Not What I Signed Up For

These days, my family and I resort to visiting the ginormous Changi Jewel mall, situated next to Changi Airport, in a sad bid to revive long-lost tinges of excitement that come with travelling abroad. I also know of more friends who have started photographing planes — you get the gist; we all miss flying.

You know, this isn’t exactly the way we envisioned 2021 to pan out. We were so quick to celebrate the end of 2020, buoyed by the hope that the light at the end of the pandemic-ridden tunnel would soon come into view, that it might just be safe to put plans together. We’re four months in, and if 2020 was a horrific nightmare, then 2021 is the year-long equivalent of jolting awake in a panicked frenzy and heaving a sigh of relief, only to discover that it is in fact very real.

I had plans, too. Being a struggling writer in Singapore, there usually isn’t much hope to cling on to, more so now with a global crisis in our midst. When the opportunity to start a new life in Japan arose, I was ecstatic. I wrote about my desire to live there one day and it seemed like it was finally coming to fruition. Alas, as circumstances stand, Japanese borders remain firmly shut with no signs on relenting.

It definitely is a bitter pill to swallow, and as weeks went by, my once-stoic determination to prepare myself for the next chapter in my life crumbled under the weight of disappointment. Consistent hours spent studying became less consistent, sometimes even tedious. There is scarcely anything to look forward to; each day marks another stint in limbo, not knowing what the future holds except the dread that it would be a long wait.

Yet, even as I pen my thoughts, a part of me chides myself for even whining about something that pales in comparison to what many people around the world have to go through, in places where the stench of death and despair creeps into every corner of their lives; places where people contemplate their imminent fate by the minute.

I am reminded of a particular emotion that struck me when I visited a cathedral some time back. Gingerly taking my place at the pew in the backdrop of pin-drop silence, I knelt and started to pray, when it suddenly dawned on me that there were other people scattered around the sanctuary, doing the same thing — people from all walks of life, dragging the burden of their troubles with them, and laying it out in front of them.

At that moment, I felt a surreal sense of peace, not because my prayers were answered, nor was I assured that my problems would be resolved; but that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. There was comfort in the knowledge that we are all broken people fighting our own battles in our own ways. In some, we celebrate small victories; in others, we pick up shattered pieces. Although our troubles may not be as grim or life-threatening, we’re still fighting something every day. It is my hope that sharing my struggles with you candidly will enable you to discover the same solidarity in your own battles.


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