2020 is definitely not a perfect year for everyone – with Covid-19, the emerging global economic crisis, and the terrible job market. It is also a year of isolation and parting from friends and family as the entire world, at some point, was reduced to a tiny room. Although I did not experience the disease itself nor was I affected by the job market situation, this year was definitely one of the deepest dips in my life thus far. However, it is also an opportunity to look for the silver lining in this tremulous time – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
On top of all the shittiest thing that happened to me this year, I also was fortunate enough to start something new – something therapeutic, something that lifts me up, and something that both strengthened and hardened me mentally.
The ups and downs in my physical health
Continuing my weight-loss or maintenance was definitely one of my goals at the start of the lockdown. Actually, it was even more than that – I aimed to get a six-pack by the end of the lockdown. In the first few weeks, the progress was splendid. I ate very healthily and did a lot of bodyweight training on my own. Going out for a run everyday was my excuse to get some fresh air since my studio didn’t have a balcony. By the end of the third week, I already had six packs!
It was a downhill from there. Depression hit, and I lost my motivation to exercise. I ate more out of stress. Although I continued teaching yoga virtually, my personal practice was practically non-existent. Then came summer, when my depression hit the hardest. My partners were alcohol and case coaching. I only had a brief period in Sicily, my climbing trip, where I actually exercised every day.
Spring and winter came, and my exercises reduced to zero once again. I travelled and walked a lot, yet, despite carrying my mat around, I did not find any motivation to exercise. Furthermore, as Greece entered lockdown starting November, I ended up locking myself in the apartment – eating, drinking, and painting – yet still not exercising. My effort to pick up handstand and yoga only lasted a few days as I struggled to get myself completely sober enough to get into them.
The happy (?) ending came as I arrived in Thailand. I guess all of us need a bit of a reminder or a red flag to actually start doing something. I was lucky enough to have received two flags:
The reflection on the mirror is really not who I want to be – I was returning to the fat Sea I once was
I couldn’t fit into the pair of shorts that I used to wear
Right then and there, I started to pick up exercising again. I made a pack to myself to get moving despite being locked in a hotel room. It was actually amazing how to build strength back, though my endurance was definitely much lower. I am looking forward to getting back in my weight-loss and healthy journey in the coming 2021.
Depression – Foe and Freind
I have encountered a lot of depressive feeling in my life, but this year marks the first time I have ever been diagnosed as clinical depression. As I experienced it first hand, I completely understand now why you just can’t say to a clinically depressed people “just snap out of it” – Because you CAN’T! Depression is complex and, once you are in it, you just cannot control it. For me, it comes and goes without notice though with some patterns as to when it is normally triggered. However, I had no clue of how strong it would hit and how I would feel.
One very bad occasion was on my birthday. As I was preparing the dinner for my guests, my anxiety and depression hit, and I didn’t know what to do and how to react. What I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to cry to whoever show up first. I ended up having a conversation with one of my friends in Thailand for nearly an hour. On that day I decided to make an appointment with the school’s psychologist.
Another occasion – the worst – was on my trip over the summer, where I sunk so deep that I started having suicidal thoughts. Pills were popped from my medicine bags and laid on the table. Fortunately, I didn’t take it, and later my psychiatrist told me that it wouldn’t kill me anyway.
My battle with depression has been long, and I still don’t know when I will be fully recovered. I can live a normal life now, but I sure hope that one of these days I will feel as normal I used to be.
Although I am deeply traumatized by the experience, it did actually open many doors for me. I was introduced to a lot of great people as a way to relieve me of my loneliness. I also decided to be more open to others, and I have received some openness in return. I learned more about others’ past and experience through deep conversation as I opened up about my trauma. I wondered how this amazing it would be if we can just have these kinds of relationships all the time.
My progress to handstand is probably one of the only few beautiful sides of 2020. Handstand has been my goal for a while but never with a definitive deadline. However, early in January, I decided to seriously pursue the dream by purchasing online courses – starting with Kyle Wieger’s courses.
Within 3 months, I finished two courses that I bought, and practice nearly daily. Nearly every day, I would go to the gym and practice for an hour, on top of a yoga practice. At first, it was very scary, especially given that I have fell and hurt myself a few times trying to practice handstand in a studio and the teacher training. However, through perseverance, I managed to hold a solid 10 seconds by early March.
The practice also continued to the lockdown, where I gave myself a challenge to practice handstand without knocking my rows of bottles of wine over. With that, I managed to even hold for a solid 20 seconds as well as the multiple variations that I posted on Instagram.
Sadly, I didn’t continue my practice for the same reason as all other forms of exercises, although I must say that handstand is probably the only form of practice I still did from time to time. Also, it is probably one of the only few pose that I could proudly say was my solid progress from last year at this point.
As I started quarantine in Thailand, I decided to get back to handstand practice. I’m very glad to know that I still could hold for 10 seconds at times. I hope I can continue this and get more comfortable with handstand next year.
Connect and Reconnect
When I came to INSEAD, I decided to step out of my comfort zone to talk to people more and really get to know many more people than my usual self. This year, I think I have been quite successful in connecting with new people. I have made a lot of friends that I still keep in touch post-MBA. One of the most touching moments for me was when one of my friends said that “I don’t need to really reach out to so many people, because Sea is here to introduce me to good people”. I was glad that I was able to make such a meaningful connection over the year.
However, during my depressive period, I realized that I have been neglecting my existing relationship with people from my workplace and in Thailand. I hadn’t really meet or talked to my friends from schools and university for so long that I couldn’t think of a person to reach out to when I was in such a helpless state. I realized that, while I was making progress on health and many other things, my relationship with those who matter seem to falter. It will really be important for me to continue the relationship I have made in the past year as well as rekindle other friendships and relationships that I once had going forward.
For this realization, I am thankful of my depression experience that has brought me to think more on this topic because it allowed me to reflect more on the topic that I have never recognized as important. As my yoga practice always focuses on balance, I think it is time for me to also balance many aspects of life so that I am a more wholesome person both physically and mentally.
Life is a Painting
As a mean to counter my depression, sketching and watercolor painting was introduced to me as a way to express my feelings and thoughts on top of writing and singing. I was really hesitant at first, because I used to have a bad experience with arts in general since I was in middle school. I used to believe that I could not draw or paint. I was really bad back then – to the point that I had a to ask my friend to fix my work before I can submit to the teacher just so that I can pass the class.
I started off with sketching landscape. My first one was very bad because I chose to sketch landscape live – which is very hard considering the subject is not still and I keep changing perspective. However, I think the second one was much better than the first once I really put my mind to it. I really started to enjoy it, but I started to want to add color to my work. That was when I ask my friend to get me started with painting.
My first painting was, of course, as I expected, a disaster. I did not really know how to use the quality of watercolor (even now, I still don’t think I really use it well). However, I found myself strangely love to paint. The belief that I cannot paint has vanished as I started to see improvement in painting. Plus, I started to think the all-in-one art class back in middle school, where we jump from one medium to another, maybe the reason for people who are not natural artists, like me, to not be able to paint.
Since then, I started painting nearly every day. I think, by now, I spend more time painting than any other hobby (and spent a lot of money on it too). I found myself being able to combine both words and pictures together. The process of trials and errors are also very relaxing (except when I have to throw away a not-so-good work on an expensive paper).
I now found the style that I would like to be able to paint – the loose and free style similar to Angela Fehr and Jean Haines. I am now taking online courses, which basically is watching some demonstrations. I also plan to potentially take some workshops in person here in Thailand, though I found that the style I like does not seem to be very popular here.
The start of something new
While a lot of good old habits failed, the turbulent year has also brought me a lot of something new. I started outdoor climbing in the Fontainebleau Forest and even joined a climbing trip in Sicily, which was a perfect region to climb. I found that it was less scary than I thought and I really enjoy it. While I don’t think this will become my main sport, I would really want to join some other climbing trips that are beginner friendly or hit the climbing gym once in a while.
Professional wine tasting was also something I managed to accomplish this year. I have been drinking wine for a while, but I really picked up the amount when I reached France. I finally took WSET course and test to get the WSET Level 1 certificate for wine tasting. However, I think I may be ready for Level 2 already given the amount and variety of wine I have been tasting over the year in France and Europe.
Traveling has also been off the chart this year. I used to think that I was a globetrotter given the amount of travel required for my job. However, I realized that I travel for fun and to nice places a lot more during this year – despite the quarantine. As a first-timer in Europe, I decided to milk the hell out of it by traveling to so many countries over the summer and fall. I think I must have hit over 10 countries this year alone. The lockdown winter also let me enjoy Santorini in the most quiet time – which is also nice in its own way.
Last and more subtle experience is the ability to protect myself from heartache. I have written one reflection about the end of my relationship with a very good friend that I have made and gotten quite close to over a period of just a few months. When the relationship was ended, I was in quite a lot of pain. I fear rejection, especially from those who matters to me, and I tried very hard to bring the relationship back. However, over the period of isolation, where I had time to think things over as well as to drawn myself in alcohol (more from my love for it than to forget anything – I couldn’t be that drunk), I came to a realization that, while I shit happen, the one who hurt me most is myself – not others. Others can reject me, say something bad to me, or ignore me, but I cannot ignore myself, and more importantly, ignore happiness and good things that are around me.
A wise man once said “when opportunity knocks at the door, always be ready to welcome it”. Happiness is similar to opportunity, but rather than knocking at the door, it is already in my house. Like a piece or paper, a book, or any furniture, it is waiting for me to find it and use it. Other people can say “don’t use it” – that is a metaphor for hurtful words and actions – but in the end, it is always up to me whether or not to use it. In this year, I learn to use it.
It is not that I delete all the past experience of the person from my memory. Rather, I remember it – all the good and happy part and the hurtful part – but I don’t dwell on it. I learned from it and move on. I am now a better person than I once was because I learn from my mistakes and I become more resilient from bad experiences.
For the coming 2021, I don’t wish for anything but improvements – both for myself and for this hectic state of the world as of now. For myself, I will find the balance in life – physical and psychological as well as internal and external relationships. I hope to be able to get back to my finesse physique or more as well as to gain more stability in the relationship with the loved ones and myself. I also hope to make progress in my hobbies, both newfound and old ones – especially in yoga and painting.
Goodbye 2020 and welcome 2021...