At the risk of sounding a little morbid, as a long-time fan of disaster films (specifically ones that centre around apocalyptic scenarios), I can’t deny that I’ve always been curious about what it would be like to experience being in one. Would I be a hero of the story? A supporting character? Maybe even a villain. For years, that thought was always just an amusing “I wonder...”. Thanks to you, I think I may have gotten my answer – I’m really just one of the people in the background.
Let’s rewind time a little to late-2019, before anyone in the world even knew who you were (a strange thought, considering you’re all anyone talks about these days). I was a fresh media graduate who had just started his career in the entertainment space. As 2020 loomed, I remember writing down my New Year’s resolution: Clarity, Progress, Success. I was determined and hungry to do substantial work in 2020. “2020 will be my year,” I thought. Come January, there was talk about a SARS-like virus emerging. Back then, you didn’t even have a name! We just referred to you as “the coronavirus”. I remember shrugging you off – “There’s no way things can get worse than they did in ’03.”
Now, it is May 15, 2020, as I am writing this letter to you. Most of the world is still under lockdown – an unprecedented global occurrence. In Singapore, it is Day 38 since the Government introduced its circuit breaker measures. Apart from the occasional trip to the supermarket, I’ve been pretty much staying at home, with no physical contact with anyone outside of my immediate family.
The past 38 days staying home alone have been… bipolar. The circuit breaker means “extra time” on my hands that I can utilise, but it is still set against the backdrop of a global catastrophe. I finally have “me time” that I enjoy, but not having social interactions for an extended period has been incredibly difficult. One moment, I am producing some of my best creative works in recent years, and the next, I am staring at the ceiling, feeling lost and suffocated. One day I am confident and feeling on top of the world, and the next, I am filled with anxiety and self-doubt. I can be on the phone in the afternoon, ending a productive video conference for work, and hours later I am on another call in the middle of the night, this time sobbing to my best friend as I go through yet another bout of existential crisis.
I don’t think I have ever really been in a true love-hate relationship before. “Love-hate” is exactly how I will describe our dynamic. I hate you, for causing so much pain, hurt, trouble, and inconvenience to so many people. I hate you, for being a massive roadblock on my journey, be it on the professional or personal front. And yet, strangely and selfishly enough, the circuit breaker has in a way provided a break in the clouds (with a big, big asterisk). You have forced me to press pause, to take stock, and also to get better prepared before pressing play again – even if it may be a slow and at times excruciating process.
The good news is that most of the disaster films have a somewhat happy ending. Societies may have to adjust to new normals, but the tone is always hopeful; the everyday people will eventually emerge from their sanctuaries and look dramatically towards the sunrise in the distance. I suppose that’s what I’m holding on to, the hope that soon enough we’ll all be able to emerge and get our lives going again. I look forward to the day I step outside and smile at the golden rays of the sun… without a mask on.
In the meantime, I’ll be rooting for the gallant heroes of this movie to get us there.