“From the middle of my heart” is a reference to a new Radwimps song.
Radwimps, the Japanese band that did the music for the well-loved anime films Your Name and Weathering with You. In May 2020, they released a song titled kokoro no naka. It means middle of the heart in English.
I’ll come back to the song later.
For now, I implore you to listen, while reading the lyrics in English (see the YouTube captions):
The calm before the storm
Sometime in January 2020, I was on board a yacht with my colleagues.
For many of us, it was our first time on a yacht. We were celebrating a business milestone: $1 million in annual recurring revenue.
We hired a yacht to take us out of mainland Singapore, to somewhere near Lazarus Island. We ate, drank, jumped into the sea, and toasted to the startup’s success.
We felt invincible, like the world was for us to conquer. 2020 was going to be our year to shine.
No one knew how life would change drastically a month later, thanks to a virus. An unknown virus that came from a wet market in a Chinese city and then developed into a pandemic.
Many countries went into recession.
The startup lost about 33% of its revenue.
Disruption, disorientation, disillusionment, death
I imagine that in the far future, people will look back at 2020 as a big event. Like we do now with the world wars, 9/11, the global financial crisis of 2009, etc.
It feels surreal, living through a time like this.
So many layoffs and businesses shutting down. From global corporations to famous startups to family-owned shops, every business is affected in one way or another.
We’ve been living under a lockdown for two months. My physical world is just my home and my neighbourhood.
So much screen time for work, leisure, and errands. Even digital natives are complaining of digital fatigue.
There’s a mental health crisis brewing. My therapist and my best friend (a clinical psychologist) tell me that they have more cases to handle now.
People started protesting the lockdowns and restrictions. Some don’t even believe COVID-19 is a danger.
Then, in late May, a black man died under the knee of a white cop in America. More protests erupted, this time against racism and police brutality. People, once confined to their homes for fear of the virus, are out and about in huge numbers. Protesting, looting, and killing. Last I heard, protestors are toppling statues of historical figures that they say are racist.
Protests will almost certainly mean another wave of COVID-19 infections.
The world has gone mad. Sometimes, I don’t know what to believe anymore.
To hell with the “new normal”
I try not to read too much news. A lot of it is depressing or sensationalist.
This virus may be endemic. It can mutate. There are lots of challenges in making and distributing a vaccine in a short time. We still don’t know a lot about COVID-19. Especially its long-term effects.
So many experts giving their opinions on this stupid virus. I try not to care a lot about what the experts say; experts tend to be wrong anyway.
I am sick of hearing about this virus. I am also sick of hearing about the “new normal” that we all have to deal with.
What the fuck is the “new normal” anyway? A world with less touch and face time? What does it mean to experience something, if you can only do it through masks or screens, and not in person?
How can anyone accept this as normal?!
At one point, I didn’t care if I got COVID-19
I was laid off, I lost my freedom of movement thanks to the lockdown, and some of my relationships had to go on pause.
My mood became unstable. I threw myself into various personal projects. If it weren’t for these projects, and the support of friends and family, my depression would have been much worse.
Still, I had to go see my therapist. I told her, in between sobs, that I didn’t care if I caught COVID-19 and died from it. It had already taken things like my job from me, so it wouldn’t be a stretch if it took my life too.
“Are you suicidal?” she asked. “No”, I mumbled, “I just don’t care anymore.”
After therapy, I walked around trying to decide what takeaway lunch to get. I found myself wary of touching public surfaces and used hand sanitiser often.
Maybe I didn’t mean what I said when I declared that I didn’t care about COVID-19. It could have been my depression and anxiety talking. Or maybe I truly could not give a flying fuck.
I DON’T KNOW!!!
Hope keeps me moving forward
I’ll write down hundreds of things that I’m looking forward to
I’ll hold and embrace them tight until then
Let’s go. “Happy Ending” – wait until we get there.
Kokoro no naka is a simple video. It looks like it was shot in the house of lead singer Yoji. At a little over a minute, it’s one of the band’s shortest songs.
But the lyrics! Oh, the lyrics are like a warm hug from a friend when you’re feeling down. They talk about living life one day at a time and looking forward to the future. They express a longing to return to the enjoyable things that are currently not possible.
No doubt a reference to the COVID-19 situation.
I’ve been thinking about the things that keep me moving forward during this dark period of my life. Sure, there are my personal projects. Loads of credit also go to my family and friends.
But listening to kokoro no naka made me realise that hope is crucial too.
Despite everything that happened, I have dreams to chase and things to look forward to. I want to go on another solo trip and explore the world. Meet people who share the same interests as me. Share meals with friends and catch up with them.
I lived through a couple of world-changing events: 9/11 and the 2009 global financial crisis. I have also been through some dark and depressing personal struggles.
How overwhelming, scary, and painful they were at that time. How small they are in the rear mirror now.
I am hopeful that this COVID-19 crisis, too, shall pass.
Healing and hoping
My therapist called to check in on me, sometime in mid-June.
I told her that my new job keeps me busy now and that I felt better than the last time we spoke. “You do sound better now!” she remarked.
“Really? Well, that’s good. But to be honest, I feel that I am not as happy as I should be”, I confessed.
“I do realise that I am more fortunate than other people. I managed to find a great job opportunity amidst the pandemic. I have a roof over my head, people who care about me, and creative pursuits. Yet, there is this undercurrent of sadness.”
“It’s grief. You’re still healing from grief over the things that happened and the things you lost. Give yourself time to heal and be patient. Things will eventually go back to normal.”
That made sense. “Thank you very much, I needed that” I said.
After I hung up, I smiled and had a moment to myself, before heading back to my laptop. I have work to do and dreams to chase.