Dear Winnie from 2020,
This is you from 2022. Before you throw this letter away because you think this must be some form of mischievous act, allow me to use the following paragraphs to prove to you that I’m indeed you.
For starters, I know 2020 was an emotional rollercoaster ride for you. On the one hand, you felt so thrilled to be able to graduate from university and be free from study-induced stress. You were so glad to have all the time in the world to read, learn, and explore what you truly love.
However, on the other hand, you also felt lost and possessed a deep sense of emptiness, as no one would be able to tell you what to do next in your life, and you could no longer follow the same routine that you had grown accustomed to for the past four years.
You realised that, suddenly, you were on your own. For the first time in your life, you needed to pay phone and utility bills on your own. You needed to learn how to budget and invest on your own. And because you refused to burden your parents, you buried yourself in job-hunting, in the hope of getting a job as soon as possible.
I know it wasn’t going as smoothly as you had hoped. The applications that you spent much time writing were oftentimes ignored or rejected. Additionally, I know that with every “we regret to inform you” email received, your heart sank deeper, and the mocking voice at the back of your head had become louder.
I know what had chipped away your last bit of hope in yourself was seeing how all of your university friends were able to move on to a new chapter in their lives and how happy they were in their jobs. On social media, many of them would share how they had acquired new experiences through work. Looking at pictures of team gatherings and your friends dressed up in formal wear, you painfully realised that the same people that you used to see every day on campus now appear more distant than ever.
At that moment, you felt a tremendous sense of loneliness and thought that you were inadequate. You even felt like a failure, for you’ve not achieved financial independence, and you’ve not become a working professional like your friends already were, and worst of all, you weren’t the perfect daughter who didn’t have to worry her parents at all.
By now, I trust that you no longer doubt that I’m indeed you from the future. Instead, you are probably wondering – why am I writing to you?
Because I want to tell you that things did get better. Within a few months, you would soon embark on a career in the exciting, fast-paced news industry. You would begin acquiring new knowledge and skills every day, building the future you had always dreamed of.
Do you know what led to these positive changes? It was your courageous decision to reach out and seek support from a healthcare professional. By inviting another perspective to help you with managing your emotions, you gradually rebuilt your confidence and garnered the inner strength to tackle the challenges that came with adulthood.
You are now able to see things differently and become more equipped to cope with various kinds of stress. I know the stress that I experience from time to time is totally normal, as I’m juggling many responsibilities and commitments simultaneously. In fact, sometimes I’m grateful for this pressure, as it motivates me to deliver good work on time.
When I notice that I’m getting overly stressed, instead of brushing these emotions aside, I will proactively find ways to manage them. For example, believe it or not, I’m now a regular pool-goer who swims every other day. You would be surprised at how much a 30-minute workout can help – after each session, I’m able to tackle the problems at hand with a fresh mind and re-energised spirit.
Besides embarking on a regular exercise routine, you’ve also learnt to rely on family and friends for emotional and moral support during difficult times. I’m sure this will come off as a surprise for you because you had not reached out to them for support in 2020 as you did not want to make your parents worry, and you were afraid that your friends might look down on you. At that time, you were worried that they might see you as incompetent for not being unable to secure a job and too emotional for not being able to handle setbacks on your own. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I wish to reassure you that none of them feels that way.
Alright, alright, before you accuse me of painting a picture that’s too rosy to be true, let me add some nuances here. My friends and family may not be available all the time to help me with my worries because they, like everyone else, have many things on their plates. However, instead of feeling discouraged, I would simply reach out to them later at a suitable time or just find someone else that I can talk to.
Furthermore, I no longer see seeking support as a sign of weakness or incompetency. Rather, I see it as a crucial step for me to work towards being the best version of myself. If I see a doctor for a physical ailment, like a broken leg, why can’t I also seek help for my worries and anxieties, which can be equally crippling (pun intended)?
I’ve also learnt to look out for friends, family, and colleagues, especially when I notice that they appear to be stressed or overwhelmed. In those cases, I would make sure to reach out to them and extend a pair of listening ears and a heart without judgment.
I know telling you all of these positive things that will happen in the future may still not be enough to lighten up your mood right now. Hence, before I end off this letter, I wish to share with you this resource that I came across that may help you navigate through this temporary tempest in life.
In 2021, the Health Promotion Board (HPB), in collaboration with several ministries and agencies, launched MindSG. The website offers many useful and simple tips on how we can better take care of our mental well-being, such as how to better cope with our stress and manage our emotions.
If you are unsure where to start, you can always click on the “Seek mental health resources & services” tab which guides you to find suitable support for your needs.
While I can keep going on about the future, I also truly believe that not knowing what comes next makes life rather exciting. Regardless of what life may offer you next, please always remember that I am so grateful and proud of you for reaching out for support when you were overwhelmed by stress. And, if you ever have the chance to see me in the future, I hope you will feel proud too.
This article is sponsored by the Health Promotion Board.
Top image by by Joshua Newton on Unsplash.