Relationships, You & Your Family

Living under a cloud

Living under a cloud

The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a menacing cloud over humanity and directly affected every country, rich or poor. Over the past year and a half, a staggering 187 million have been infected and more than 4 million have died.*

Singapore has largely been spared the worst in the pandemic. This is not to say that no-one has died or fallen ill, or that businesses and livelihoods have not been affected. For most of the general population, though, wearing masks and not eating in at our favourite food places or travelling overseas have been a prolonged big inconvenience.

The most commonly-voiced adverse effect is a loss of connection. Observing social distancing, working from home and being unable to gather in large groups means connecting less with others. For young adults, gone are the memorable graduation ceremonies, birthday celebrations and wedding banquets.

For this article, I want to focus more on young adults. These individuals are completing their formal education, starting careers and making decisions about life partners. They are entering their most economically productive phase and are a country’s potential leaders across all fields. This is a critical age group, on which the nation often pins its hopes.

Initially, I thought that this generation, digital natives whose lives revolve around social media, would have no problems replacing face-to-face with virtual communication. But it seems that they, too, yearn to meet in person and hang out in groups.

The pandemic also seems to have reduced the desire for many to plan and to dream about the future. Uncertainty due to constantly changing safety measures means that big decisions may have to be shelved, recalibrated or re-evaluated. Those planning to marry have to decide whether to go ahead with current restrictions or wait till who knows when and what will be allowed. Those wanting to study abroad do not know when it will be possible. Those trying to choose a field of study need to consider how the dynamic job landscape may be totally different in four or five years.

As people become more isolated and uncertainty abounds, some experience mental health challenges in the form of anxiety and depression. People are worn down to the point of being less patient and more irritable.

Thankfully, though, the pandemic’s impact is not all negative. Amidst the clouds of gloom and doom, some silver lining has appeared.

Not long ago, many of the older generation mourned the mushrooming of a “strawberry generation”, who—like delicate strawberries—bruise easily emotionally. The product of the older generations’ hard work and success, these young adults grew up self-absorbed, feeling entitled and unwilling to make sacrifices and endure hardship. A good number remain in this frame, perhaps hunkered down in their own unreal world, but I am observing the rise of a new generation.

More and more young adults are more environmentally conscious, striving to reduce waste and consumerism. They are more open to being socially inclusive and caring for the less fortunate. They step out of their comfort zone and get involved, volunteering time and energy. They are ready to try new things and not fear failure. Gone is the mantra “You only live once, so live it up”; “You only have one life, so live it well” is now the guiding light.

Observing these shoots of change sprouting gives me hope for our younger generation and for our future. Out of the shadows of the COVID-19 cloud, this generation is being roused. Out of adversity and challenge have come individuals hungry to find meaning and authentic connection.

* Statistics as at the time of writing

Benny Bong has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award, received in 2011, and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.