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Dear Covid 19

Dear COVID-19,

 

It has been a rough couple of years for me to say the least. In 2017, my mum was diagnosed with stage IV oesophageal cancer. In 2018, my dad needed a triple bypass surgery for his ailing heart. And I had to take care of the both of them while working a full-time job. In August 2019, my mum unfortunately succumbed to her cancer. I was inconsolable for months. I felt that I had hit rock bottom. It was only after much grief and reflection that I realised that if I wanted to better my life, I needed to take matters into my own hands.

 

For once, my life looked like it was beginning to let up. And then, as if life pulled a cruel trick, you arrived and I got the coronavirus.

Towards the end of 2019, I made steps to improve my well-being. I left my job of three years to take a six-month break. I made plans to fulfil my dream of backpacking through the Americas. I was in talks with potential employers to advance my career after my self-imposed sabbatical. And most surprising of all, I even signed up for a gym membership after years of procrastination to improve my health. For once, my life looked like it was beginning to let up. And then, as if life pulled a cruel trick, you arrived and I got the coronavirus.

 

It was in March 2020 when I was confirmed positive for COVID-19. I am unsure how exactly I got the virus but it was most likely on the plane back to Singapore. I was admitted to the NCID and later, a Community Isolation Facility to ride out the infection. During my stay, there were so many unknowns making my mind run amok. Would my symptoms worsen? Would there be any permanent side-effects? Even though I isolated myself completely, did I pass it to my dad? For how long would I be confined to these four walls? Is COVID-19 here to stay? What will I do after I get discharged? These crippling thoughts and many more cycled repeatedly non-stop in my head. I could not help but feel anger and disappointment at myself. From having such ambitious plans for the future, to instead, having my life come to a complete standstill. Ultimately, I felt utterly defeated. All I wanted was to catch a break.

 

As I wallowed in the cold, sterile hospital bed, I felt that life has dealt me with another impossible situation. But that was when it hit me, I am dealing with ANOTHER impossible situation. I have already been through a few seemingly impossible scenarios yet I still was able to face another day. I have come to  learn that we tend to underestimate ourselves when the situation is presented, but when we actually go through it, we possess more resilience and fortitude than we give ourselves credit for. With each passing day in quarantine, I attempted to overcome this COVID-19-driven adversity. I recounted my previous hardships and misfortunes and picked out two factors that got me through them.

 

The first factor was I surrounded myself with good people. When I was grieving the passing of my late mum, people talked with me and it helped me to process my thoughts as I articulated them. It made me discover what made me feel how I was feeling and how I could go about correcting it if needed. The flipside of this terrifying global pandemic is that everyone is affected, in one way or another, and there has been a united struggle that we all can identify with, one that we can talk to each other about. I encourage you to reach out for help or to help if you can. Despite us physically being apart, I feel that we are closer than ever before.

 

The second factor was focusing on the positives more than the negatives in a bad situation. Despite all the ugly behaviour we see on social media, this pandemic has brought out the best in people. I have witnessed so many forms of kindness from many members of the public that I dare say might not have happened without COVID-19. I know of friends who have organised fundraisers to help the most vulnerable in our society. I have seen restaurateurs feed the hungry without charging them despite incurring huge losses. I have seen families offer delivery riders food and drink to get them through the day. I have heard of customers giving taxi drivers tips larger than the ride fares to help make their ends meet. I encountered the amazing health heroes who risk their lives every day helping patients to recover, all with a smile. These extraordinary people and their stories of kindness bring hope, which would have been lost if we only had focused on the bad.

 

You, COVID-19, may have ruined many livelihoods and caused many deaths in your path of destruction. The world may be experiencing upheaval and distress but this seemingly impossible situation will soon pass with the best of humanity emerging. I have since thankfully recovered from COVID-19, but I know the life we once knew is gone forever. What will be the new normal? I think humankind will continue to grow stronger and be more resilient, but also with even more empathy and kindness. I know the only thing for certain is that it will be a long and tough fight to achieve that, but it is still a future I would want to have. And I’ll have you to thank for helping us get there.

Kenneth Lee

07 May 2020