Mai, Singapore

I’m from Vietnam, but I’ve been living in Singapore for 7 years now. It feels like the whole start of my adulthood is here. Actually, I wanted to move to Ho Chi Minh last year, because there are a lot of opportunities there, but I couldn’t go because of the pandemic. I also wanted to go to Taiwan, Thailand and Bali. The pandemic changed all my travel plans.

A lot of things have changed since this started. I adopted two cats, which I always wanted to, but I couldn’t because I used to live with roommates, and I was out a lot, so I didn’t really have time to take that responsibility. But now that I’m working from home, I have enough time to take care of them. It feels like parenting. It’s like having kids, but they never grow up. I also got a lot of plants now.

I do miss traveling, but I haven’t felt bored at all. There are actually a lot of things that you can do at home. I’ve been trying new things lately, like music and drawing, and just taking on new challenges and trying new things. It’s good to have fun things to do, since I can’t travel anymore. Sometimes I want to get away from the daily life routine, and traveling used to be my escape, but now I have to find new ways to get distracted from that.

There are both good and bad things. Thanks to the lockdown, you can learn how creative you can be and about limitations. One day you are doing this and the next you can’t do it anymore. And I think that’s good, to learn and to try to stay positive.

I actually went through a breakup during the pandemic. My ex and I broke up at the beginning of the year. There was nothing wrong with the relationship, but I used to feel kind of stuck at the end. I realized that I wanted a deeper connection. The moment I felt the lack of it I tried to change things, but you can’t really change people. You have accepted them. Of course, there are some things that can be changed but not if they don’t want to. It was very hard. I went through a very bad mental breakdown. I was in a crazy mental stage. It was quite scary. Now I’ve been getting better bit by bit. I’m still trying to do small things to help me out.

It hasn't been so difficult to cope with the pandemic here in Singapore. The only things that are close are the restaurants and bars, and you can’t really gather in groups, which is fine by me. The introvert in me is really comfortable about it. I think one of the most difficult things to do was to connect with other people.

I’m doing this project with a friend. We are trying to develop an App for adoption services, so we hired a group of engineers to help us out. The majority is from Vietnam, but some of them are also from Europe. It’s been a few months now, but it has been really hard to find a common ground and bond with some of them. It’s just hard to keep them motivated as a team and encourage them to take action. I think it is especially challenging because I cannot meet them in person, nor be face to face with them. Fortunately, I got along with some of them, and I think they feel very comfortable and happy with me as well, but with some others it hasn’t been so easy to bond.

It is crazy to think how difficult it is to make a connection. Even with friends and family. We are now staying at home for a longer period of time and getting used to being by ourselves, and then when you see someone after a long time, or meeting someone new it just feels awkward, like I’m not used to it anymore. But at least we get to be with ourselves more and have the opportunity to make some self-reflection and to get in touch with our inner self. Also, it’s been pretty hard to find a balance between the cats and plants, because they always eat them.

I’ve learned quite a lot about myself during this time. I learned that I need a lot of space and time alone in order to be able to reach out to myself and truly understand what I want and what I need. I need a lot of time to do that self-reflection. I also realized I need to learn to be more balanced. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, I used to think I had a lot of time so as I was working in a full-time job, I took two freelance projects and it was too much to take. I shouldn’t have done that. But it’s quite challenging to find the balance between work and the rest of the things in your life.

I’ve been working for about a year now, and it’s so different. I don’t really feel like I belong anymore. I don’t get that feeling of community and identity with the company. I don’t really feel part of anything now. Because of that I’m now more aware about the importance of community. The importance of having a group of people to share with. These interactions can be really helpful to inspire each other, do something together, or simply be happier. I remember I was having so much anxiety because of the amount of work I had, that I shut off myself completely from the outside world. I didn’t want to see people or go out anymore. And because there was no balance, and I was having so much stress I wasn’t even being productive anymore. This has taught me a lot about the urge of balancing everything in my life. Not everything in life is work, and my work does not define who I am. Now, in spite of having some work to do, I try to go out with my friends more often. I’m just trying to face these challenges.

I think I used to be more extroverted before. I used to always go out. Now, I feel like I have so many things to do that I can do by myself. I don’t have problems by spending some time alone. Naturally, interacting with people is really important, but it’s also important to spend time with yourself, to understand you better. Internally, I mean. At least, that’s what I’ve been trying to do lately. I even speak to myself in the mirror from time to time, when I get really stressed. It’s really helpful. I also have been trying to do some meditation.

I also feel stuck sometimes. I did this whole plan to move and then I couldn’t because of COVID and now I have more commitment and responsibilities than I used to. I don’t really know what is going to happen if I move out. At some point I didn’t know how to stop that feeling. I think that is why I had mental breakdowns. It hit two times: first, I was in my room with my ex-boyfriend, and all of the sudden I started crying, and I didn’t even know why. It was so weird. The second time, I was going to get a new passport, because mine expired. That day I felt very stressed because I had too many things to do. I was about to take the photo and I started crying right in front of the photographer, and I couldn’t stop. She even tried to cheer me up. At the end I was able to take the photo, but you can see my red and sore eyes from all the crying.

 In spite of all those things, I still try to make the best out of the situation. Of course, you have to acknowledge reality and that there are some bad things going on, but you just have to get by.

When all of this is over, I just want to go home. I used to go very often to Vietnam to visit my friends and family, perhaps 3-5 times a year. I just miss everything. I feel like the people in Vietnam are more friendly and that there’s more joy in the atmosphere. In general, people look happier. I miss riding motorcycles and going on long road trips and seeing the beautiful nature. I really miss my friends and going to concerts.

I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz music lately. Actually, I just started to take dance classes. It is so fun. I love dancing.