Welcome to 2022

When I used to plan my blog posts (back in the day!), I would end the year before with some reflections of my highlights, and then start off the new year with some resolutions and goals. But I’ve not done all of that in many years now.

But since I started this blog again in 2020 to document the pandemic life, and since the pandemic is still ongoing, I wanted to document something. After all, I wasn’t in a position to do anything last new year – I was trying to recover from my Covid-19 infection.

I do have some resolutions and goals for this year – from simple ones like doing a one-month planking challenge just for the heck of it to broader ones like sending out a proposal to turn my thesis into a book. But if the past two years have thought me anything, it’s that my main resolution is to stay healthy, enjoy life and spend it with people I love.

Everything else – and there are many things of course – is secondary.

I won’t bother to list them out (the past two years have also taught me that despite best intentions, things don’t always go the way you plan it!).

So, instead of looking ahead, I’m going to look at the present. Today, I am feeling gratitude. And to document this, I have to look at the past.

I am so aware that 2021 wasn’t a great year for me personally: I kicked off the new year recovering from a virus I had spent almost 8-9 months avoiding with a vengeance. I was at a job that I was really unhappy at (but feeling guilty for being unhappy because so many of my other friends couldn’t get academic jobs). I had to go back into strict lockdowns again all on my own. I wasn’t able to return over the summer to visit my family. I had very few friends in Birmingham. I was quite miserable.

Things changed, however, and now I am grateful to 2021 for easy access to three Covid-19 vaccines that has kept me safe. I won an award for my PhD thesis from the Association of Internet Researchers, my academic home. I have a new job that I’m enjoying at the moment, and working with some brilliant colleagues. I built relationships with some great new people, and solidified some old friendships. And most significantly, I got to give my mother (and the rest of my family) a hug for the first time in over two years.

In that sense, I’ve had an extremely good year despite the hardships. And all while being in the middle of a freaking pandemic. That, in itself, I think is a win.

Happy New Year!

From one lockdown to another

The Prime Minister has just announced another national lockdown which will last for at least six weeks. In my head, this is the 2nd lockdown, after the first in March this year.

There was another one in November but schools and university remain open, I believe, so it wasn’t really the same as the first one. Besides, I had to go onto campus twice a week to teach in the autumn semester so it didn’t really feel like I was in lockdown.

This new one is meant to start on Wednesday, the last day of my self-isolation based on the NHS app. From one lockdown to another.

The good news, I suppose, is that I feel better today and seem to be on the mend. I think a few more days of rest will get me fighting fit soon enough.

Running away

I went for a run earlier this evening – it was my first run in almost three months, and only the fifth since lockdown began in March. I’ve been nursing a sports injury since February; it’s felt better over the past few weeks but on some days I still feel a twinge and I was going to hold off until it was gone.

But today, I felt extremely restless. And even after taking an afternoon nap to reinvigorate myself as I work through Sunday, I felt even more lethargic than before. Except that I could tell it was much more physical – my body wasn’t happy.

So, I wondered if I could do a short run – even just to ‘test’ out the injury. I decided instead to do some yoga, and I felt better but it was still lacking. As I was cooling down with Down Dog, I decided to lace up and go for a run.

By most standards, it wasn’t a bad run considering how out of shape I am. In fact, considering that I walked for 30-40% of the run – whether I thought I felt something at the injury – it’s quite good. I’m not sure how the injury will feel tomorrow; I hope whatever I felt on the road was just in my head, or just that area sore from very little attention for many months.

In terms of my body though, I feel so much better! I actually feel in my body again, something that I haven’t felt for months.

Fact of the matter is I haven’t managed to find much motivation to do any exercise. Over the past two months, even my yoga and mindfulness/meditation has become rather sporadic. I’m still spending most of my time at home, and I’m still cycling but only to get to places as opposed to exercising.

In general, I’ve been feeling ‘meh’.

I haven’t had much time to focus too much on my mental health though – the past few weeks have gotten busy again with some work that I’ve been doing – to earn some money, conduct fieldwork for a research project, and working on getting some academic publications out.

Here’s the honest truth: I’ve actually been super stress, and there are some things happening in my life at the moment that’s causing my anxieties to shoot up again. I realised this about a week ago, but I didn’t have the energy or space to manage it.

I think today, my body gave me a big sign. I don’t know if I can continue with the running if the injury is not completely healed, but this post is a reminder that I need to check in on my body and mind a little bit more.

The next two months is going to be wild, and I’m going to need to be in good shape to navigate it.

I’m going to take the rest of the evening off. A glass of wine, and maybe watch a musical. Apologies to anyone I owe work to – I’ll get started again tomorrow.

Enough is enough. You must stay at home #dudukrumahdiamdiam

Not many can say they didn’t see it coming but just about an hour ago, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson went on national television with one simple instruction:

You must stay at home.

Boris Johnson

As of tonight, like in many other parts of the world currently, people are not allowed to leave their homes. The Prime Minister offered four exceptions: essentials (but with a plea to get things delivered or stretched out as much as possible), medical need or to care for vulnerable persons, work that cannot be done at home and one form of exercise a day.

At this point, it seems like the restrictions in the UK and Malaysia are almost on par which will hopefully ease a little this bit of dissonance in my head trying to keep up with different policies, as I blogged about yesterday. The difference is that in Malaysia, you’re not allowed to go out even for exercise although I’ve been seeing posts of friends on social media ‘creatively’ navigating that.

I won’t be surprised if the UK follows suit soon – even with advice to spend as much time indoors as possible, the nature reserve walk I did with my friends yesterday was too busy for our liking and we said we’d have to look for an alternative option. Not anymore, I suppose, at least for now.

What has been fascinating for me however is observing reaction on Twitter from some people I know lamenting (I’m being generous here with this choice of term – some of them are livid) that the UK is now essentially a police state. There are obviously a lot of disagreements; many are responding to them saying that these are unusual times and surely that these are necessary measures.

It did make me wonder about my reaction to this news, and how I’ve been anticipating it. I wonder if it’s because I have a very different relationship with freedom and individualism as some of my friends, in that I grew up in what was essentially a quasi-democractic state and as such, I’m more used to restrictions being imposed on me. Something to talk to the therapist about!

In any case, Boris’ choice of words were interesting to me because they made me think of the call by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin a couple of days after the announcement of the Movement Control Order, when he told people to “duduklah diam-diam di rumah” (sit quietly at home). I thought the use of the “lah” made his call less stern, and the whole “diam-diam” bit evoked memories of primary school teachers chastising their students for talking in class.

Naturally, that line made its rounds on Twitterjaya as part of many jokes. But the message was clear: people are not following the rules. People I know in Malaysia have been very vocal about abusing and shaming others who are still out frolicking and gallivanting at the expense of others.

The number of people who didn’t seem to care was so significant that healthcare workers started sharing pictures on Instagram of themselves holding signs which read: “I stay here for you. You stay home for us.” As usual, many Malaysians were also quick to use the common refrain: Only in Malaysia! to refer to people who just didn’t want to follow instructions that could save their lives and that of other peoples.

Well, if the latest restrictions in the UK are anything to go by, the Brits (and those who live here) aren’t much better either. I mean, if even Piers Morgan thinks you should stay home then … #awkward

The Guardian today ran a response to someone who asked: “Is it okay to shout at strangers who aren’t social distancing?” Then there are the Italians too. And Canada. A clearly upset Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today, in a much more forceful tone than Boris or Muhyiddin, said:

Enough is enough. Go home, and stay home!

Justin Trudeau

If that’s not firm enough for some people, I hope this guy (supposedly a mayor in Italy) convinces you: