Dear Covid-19: Finding blessings in a time of need
In her Dear Covid-19 letter, freelance actor Lynnie Cheong shares how the outbreak has helped her to be more thankful towards people and things in her life.
Dear Covid-19 is a memory project by the National Youth Council (NYC) in partnership with DSTNCT, to shed light on everyday life when Singapore came to a standstill as everyone stayed home.
This is a collection of letters to COVID-19 from young Singaporeans from all walks of life, each going through their own struggles and/or victories. The following story was submitted by Lynnie Cheong, a freelance actor and teacher, on May 11, 2020:
You have changed our lives forever. Before circuit breaker I was intimidated by the thought of isolation and loneliness, but this stay-home period has honestly made me appreciate so many things—family, passion, creativity, and a home. The one thing I do miss is freedom. I miss being able to walk around in public whenever and however I want. I miss hugging my friends and visiting my ahma (grandmother). I miss seeing the smiles on other people’s faces without a mask covering it.
I know it’s not the same, but the current pandemic you’ve caused reminds me of the horror-thriller, A Quiet Place – we have to lay low to avoid being hit by a monster and an air of silence blankets the Earth. What I mean to say is, I never thought I’d live to experience such horrifying ‘fictional’ scenarios that only seem to happen in the movies or in some weird alternative one-time-only universe. You have become a persistent reality. I think the one thing that really scares me is your invisibility. Because you never know if you and your loved ones are safe, or if the stranger on the bus next to you has become an unknowing victim. You never know if you’d wake up one day to an ambulance parked in your driveway, or if the first time you’d leave the house in two weeks was to drive to a hospital with a toothbrush, clothes and other essentials. I’ve had really long days… and I’ve learnt how fragile life is. I never want to forget it.
As an actor, I really miss performing. What I love the most about my profession is the need for human interaction and teamwork – a cast and crew always feels like family to me. It’s devastatingly ironic that this has become the very reason why we had to hit the pause button on theatre and film. But (as the recurring message goes) while everyone is turning to art during this time of crisis, I am even more reassured about the importance of artists, creators and dreamers. I do my best to continue working on my craft by finding news ways to perform. Never thought I’d say this but I started a YouTube channel! It’s really exciting and exhausting at the same time, but ultimately the sense of satisfaction and creativity overpowers any negative feelings. I’ve also been very blessed to be getting little online gigs along the way which have helped me stay focused and give ‘quarantine’ life a sense of purpose. I’ve also discovered a brand new sense of meditativeness amidst the solitude, and my room has miraculously turned into a sanctuary.
While counting my blessings, I believe that my family has unlocked a new closeness and candour, like in Modern Family (haha). We have an ongoing family games battle, equipped with a scoreboard and a corner of the dining room dedicated to all the board games. I’ve also confided in my mum for the first time in a long time and I honestly never knew how comforting it was to hear your mother’s words as you’re bawling your eyes out having woken up feeling overwhelmed – so that’s been eye-opening. I feel like I’ve reconnected with some friends as well because meeting virtually is just so much more convenient and I’ve had some pretty intense game nights with them. I just live for a damn good round of Codenames.
Admittedly, I look forward to a fun night out with my friends and being able to have a mahjong party again. But I think life wouldn’t be the same for a long, long time, and even something as simple as having supper at McDonald’s or sipping a drink in a bar wouldn’t be allowed immediately after circuit breaker. I also saw a comic depicting a re-fashioned office workplace – how everyone would be isolated in glass bubble booths, wearing masks for the entire day – and I shiver at the dystopian world we now live in. I still have hope that you will one day disappear like your cousin, SARS, or that we will find a vaccine to kill you.
I wanted to end my letter with a little bit of grace and a whole lot of appreciation, so here goes – thank you Mother Nature, for reminding us that we’ve forgotten how to love you; thank you my love, for listening to me ramble on about my day, every day, and being an angel during critical times even though, and especially when, we can’t meet; thank you fam, for suddenly being the coolest friends and taking ‘support’ to a whole new level when things get life-threatening; thank you, my other coolest friends, for virtual birthday celebrations, theatre dates on YouTube and everything in else between, I look forward to doing these in real life again; and lastly, thank you World, for sticking together and ploughing through.”