2021 was like a sequel to 2020 in a completely different scene—my home city, Bangkok. Because of the relocation, it was expected to be a tough one. Well, that was an understatement. Challenges filled up the year and took us up and down like riding another roller coaster.
Stationing in Bangkok for the entire year also gave me an interlude—a break from moving around. There was a lot going on in this pause. Facing those challenges in 2021 became a transition while figuring out and preparing for the next act.
DC Challenges: Past and Future
The year kicked off with the Capitol attack while I was in a state quarantine. What a show and what an emotional challenge! Even though I wasn’t there—to take photos of discarded PPE—anymore, the mentality that had been developed in me over the years in DC had already taken root. I was glued to the news on the aftermath of the event throughout the year. 2020 in DC tightened my bond with the city. Weirdly enough, 2021 in Bangkok made me homesick in my own home city.
Questions I kept asking myself. Did my DC chapter end in 2020? How would I involve DC in the next chapters? What about the PPE projects that I wanted to realise? In other words, should and when I go back there? But y’know, clarity wasn’t a main characteristic of the year. It took me the whole year to internalise my relationship with DC in the future.
Work Challenges: Remote and Local
I haven’t been back on my desk in DC since March 2020, no need for me to physically be there. So, 2021 was set up for remote work from Bangkok as a trial. I rented a desk at a co-work space so that I could walk. 11-12 hours time difference added a little challenge. But it was optimised by having a job done by the end of my business hours. So it’d show up in their inbox DC morning. Some evening works and meetings weren’t so bad. But it was tricky to switch off work mode in the evening and I missed colleagues in person. Ultimately, this work arrangement was proved to be working and opened up other possibilities.
But that wasn’t enough.
For some reason (I can try explaining it from an astrological point of view but no), a good chunk of works went towards Saranokchan—a food-related channel. It was initiated just after I was out of the quarantine in an unplanned evening with my old friends/colleagues and my sister, Chef Pu. From a series on the resilience of local businesses in the Khaosan area on YouTube to a range of food topics on Facebook, I was proud of the content we produced. It was fantastic to work with passionate people. It isn’t billable yet but certainly is full of potentials. We learned a lot from working on it.
However, this side project intensified my time management. It stressed me out big time, especially, when other stuff was demanding priorities.
Health Challenges: Physical and Mental
I laid out three spots for a daily commute: the condo in T77 Community, the co-working space in Phra Khanong, and the gym in Ekamai. That sounded like a healthy walking route except for the enticing pubs along the soi back home. I couldn’t resist the temptation and fell into a vicious cycle: working hard, exercising hard, and drinking and vaping hard. That put a lot of pressure on the body and the mind. It hit me in waves. The first hit was just before Songkran. But that wasn’t the peak.
When the Delta variant surged in Bangkok, restrictions and curfews were in force. Pubs were on and off. The gym was also closed. That was a huge challenge. Back to 2020 again, not quite, but familiar frustrations. It was clear to me how the lack of physical routine affected mental health. The roller coaster ride went deep down.
During the restrictions, I dropped the days at the co-working space, avoided meetings in person with the Saranokchan team, drank at home mostly, and worked out on YouTube and running. My first COVID-19 vaccination was in June and again in September. While physical activities were at a low point, work demands piled up. Another wave of stress hit. I slipped in another loop of escapism. A family issue didn’t help either.
Fortunately, none of my close contacts caught the virus even though my lifestyle was considered high risk. But the echoes of unnecessary deaths in the US in 2020 still haunted me. I had to learn to accept people who refused to get the vaccine, including my mom. That was a long mental journey.
It gradually got better after easing the restrictions in November. Pubs didn’t have to serve beer in a plastic mug. The gym was back on with more measures. But that got me questioning my dependency on the gym to get physical. And how do I break the vicious cycle? I’m working on it, I guess.
It’s impossible not to compare 2021 to 2020. The pandemic is still at play. The original idea of the move from DC to Bangkok was to get different experiences during this pivotal time. I got more than that. No regrets about spending the whole year in Thailand.
One mind shift was to let go, again. But on another level of surrender. Act as much as you could within your control. Losing your head over it wouldn’t solve the problem but could drag you down with it.
The past years were tough for everyone. We’ve been through a lot but also learning a lot. I realised my own desire of discovering and sharing the beauty of life in a strange place and time. The roller coaster in a transitional interlude certainly gave me a chance to have a break, regroup myself, and strategise the next move.
The last words of the last annual wrap up post are “2021, bring it on!” Boy, be careful what you wish for! What I’m looking into this new year, I gotta say it. Show me what you got, 2022!