Alumni Voice


“Life after COVID-19: creating and enjoying new norms”

Koh Xiang Ting

Occupational Therapist
in Singapore

Looking back at the year 2020, it definitely was a time that was different from how we knew life to be. Our daily routines, relationships, work, leisure and many aspects of our lives have changed. Over the past few months, we have come to accept new norms and habits even as we attempt to seek some form of familiarity and normality as the current climate improves. The onset of COVID-19 in Singapore was sudden and the number of cases rose rapidly. Along with it came laws and policies put in place to protect the general public health and Singaporeans. One major change to our lives was when “circuit breaker” was implemented, where Singaporeans were not permitted to leave their homes except to buy groceries and dining out was prohibited. This saw panic buying of essential supplies like food, masks and hand sanitizers. Businesses suffered as well as dining out was not allowed and people could not visit malls. Office workers were made to work from home, students had home based learning and only essential workers like healthcare staff were allowed to leave home for work. Air travel, mass gatherings (i.e. religious meetings, weddings, graduations) were halted as well. To many people, it felt as if life just came to a screeching halt all at once.

Despite all these restrictions, Singaporeans adapted and learned how to cope with these changes. Change was difficult especially in the initial phases where people felt like they lost their opportunity to connect with others and their sense of routine. However, they turned to technology and many things became digitalized. People started to use online platforms to do work and home-based learning. Friends started to meet each other online, play games and exercise together. Businesses started to go online (i.e. food, fitness etc.), offering services and products to customers in a more affordable and accessible manner. Graduations, weddings, religious meetings were held on online platforms so that communities and groups of people could still function while protecting public health. Museums and various countries offered virtual tours as the tourism sector suffered from the lack of air travel. Even though this was a difficult time for many people, there was a silver lining in the dark clouds that were ahead of us.

As author Steve Maraboli once said, “once your mindset changes, everything on the outside will change along with it”. There are many ways to look at how life has changed and our perspective influences how we adapt to that change. Some decided to embrace the change by maximizing available resources (i.e. technology) or looking for alternatives such as doing activities that were available at home. Personally, I was initially worried about how I would maintain my personal relationships and occupy my time at home as I had just recently graduated from university. There were things that I could not attend such as my graduation ceremony and going on a graduation trip with my friends. Although these might seem minute in the bigger scheme of things that serve to protect public health, they were important milestones to me. Just like many others who were afraid that life will not resume and that they will miss out what they have been looking forward to, I was disappointed. However, I thought about how I would embrace this situation if I could not change it. So I started to reach out to people over online platforms and I started an exercise group with my friends. I also started to pick up new skills that I never had the chance or energy to do so. I started to bake, cook and learn how to sew to make full use of my time. I took the time to develop myself and explore new interests that I otherwise would have given myself excuses not to. I realized that with more time on my hands, I could slow down my pace of life and make informed choices without having to keep up with the regular demands of life.

Although a rather positive picture of the COVID-19 situation was painted above, we also need to recognize that there are groups of people who were unable to overcome the challenges it posed. These are people who do not have access to resources like technology or vulnerable populations who were unable to fend for themselves due to certain circumstances. During this period, I became more aware of such people and the good causes that support them. One of these causes was the migrant worker coalition that looked at providing support for migrant workers in Singapore. These workers come from various countries and have helped to build Singapore up to the concrete jungle we know today. There was a spike in cases in the migrant worker population due to their living conditions where there is a high density of workers living in enclosed areas. Some causes sought to provide them with basic necessities while other causes aimed at translating information and educational material for them to understand the current situation. For myself, I donated to support these causes and almost attempted to provide counseling services for migrant workers. Without COVID-19, these causes and issues would not have been so apparent for me as I would have just gone through my daily routine and life. The disruptions to daily life made me more attuned to the challenges that others face as I became more curious about how others were coping. Creating and enjoying new norms was something I managed to come to terms with after the onset of COVID-19. This is because life we know might not resume as it is as there are things that have changed for the better and there are things that we might not be able to salvage. However, this pandemic forced us to adapt and come out stronger as a nation. At the same time, it encouraged me to open my eyes to look beyond myself and consider the wide world around me.



作家のスティーブ・マラボリはかつて言いました。「一度考え方が変われば、外面のすべてがそれに伴って変わる」 と。人生がどう変化したかを見るために多くの方法があります。私たちの価値観は、変化にどう適応するか、ということに影響を与えます。利用可能なリソース(テクノロジーなど)を最大限に活用する人や、家でできる活動をするなどの代替手段を探す人もいました。このように、人々は変化を受け入れることにしたのです。個人的には、大学を卒業したばかりだったので、人間関係をどうやって維持し、家での時間をどうやって過ごすかを最初は心配していました。卒業式への出席や友達との卒業旅行など、できなくなったこともありました。このようなことは、公衆衛生を守るための大きな計画の中では些細なことのように思えるかもしれませんが、私にとっては重要な節目でした。他の多くの人たちと同じように、これまでのような生活が再開されず、楽しみにしていたものを失うのではないかと恐れていた私は、がっかりしました。しかし、私はこの状況を変えることができない場合、どのようにしてこの状況を受け入れるかを考えました。そこで、ネット上のプラットフォームで人に声をかけたり、友達と一緒にオンライン運動グループを始めたりしました。また、これまで機会もエネルギーもなかった新しいスキルを身につけ始めました。時間を有効に使うために、パン作り、料理、裁縫を始めました。自分を成長させるために時間を使い、そうでなければ自分に言い訳をして決してやらなかったであろう新しい興味を探求しました。自分の時間が増えれば、生活のペースをゆっくりとさせ、生活に追われることなく、情報に基づいた選択をすることができることに気がつきました。



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