“Living with COVID-19”
A strange time brings an invitation to find more fulfilment in our lives
When I read the news recently, I was perplexed to hear of people deciding to push ahead with their family travels abroad during the March school holidays, despite the travel advisory issued by the government. I wondered why had so many people left the country despite the common knowledge that the virus is at pandemic state worldwide?
Perhaps they were confident they wouldn’t get infected, or if they did, were certain they and their kids would survive. Perhaps some might even have been ignorant of the repercussions of their actions—the added strain and stress on Singapore’s resources and on workers in health care, when returning travellers come down with a cough, cold or fever and need to be processed in the healthcare system to test if they are infected, and be isolated until the test results emerge.
It seemed the value they placed on going abroad for a holiday outweighed the risks, and the effects on other people and resources, and the danger they pose to others if they bring back the virus. It seemed clear that the people who made these choices weren’t thinking too much about the repercussions that might affect others if they or their family members were to get infected—food service staff, taxi drivers, shop staff, elderly members of their own family, who might not survive an infection.
Why would the need to travel be more important than considerations of health and safety?
Travel is different things to different people, but I think the one thing it offers everyone who crosses a border is escape.
Escape: from the humdrum monotony of life and its usual hamster wheel of responsibilities; or the promise of exciting new experiences, new sights, and new tastes.
Perhaps, this concerning phenomenon points to a deep need. A need to excavate our lives. So we can make the shift from feeling the desperation to escape our day to day, to the joy of embracing our daily living, and everything that entails.
I once felt trapped in a career that was stressful and unfulfilling, despite my ability to perform well. After many months of reflection, I finally left my full-time job and struck out as a freelance writer. I was full of fears about how I would survive, if I’d be able to survive, but the freedom of my day that opened up for me, the melting away of the pounding daily stress, my ability to go for a yoga class or take a walk in the park or run an errand in the middle of the afternoon gave me so much contentment, it was well worth the trade-off of a monthly pay check.
The arrangement felt right until late last year, after over seven years of freelancing, when I started to feel restless again. The projects I was working no longer felt interesting or fulfilling, and the money wasn’t great. I knew I needed to enter a period of reflection again. I asked myself these questions:
What can I change in my life?
What brings me joy?
How can I introduce more of this joy into my life?
The answers didn’t come instantly, or even in a day or a week. It took weeks and months for some of the answers to emerge with clarity. In the end, I realised I needed a shift: to go back to a more permanent work arrangement with a team of like-minded people, but doing meaningful work with an organisation I respected.
I realised I was done with choosing forms of entertainment that didn’t enrich my heart or spirit, like spending a fair amount of my leisure time watching Netflix or meeting friends for movies and eating out. Those were not wrong, but they were not enough. And as much as I love animals, there always seemed to be a reason why it wasn’t the right time to volunteer. So I finally signed up as a volunteer with a charity that provides equine (horse) therapy to children with physical and developmental disabilities. That Monday morning each week when I volunteered became the slightly scary (because I never knew what the child would be like) but immensely fulfilling bright spot in my weekly calendar.
Finding the right work wasn’t as easy. At times, I wanted to give up on my search for more meaningful occupation. Often, it seemed like finding a role with an organisation that truly desires to do good, that offers a place where an unconventional individual like myself can fit in and do something useful, was impossible.
But it happened. So I am finding the little trickles of joy into my life growing into bigger streams, as each day passes.
I am happy to say I am, step by step, reaching that place where my life fills me, from the inside. There is no need for the external stimuli I once sought to fill my life. It is my hope, in this strange, but perhaps useful time, that all of us will find what truly fills us up, and floods us with joy and contentment, so we can carry our bliss wherever we may be.