We all have our own ‘COVID-19 diaries’ don’t we? Sad stories about missing people, about not being to enjoy what we used to and living in fear of catching a potentially life-threatening infection.
The pandemic being so brutal over the past 2ish years meant that my boyfriend of 6 years, Chris, and I, had to be apart for much longer than ever intended. Although we always knew we were going to be in a long distance relationship, nothing prepared us for the extremely long time apart we would have to endure.
We used to see each other every 7-8 months for about 2 weeks at a time and it kept us going for the past 4 years we’ve been apart. But 2 years of not seeing each other took quite a large emotional and mental toll on us.
How did it finally happen?
The last time I physically saw Chris was in December 2019. It was a lovely holiday, we went around the UK as well as to Disneyland Paris for 3 days. I’m glad that was the ‘last trip’ before the big pandemic hit.
Because Singapore and the UK opened a VTL (vaccinated-travel lane) scheme in October 2021, Chris rushed to get a ticket to come see me. Both of us are fully vaccinated and this was finally the chance we had. Previously, he could still come to Singapore but only if he served a minimum of 10 days in a quarantine location he would’ve had to pay for himself (an average of $2,000+/-) and we simply did not want to throw that large amount of money away. So we waited, and thankfully, the VTL scheme came.
Chris landed in Singapore on the 15th of January and came to surprise me at my workplace after isolating for 4 hours whilst waiting for his on-arrival PCR test results. I screamed, I cried, we hugged. It was amazing. Nothing like being in the arms of your best friend and partner after being away for so long. I was elated.
How did it feel?
I was so happy and it felt like everything was right again. I had felt a sense of loss, sadness and great disappointment in everything over the last 2 years. As a homebody, introvert and someone who doesn’t have many friends, Chris was a main figure in my life for company, heart to heart talks and love.
It also felt very refreshing to finally have a 2-week break from work – a place I had been coming to 5-6 days a week consistently for the past 2 years because I was trying to save the little leave days I had for this trip.
Did anything change?
Because Chris and I kept such close contact over the last 2 years apart with video calls, care packages and much more, I felt like I had been with him all this time.
Over our 6 years together, we had definitely changed as people and it is only normal. I can honestly say we’ve changed for the better, become more empathetic, become more understanding, and more hardworking. Two peas in a long distance pod. Despite the physical distance, we never drifted apart.
That being said, I had a couple of hours of feeling extremely shy around him because it was like ‘meeting for the first time’. But it quickly went away as I knew, this is my Chris.
What was the hardest?
Communicating effectively posed a challenge a few times during our time apart. It is hard to communicate to the best of your ability when you are unable to meet and can only talk via video call or text message.
When we were younger, things were worse. I feel like I was pettier, I was more easily angry, frustrated and impatient. Now, I feel like I’m simply a ~chilled out~ version of what I used to be. That doesn’t mean we don’t have silly little arguments every once in awhile, we definitely still do – but all that is normal and some would even say, healthy.
We will always have things to work on as no relationship is perfect.
On a much lighter note, sleeping next to someone in the same bed is something I definitely need to get used to.
How did it feel when he left?
Sigh. It was a big fat sigh.
When I say it never gets easier, I mean it. We’ve done this so many times, we’re practically professionals – but it never gets easier. Everybody keeps telling me, “You should be used to it by now!” or “It must be a breeze!”.
The short answer is no, it isn’t easy. Yes, it has gotten easier, but only because we’ve found ways to cope. I occupy my lonely evenings with soap-making, watching long YouTube videos, playing Scrabble Go on my phone for hours with a bot, or simply.. sleeping. He focuses on catching up with podcasts, playing his favourite video games and seeing a pal once in awhile. These are all habits we’ve formed over the years with that much time on our hands.
How has your life changed since then?
On the 17th of January 2022, he popped the question at Gardens By The Bay’s Floral Fantasy exhibition – a beautiful place filled with colour, flowers, nature and soothing background music. I cried , but I was happy because I knew where my life was heading – back to the UK.
Since I left in 2018 after graduating from the University of Lincoln, I had always dreamt of going back. 300 job applications later, I started to lose motivation. Most companies that could sponsor a work visa simply preferred not to because of excess fees. But I was determined to go back – I had enjoyed my 5 years of living there so much and I love the UK. Chris’s proposal meant I had something to work towards now and that was saving money for the ‘big move’ to live with him.
For so long I have wanted to have my own independence in the form of no longer living with my parents, owning my own home and being responsible for all aspects of my own life. And I finally think it’s coming! I always found it hard for myself to grow as a person in Singapore as all of the abovementioned were not a stone’s throw away.
What happens now?
I save, save and save.
I have an incredibly low income for someone who works a minimum of 44 hours a week. Most times I’m embarrassed to tell people what I earn. Despite that, I’m generally quite disciplined with my savings. The ‘savings culture’ in Singapore has been ingrained in me ever since I obtained my first paycheck. I never let my savings dip below $100.
Moving across the world is a big commitment and one that costs a lot of money, the kind of money a girl in their late 20’s would struggle to handle. But I’m doing it anyway, because if I never try I’ll never know. This ‘tough road ahead’ may be the one thing that changes my life for the better.
No more spending money on things I can’t afford, no more spending money on impulse buys, no more spending money on unnecessary meals out. I can do this! I like being home after all. Will there be a lot of sacrifices to be made? Yes. Will I have to forgo the ‘little pleasures’ for this big plan of mine? Yes. But is it worth it? We’ll wait and see!
It was never going to be a smooth sailing road for me, and the advantage I have is that I have always been mentally prepared for it to be difficult, so it doesn’t come as a huge shock to me that this is what I have to do for myself and my happiness.
Thank you, self. I’ll need it.
Coming from a Southeast Asian family, there is a lot I could talk about with regards to topics such as how my parents handled it, how I spoke to my parents about such a life-changing decision, their level of acceptance, my thoughts on filial piety and leaving your family, how I as an only child am managing to do this, etc. The list goes on.
I’ll definitely write more about that in detail in another post, but for now, I am just happy to have reached this point in my life where I have something very clear to look forward to.
In the meantime, I’ll need all the luck I can get!