MY2020: I wanted it to be my year, but it was anything but that

How I dealt with being forcefully robbed of monumental, once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Aliyah Khan

Published: 12 December 2020, 9:02 AM

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?

2020 was going to be my year. I was graduating from poly after three gruelling years, planning to go on my first trip with my best friend to South Korea, attend my cousin’s wedding in Canada, and be temporarily free from responsibilities till university started later in August. 

I would finally have the sweet taste of freedom I had been yearning for amid the stressful days of non-stop hustling. I was ready to finally let myself go and enjoy some reckless fun and busk in my youth – a flawless start to my roaring twenties. 

I imagine you know what happened next. COVID-19 hit and turned all my plans to dust. It happened slowly, then all at once – and I was left to dwell in a pit of profound emptiness and conflicting emotions. 

I was perfectly aware that everybody else’s plans were ruined too, and a few cancelled holidays were privileged problems to have amid a global pandemic. But still, it hurt. I tried my hardest to accept the inevitable circumstances, but it felt impossible to not be consumed by a fit of rage when all my hopes for the year had vanished. 

I was angry at everything and everyone. I asked God, ‘why?’ and cried out of sheer hopelessness and frustration. The people around me weren’t sympathetic to my personal losses either and belittled how I felt because it seemed trivial to them. This only fuelled my anger.

On one unassuming afternoon, I received my polytechnic diploma at my doorstep, with nobody else present except the delivery man and myself. And I just thought: “So that’s it. Three years of blood, sweat and tears. Three years of slogging, of the best memories of my life, and this is how it ends.”

Just like that, I had closed the chapter on my polytechnic journey forever, the three years that I will always cherish with all my heart. In that moment, it wasn’t anger that I was feeling, but grief. I mourned the loss of a moment I would never experience, a graduation where I would’ve walked proudly across the stage, take graduation photos with my family and friends, have a proper goodbye with my lecturers and cohort – and celebrated myself. I thought I deserved that much.


My spirits were lifted when my family surprised me with a cake and a bouquet of flowers to congratulate me.


In the months that followed, life felt cyclical and pointless. Circuit breaker induced a period of seclusion that left me scrutinising every single detail of my life – school, career choices, even my weaknesses and my body. Life was at a standstill but my mind was giving me hell. 

I spent countless nights looking outside my bedroom window at 2am, with the lights dimmed and my specially curated playlist of melancholic songs playing in the background, feeling hollow. Only one thought echoed endlessly in my mind: “This isn’t living. I feel like a spectator of my own life”. Soon, the opposite block of flats I was staring at resembled a columbarium – everyone miserable, a prisoner in their own homes. At least that’s how I felt.

Although 2020 tried my mental health for a multitude of reasons, I had my wins. I started university, gained independence from living in hall, and spent more quality time with my family than I ever had in my life. I learned to cook, sew, and dedicate more time to acts of worship – I am grateful for these simple pleasures.


One of my biggest 2020 highlights: moving into my university hall.


2020 was a whirlwind from start to end, and I feel like I’ve lived three different lives in one year. It’s been a blessing and a curse, though I’d argue it’s more of the latter. 

I haven’t given much thought about my hopes for 2021 – but one thing’s certain: I’ll be satisfied even if it’s one per cent better than this year. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s this: life is full of surprises – save yourself the heartache of unfulfilled expectations and just live in the moment. 

Learn to manage your emotions better during these unprecedented times by ‘Braving The New’.

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