Wow. So it’s that time of the year again. I feel like I blinked and whoosh, another year has gone by.
2020 hasn’t exactly been a great year, what with the pandemic and all. Still, I’m grateful that my family and I have managed to weather it so far, despite the uncertainties and challenges – like the Hubs being stuck overseas. There were also some significant milestones, like having our wedding ceremony, and turning 30.
So here you go: my 2020 in Pictures!
The year started off on a high note. Back then, the pandemic was still in its early stages and confined to certain places, so many Malaysians weren’t worried (we also did not anticipate the severity of the disease). My mind was also on other things: there was the Chinese New Year, being a bridesmaid for the first time for a friend, and prepping for my own wedding ceremony.
For Chinese New Year, we went for a rare family retreat to Janda Baik in Pahang, where we rented a bungalow in the middle of the hills. The building was surrounded by nature, so it was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. In all honesty, I do not enjoy a very close relationship with my extended family members because we rarely see them, so it was nice to spend some time bonding.
An ex-colleague turned close friend of mine, H, also had her wedding ceremony – and I had the honour of being one of her bridesmaids. I haven’t had the chance to be one before, so it was an eye-opening and extremely fun experience. As bridesmaids, we were given free pass to rag the bridegroom’s best men (all in good fun, of course!) in order to grant them ‘entry’ to pick up the bride. Then, of course, there was the tea ceremony, and the symbolic rituals, which fascinated me. I’ve attended weddings within my family before, but they’re usually very simple affairs. H hired a chaperone to emcee the event, calculate the best time to leave the house and conduct the ceremony. It was so interesting, I actually made the decision to have one for my wedding too the following month.
I was also busy preparing for my wedding ceremony during this time. It was pretty challenging: due to logistics / visa issues, N had to fly back to the Philippines after our civil marriage registration – so I was left to do most of the preparations alone (bridal fitting, buying stuff for the ceremony, arranging for a chaperone and emcee, handing out wedding invites, catering, booking a restaurant, etc.). \
At the end of the month, I went for a company trip to Singapore for a work meeting with my colleagues from SG. It was a day trip, but we took a flight (remember those? lol) and I finally got to see the Jewel after hearing and reading so many awesome things about it. It is truly as magnificent irl. No wonder Changi always wins best airport.
There’s no rest for the wicked, so even though I had my hands full with organising things for the wedding, the month was still filled with work engagements. In the midst of it all, being the nerd I am, I still found spare time to visit the museum to catch an exhibition on ancient Buddhist and Hindu relics and artefacts (hey, it’s not every day you get a curated show like this in KL!).
And then, of course, there was the big day. 3 months worth of prep and effort, all for this one day.
They say wedding ceremonies are meant to be memorable and special – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing (for most people) after all. I’ve always imagined it to be like in the dramas and movies where the bridegroom would be all misty- eyed as he sees his bride walking down the aisle; and her heart would skip a beat looking at him knowing that this would be the man she’d spend the rest of her life with.
I’m sure that’s how it is for many people. But they also leave out the ‘absolutely exhausting’ part. Like not being able to sleep the night before, being up at 5AM to do hair and makeup for three hours, wearing uncomfortable contacts and falsies the whole day and sweating like a pig while trying to look poised in your dress, your heels killing you, the nerves, the endless entertaining of guests, the rituals.
Idk about you, but Chinese weddings are never for the bride and groom – it’s more an elaborate show for family, friends and guests. If you have notions of a romantic first night together… well. N spent an hour after we got home at 1AM removing hair pins from my hair: by the time we showered and were rested sexy time was the furthest thing from our minds. Maybe that’s why it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing… I don’t think I’d want to go through that again lol. (Kidding. It wasn’t ‘comfortable’, but it was definitely something I’ll cherish forever).
March was when shit went down in Malaysia. The pandemic had now reached our shores – and the government announced a strict Movement Control Order all across the country, so we were basically told to stay put and not leave the house unless it was absolutely necessary.
March was also when shit went down in my company, because they decided to downsize to a very lean force (more than half). We rushed to move everything out of the old office and into the new one before the MCO came into effect.
Being an introvert, I thrived in quarantine: I think I spent the first few weeks just catching up on my reading, playing video games and watching Youtube. But being cooped up took a mental toll on my family members, and we’d get into bad fights. It was hard because there was no where to escape: before, I could at least go to work, but now everyone was cooped up in the same house.
Of course, the MCO also meant that air travel was no longer allowed: so N, who had flown back to the Philippines to wait out the six-month cool-off period (it’s a requirement from the Malaysian government) could no longer come here to apply for the spouse visa. It threw a monkey wrench of epic proportions into all our plans.
There wasn’t much happening this month. Movement orders were eased and I was able to attend a few food events for work, to highlight the upcoming Hari Raya celebrations. Most of the writeups ended up being unusable because by the time Raya came around, the situation had worsened and interstate travel/dining out was not allowed anymore.
May is Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday. We had a quiet celebration – basically just a meal at home and a cake. It was back to stricter movement controls, so didn’t go out much. On the other hand, all that time at home meant I actually did something productive:
I’ve detailed this in another post, but basically being stuck at home where I did not have access to junk food meant I had no choice but to eat healthier : and it showed. I think it also helped that there were times I was so bored, I actually worked out lol. Seeing results further motivated me, and I was able to lose (in May) about 4kg from my starting weight in March. But it wasn’t so much about the weight as it was about feeling better about my body and health. (Above, from left) August 2019, April 2019 and August 2019.
Not much happening. My Malaysian boss had served until May, leaving me as the most senior member with decision-making capacity. The fate of the rest of us (there were still four of us) was uncertain. We continued working on the magazine as best we could.
My 3-year-old laptop was dying at this point (gadgets these days don’t last as long… my old boy lasted me through college and another 3 years – that’s 7 long years of service!) so I bought a new one.
Now, I’ve never had a gaming console, and could only play old games that my old laptop could support – so I upgraded to a more powerful one dedicated to gaming. It wasn’t cheap, but it was a worthy investment.
Remember my friend H who had her wedding ceremony back in January? Well, the happy couple had their civil registration – and this time I was their photographer! Due to the pandemic, only seven people were allowed for the ceremony, including the couple, so I was lucky enough to be the only non-family member there. The registration was at Thean Hou Temple, and I took the opportunity to walk around and explore the beautiful temple. It felt like ages since I had actually been out for leisure, so it was a welcome change of pace.
The boredom finally took a toll on my fam, and they decided they needed a quick getaway (since cases were under control at this point). So we went for a day trip to Tanjung Sepat, a quaint fishing town about 1.5 hours from KL, to soak in the sights and look for good food. Found a very charming village street filled with cafes and eateries, which we had never visited before despite having been to Tanjung Sepat a couple of times.
My high school friend G came down from Ipoh to visit, and since I had a hotel review, I brought her along for a work/staycation trip to Hilton KL. I think it was my first hotel stay of the year since February, when the hubs came over for our wedding (we spent our first night at Citizen M in KL, coz my mom and sis-in-law wanted to visit KL).
This month was pretty sad for me. We had anticipated the axing of one of my colleagues, but I was surprised that another of our number was to be let go. The company compensated her, of course, but it was just shocking to be told at after our farewell party that another among us had to leave, and with immediate effect too. This left me and my sales guy: the last two standing in a company that has had a Malaysian presence for over 8 years.
Ah, birthday month. I always thought turning 30 would feel different, but it just felt like the same ol’. I guess after a certain point in life you just feel like birthdays aren’t anything special.
To commemorate the occasion, I had a cake and a few birthday meals, one with a group of close friends, another with a close high school friend, and another with family. It did show me something though: that the people who truly want to be in your life will remember and cherish you. I’m done with trying to ‘fit in’ with people who don’t care or make any effort in maintaining a friendship. Does this sound passive aggressive? ha
The fam and I also did the whole tourist-in-your-own-backyard thing and went to REX KL, where they were having a charity drive/exhibition of sorts, to highlight local NGOs/social enterprises and the work they do. It was mostly my idea, since the fam isn’t usually keen on these sort of events, but I think they welcomed the break in monotony, and we also got to enjoy lunch at the iconic Kim Lian Kee in Petaling Street.
My company is part of the airline industry, so the pandemic really hit us hard. Aside from lay offs, they also imposed a four-day work week, and a reduction in salary across the board for those remaining, for a period of three months. I understand it was necessary, but it was still a blow. I guess the good thing is that I don’t have any major commitments – I cant imagine how difficult it must be for those with families and loans.
At this point things were also looking really uncertain. Won’t elaborate because I’m not sure if it’s allowed to disclose, but let’s just say that I was looking at unemployment if things continued in their current trajectory. Not having a support system at work (before, I could at least talk to my editor/my Malaysian boss) was also frustrating. I felt alone and lost, since my superiors and other colleagues were all in Singapore. It’s not that they didn’t offer to help, don’t get me wrong. It’s just difficult not to have that face-to-face connection, you know?
November marked my first wedding anniversary with N. Despite the odds, we were excited to celebrate the occasion the best we could: we had planned for a virtual ‘date’ where we’d grab a nice lunch together while Skyping.
Unfortunately, the Philippines was struck by several typhoons in the days leading up to the date, and his house got inundated by floods. So it was that on the day of the anniv, we weren’t able to call at all because the flood waters had not subsided. Still, he was luckier than most as there wasn’t much damage to the property – and most importantly, he was safe.
We did have our Skype date in the end, just a couple of days late. I’ve been meaning to blog about it but it kinda slipped my mind and now it’s already December. 😛
Also, the dread hammer finally fell: my last remaining colleague was also retrenched. Leaving me. Alone.
I cleared out the office as best I could since our lease for the co-working space was ending soon. But this meant that moving forward, I would be fully working from home… for however long they decide to keep me lol. I guess there are pros and cons – I no longer have to be stuck in traffic everyday, and I can basically get up at like 8.45 to start work at 9am.
And just like that, the final month of the year arrived.
Earlier this month I was still pretty busy clearing out the office, but after that I slipped into holiday mood. While I wasn’t able to travel because cases are now extremely high, I did catch up with some ex-colleagues and friends (whilst observing SOPs so don’t @me), and I really enjoyed getting them Christmas presents: something I wasn’t big on before. I’m really grateful for their presence in my life: it just took a pandemic for me to fully appreciate it. We often take moments with our friends and family for granted because we think ‘hey, they’re always there’. I guess it took a pandemic for me to realise what I’ve been missing.
So that was my personal recap of 2020. I still find it quite surreal that the year I turned 30 – one that was initially filled with high hopes and plans – has passed by in the blink of an eye, with none of those plans realised. But I guess that’s how life is: always there to throw you a curveball.
You just have to weather it as best you can.
How was your 2020? Here’s to a better year ahead!
**(I mean, it can’t get worse than 2020. Unless … there’s a zombie apocalypse next. jk).