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Happy Endings to 2021

Priyanka Tiku Gupta is a Shine Coach, based in Singapore. Here she reflects on some positive learnings from another pandemic setback faced by many this past Holiday season, and happy endings to 2021…

One month ago, we were one of the few fortunate families in Singapore that crossed into Changi over to the other side. It felt almost surreal and strange at first. Still, within minutes of dragging our overstuffed luggage carts full of winter clothing and heavy Indian wear, our muscle memory re-activated, and barring people wearing masks, everything else at Changi felt familiar and smooth.

From the very start, our trip behaved like a scientific lab experiment. We encountered numerous changes to our travel dates and drastic back-and-forth alterations to our itinerary— as drastic as which continents we would visit to avoid quarantine. Managing multiple variables on top of regular travel-covid risks, such as my daughter’s end-of-semester exams, Singapore perpetually going on and off India’s “at risk, 7 days home quarantine” list, and wedding plans, we hypothesized various scenarios.

Despite all odds and conflicting points of view fuelled further by the ever-changing rules from both the governments of our departure and arrival countries, we decided almost intuitively that this was a trip that was meant to be. We decided to embrace it and welcomed our decision to travel home to India and finally meet the family as a blessing to our silent prayers over the last 2 years.

A gateway had opened, and it just felt right; we just knew it was time to go. The visit to India was truly incredible; nothing in this world can be more beautiful and energizing than the love and warmth of being back home and being able to spend time together in real life.

The cherry on the cake was attending the family wedding and spending Christmas together after 2 years, singing carols, eating delicious warm food, playing secret Santa together with real hugs vs. zoom cheers.

Post a miraculous 16 days of being together, the rapidly spreading Omicron variant was once again nudging us to rely on our gut. We took the unforeseen decision to depart home from India almost 12 days before our original date. Things had certainly changed in the last 18 days. We said our goodbyes to Delhi, much devoid of the usual family bye-byes at the airport.

On the 30th morning, we arrived back home in Singapore. It felt odd, the same place, the same walls but very different energy. The visual just felt wrong. The love and warmth were replaced with rows of metal gates leading people out of the airport into what seemed like a “German beer festival” tent.

Everyone was shoved into orderly lines, categorized by colorful green, yellow, and red stickers that would decide our eventual fate as a potential imported case. We were all taken into tiny booths in a giant air conditioned tent with our luggage trolleys and tested on arrival. Not sure if it was only me, but the whole scene and setup looked like one out of a movie set. The anxious energy already circled around the luggage trolleys and their respective owners’ heads, who struggled to navigate the narrow lanes of the tent.

Post 6 hours of arrival back to Singapore, our recent adventure started. 3 of the 4 of us received our negative on arrival reports, but my older daughter’s report was missing. I reached out to all possible social media touchpoints and finally stumbled upon a hotline number (for those who face a similar situation, call 63111111).

Hearing the news that my daughter had tested positive on arrival felt like a rude slap across my face. After all of this, we were yet again faced with a road bump. How could she test positive? Will she be, ok? We all just tested negative 36 hours ago at Delhi …Why her? Why me? Why us? What did we do wrong?

My daughter was peacefully fast asleep tired from the travel, and I didn’t have the heart to wake her up with this news. Swiftly we moved our younger one from the same room and started preparing ourselves physically, emotionally, and mentally for what this news would bring us as a family. The drama kept unfolding, and in the next couple of days, we found out that our family back in India had also tested positive. Adding another level of shock, this felt like a just-completed house of cards collapsing with no provocation, just like that. So suddenly.

In the coming week or so, most of our family, both in India and SG, had tested positive. The good news is that everyone is well, recovering or recovered as of today. Barring the technical difficulties of isolation for both older parents and younger children, I believe each of us now has an interesting story to tell and has experienced growth and self-discovery. I have since articulated my reflections and takeaways from the whole experience.

1. Overwhelmed vs. Underwhelm

We all will face situations in life when everything feels so overwhelming; it is unavoidable; no matter how hard we try, life does come in the way. When such scenarios happen, what if we were to accept what’s happening and acknowledge that it is too much. Once we do that, we then find or create moments of feeling “underwhelmed” each day; watch a Netflix show, have a cup of coffee, indulge in a walk in the park, have a nice warm shower. Truly savor these moments of underwhelming and leverage these to increase your resilience.

2. Grateful vs. Grumble

Once we accept what’s happening to us and around us, that’s when gratitude settles in automatically. Till then, that’s merely a statement and not true awareness. What if you could be grateful to your body for all that it goes through and for protecting us. Be grateful for the help we receive in time from all corners of the world. I am grateful that the right medication was administered in time and grateful that the right people came to support me.

3. Safety vs. Fear

Many of us thought and perhaps continue to think that we need to be safe from Covid. Being safe would imply avoiding exposure to this virus. This new variant has taught some of us that avoidance may not be permanent and that the true definition of safety is evolving; it should mean how strong is one’s body, mind, and energy to fight the infection once we are exposed to it. So yes, it’s time to build one’s immunity; it’s never been a better time to start taking care of oneself.

4. Right vs. Wrong Decision

No decision is right or wrong, and what feels right to you may feel wrong to others. When something feels right to YOU, trust the universe and flow with the flow. Remember, sometimes, a “wrong decision” could also lead you to the right path.

5. Ruminate vs. Reflect

When things don’t really go as planned, what if we don’t question why this is happening to us but rather ask ourselves what we can do to make the most of the situation. Remind ourselves of all the days and events in our lives when things didn’t go as planned, and yet we are all well today. Having been separated, my daughters now love each other even more. They also learned how to take care of themselves should they ever need to and keep themselves entertained, devoid of their usual routine. My family in India triggered an automatic creation of antibodies without the booster vaccine, just in time before the rapid spread of the new variant in town.

I wouldn’t change anything about the last month. 11 Dec 2021 I arrived in Delhi, and today marks the 1-month anniversary of a trip back home that recharged me and my family more than any holiday has in the recent past. I feel fortunate and blessed that I followed my gut and met my parents, and even though the days were cut short and what followed the post was an adventure. The highlight is that none of us today are living with any regret. In the end, we all left the movie hall with the comfort of knowing that our roller coaster trip movie had a happy ending.

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