised that I am not ready, nor do I have the capability to make a living out of trading. Nevertheless, I’m glad to have started and this ‘gambling/trading’ hobby made me more conscious about money. Today, I still do look at the stock market almost religiously but I do not make it a point to make a trade every single day.

These days, I do wonder and feel the emptiness of ‘life’. In the past, my life had always been filled with work or travel. Either I’m working or I’m traveling (overseas). I used to spend all my free time looking at flight deals, hotel promotions and researching on my next travel destination. It has been a year but I have not found anything to ‘fill’ up this travel void in my life. Sad to say, I kind of given up hoping for life to get back to the norm, because the chances are that I’ll end up being disappointed, at least in the short run. As ridiculous as it sounds, I am considering visiting a fortune teller to see if he/she can talk me into having more life goals (or perhaps the pursuit of the next ‘meaning’ in my life.  Let’s see if that day happens as I’m quite a skeptical person so I’m not sure if I’ll part with that amount of cash for something I might not even believe in..

Are you guys getting bored of my random updates? There’s nothing really interesting happening in my life now and sometimes I am worried that if I stop writing (cause I have no content), will I stop eventually when the ‘fire’ runs out? I’ve been reading quite a number of autobiographies lately (Currently, I’m reading Barrack Obama’s A promised land) and I’m still envisioning the day I have the ability to write one – and there would be this whole chapter on the ‘lost’ year(s) of COVID where people would just switch-off cause it’s too boring.

It is another Sunday night and I’ll wake up to the Monday blues again. Life had been on repeat for the past many weeks but well i’m just gonna #keepcalmandcarryon.

What about you.. How have you been so far?

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