MY 2020: A year of reflection, healing and growth

Despite its paramount challenges, 2020 proved to be a year that helped me to come to terms with my internal struggles.

Ruth Chan

Enjoys solitude. Finds comfort in watching the sunset and drinking milo.

Published: 23 December 2020, 2:11 PM

In this MY 2020 series, Youthopia writers explore everything that happened in the past year – the good, the bad, the ugly – and also share their hopes and dreams for 2021. What’s yours?

On New Year’s Eve 2019, I made an intentional decision to spend the countdown by myself at Palawan Beach, Sentosa.

Before 2020, my life had no anchor. I experienced heartbreaks that brought out my ugly side, such as jealousy and bitterness, which led me to make decisions that I had come to regret. I dealt with academic failures that led me to doubt my self-worth. This was intensified after having to endure bullying in school. 

I also had strained relationships with family members because of our differences in core beliefs that ended up in frequent shouting matches at home. 

As a result of these negative emotions, every day felt like a drag. I was tired of being a prisoner to my own emotions, but deep down I never stopped believing that life has so much more to offer. I was desperate to turn my life around in 2020 and I knew the change had to start with me.

Spending New Year’s Eve by myself was a symbolic representation of that.


Watching the sunset over the horizon, I felt the waves gently lap at my feet as I stared distantly into the horizon, lost in thought. PHOTO CREDITS: YOUTHOPIA/RUTH CHAN


Yet, I had no inkling of how I could extract myself from the mess I was in. But that opportunity presented itself in the form of a global pandemic. It gave me plenty of time alone to reflect, to heal and to grow. 

This is why while many have claimed that 2020 was cancelled, it is the turning point of my life. 

Navigating through the struggles

Don’t get me wrong. I had my fair share of struggles throughout the year too. The circuit breaker, which prevented me from having face-to-face interactions with my friends, exacerbated the loneliness and despair that I had been feeling. 

There were times I felt disconnected from my community of friends.


My friends and I had intentional meet-ups via Zoom or Houseparty in order to remain connected. PHOTO CREDIT: CHLOE ONG


While we had kept in touch via Zoom or Houseparty, I still really missed them as it felt different from the face-to-face hangouts that we are used to.

Additionally, the entire first semester of my final year in poly was home-based. This meant that group projects, consultations and presentations were all conducted online, which proved to be difficult sometimes because the internet connection might fail, or discussion pointers might be misinterpreted.

I could deal with those. The struggles that I couldn’t deal with, however, were all internal. How does someone forget or deal with all the accumulated pain over the past 19 years?

As I’ve realised in the past year, healing is a painful and time-consuming process. As much as I want to, I can’t just snap my finger and repair the strained relationship with my family or flip a switch and forgive myself for all the bad decisions I made. 

Redirecting to the path of healing

I didn’t want to live in regret for the rest of my life and was determined to do something about it, given the abundance of time I had for myself, especially during circuit breaker. 

The most important takeaway I had in 2020 is building my Christian faith, which helped me to find an anchor and joy even in the midst of my struggles. It also enabled me to make peace with the mistakes I made in the past, realising that they do not define me and allow me to take the first step to love myself.

I also started a habit of penning down my thoughts and feelings. This gave me an avenue to release all the emotions that were pent up in me when I felt like a mental breakdown was brewing.


Writing in my journals has taught me how to keep my emotions in check. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/RUTH CHAN


I had different journals for different purposes. Some are for writing short excerpts and poems, some are for random insights I gleaned after talking to people and some are for self-reflection.

The latter is the most personal. I made it a point to write about what happened throughout the day, thinking about what I did well and what I could improve on. I poured my woes, documented my battles and relished in mini victories I had daily. I also kept a record of what I learnt and what I’m thankful for that day.

In addition, as someone who’s often guilty of isolating myself from the rest of the world when dealing with personal issues, learning to open up to supportive friends around me is a lesson that I hold close to my heart.


My friends saw me through the darkest point of my life, which I’ll always be grateful for. PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/RUTH CHAN


Through my struggles, my closest friends constantly had my back and never gave up on me. Their love, sincerity and encouragement really tugged at my heartstrings and the process of healing was made a lot easier with them by my side. This has, in turn, helped me recognise the importance of community and a strong support network.

Being at home so much means that there is frequent interaction with my family members. While I was worried about the tensions it may cause, it turned out to be a huge blessing. The time that we spent together gave us opportunities to bond.

My perspective began to shift when I had heart-to-heart conversations with them and I could see where they were coming from. From having strained relationships with them, I now genuinely enjoy their company will make sure to have dinner at home at least twice a week.

Aspirations for the coming year

That said, there’s never an end to learning because life never stops teaching.

My greatest hope for 2021 is that I continue to grow into a more well-rounded person – a better friend, a more responsible daughter and a blessing to the people around me – in whatever areas I’m called to.

In terms of hard skills, I would love to learn how to play the guitar as another way for me to destress when I’m caught up in the pressures of life.

Healing is never easy, but arrival’s not the end game. The road has caused the most tears I’ve ever shed, but is also the most fulfilling journey I’ve ever been on. 

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