The Invisible Thread of Serendipity

As I sat in church yesterday contemplating the sermon message, I realised that since my last blog article almost exactly two years ago, my life as I knew it has evolved. It is amazing to think about how a short span of 700 odd days can change things around so much. Of course, a large part of this change is attributable to COVID-19, the global pandemic that shook the world and almost caused it to come to a stop in 2020. Since then mankind has learnt to move on much like ants continuing its march onwards after the rain.

Today we don’t leave the house without wearing masks. We cannot enter shopping malls or anywhere for that matter without scanning our entry in. We have limited our interactions with friends and family. We have stayed in Singapore continuously for more than a year as global borders remain closed for leisure travel. And we have become adept in working remotely. The home has become a place where we spend most of our time in and thus made the work life balance even harder to manage.

Despite all these I am grateful that my family and I have not really come out the worse from the events. Yes we had to change and adapt but we had been safe from the virus and our jobs had not been affected drastically. If you recall I had applied for 20+ jobs back before I left my previous job and none of them called me back. Reflecting on this, I realised that it was probably God’s hand at work. If I had successfully gotten a job in any of these hospitality and tourism related industries, I wouldn’t have gotten away unscathed. In fact, remaining in the finance industry in a fintech setup made so much sense at a time like this. What can I say, God is all knowing and I am all but an ant in His infinite wisdom.

The other big change that happened these two years is where we live now. After a dinner gathering with my old friends in early 2019, I was inspired to try living in a condominium but wasn’t sure if the family would like it and thus whether the 3x premium would be worth it. We set about looking for private apartments on sale and during this search, chanced upon a real estate agent which I believe was another divine appointment. He is a top agent in Singapore and through my conversations with him and after doing my sums, concluded that our best course of action was to sell our HDB, rent a condo for stay for a couple of years and use my sales proceeds to invest in a couple of new launches in the meantime which I could sell for a good profit in about 3 years’ time. By then, I would have decided whether living in a condo is what I want.

It was a really bold investment on my part and on hindsight I might have been wiser to put the money to work in the market which has done really well in the last two years. Nonetheless I guess I did it as I enjoyed the purchase experience and relished telling my grandchildren someday that that their grandparents once owned 3 properties! It also helped that due to COVID-19, interest rates were cut and construction was delayed for about 9 months so my monthly instalments turned out lower than expected.

Coincidentally just before the borders closed between us and Malaysia, our friend in JB managed to secure a rent for us. Though the rent was nowhere close in covering the loan instalment, it was way way better than leaving the house unoccupied and untended for extended periods. Another one of those things where the timing couldn’t be better!

So after about 2-3 months of putting my HDB flat for sale, we managed to secure a buyer at a relatively good price and thus began our search for a place to rent. We ended up moving only two streets down in a condo enclave that wasn’t too far away from the children’s school and their grandparents. We completed the move in June 2019 and thus have been living here for almost 2 years.

The condo we rented was another godsend. It has four bedrooms, four toilets, a huge balcony that gets both morning and evening sun and is right smack in a wind tunnel so we don’t have to turn on air-conditioning. The compound has a huge almost Olympic size swimming pool, the unit was really well maintained and we got away with it all for a very affordable rent. I think the biggest blessing came after we were locked up at home for almost two months during the circuit breaker. I realised that if I had remained stuck at home back in our HDB, I would have probably joined the ranks of one of those people who became mentally unsound. Whenever I couldn’t take it anymore, I just needed to stand at my balcony and stare into the endless expanse of the sky or tend to my garden and it calmed me very much.

I also have a new domestic helper whom I was able to settle her contract in early 2020. She joined our family in January, a couple of days after my previous helper of 6 years decided that it was time for her to go back to be with her husband and children. It was another divine appointment. Thinking back when COVID struck our shores, if our previous helper had remained here, she might have fared worse being worried for her family. In a way, she got out while she had the chance. For us, we managed to secure the engagement of our new Indonesian helper before their government set in place new stringent employment requirements. Our helper’s Singaporean husband is located here as well so she is also well placed to remain in Singapore. Our new helper is also a great cook! And that certainly made a difference to our daily diet during our circuit breaker period.

Career wise, my new venture in fintech is shaping up well. Though we aren’t hugely successful at this point, we have been able to break even and that is already a feat in itself for a company of 2.5 years. There were a lot of developments and up and downs in the company during this period and it would probably be too much to talk about. Suffice to say I survived the ever changing demands of my role, the lack of in-depth expertise knowledge and also some biases from colleagues to have somehow thrived and shown my value to my bosses. I am slated for a promotion this month to head of department. I don’t think I have fully gotten rid of my insufficiencies but rather over time used my strengths to contribute. At this current phase of my career, I feel like my value add is more in my strategic thinking, people management, communication and networking skills. I seem to have developed a mental barrier for picking up in depth technical knowledge.

Perhaps what might have been the most gratifying outcome of my job change is that my ex CEO whom I really adored had retired from government service and the new guy who took over is not someone I had enjoyed working with. On all accounts of colleagues who have remained behind, their unanimous comment was that I left at the right time. The new CEO has a new vision of how he thinks the organisation should be run, a high performance workforce and thus rooting out all deadweights and laggards. Many have left voluntarily or involuntarily because of him. I don’t think I would have fared worse under his leadership but I doubt I would have been happy either. Nevertheless, ironically, I’m now some sort of government relations officer in my current job and I find lots of gratification supporting various government bodies in ways I could never be able to previously.

Family wise, I survived a marital crisis. Since my hubby moved to his new job in mid 2019, he had been drowned in work and a large part of that was due to his female boss who has an indomitable hold on him. She almost dominated all his time from the first thing in the morning right to the last hour of the day, including weekends and even while on leave. At first I could deal with it attributing it to being in a new job and all but when I learnt that half of the time, their correspondence had nothing to do with work but her own emotional issues, I realised that I was losing my husband bit by bit.

Within 6 months I had already stopped talking to him and I was constantly in tears of what was to come. He tried to pull me back but it wasn’t enough, her hold on him was just too strong and no matter how much I told him to stop it, he couldn’t. I think the circuit breaker came just at the right time. It did exactly what it was meant to – break the connection he had with his boss and restore it with mine. I don’t think our marriage has fully recovered from this episode but at least it didn’t get worse. Today we can speak about this candidly and he has put in more effort to curb his interaction after some kind of epiphany he had. Maybe he realised his boss is indeed psychotic.

Lastly, the children have been growing up well. My youngest is now 7 and eldest at 16. They are individually developing their own personalities, hobbies and social circle. Though I do wish they could be stronger academically, I realised the world they will live in is going to be different from the one I grew up in. Who is to say that one day it is going to boil down to tradeable skills than good grades when it comes to survival?

For now I will just enjoy the great bonding I have with them. We have a common love for board and video games, anime and toys and this has kept the family together throughout this period of time. During circuit breaker, we binged on Gloomhaven, an award winning RPG board game and spent countless hours defeating maps after maps. After circuit breaker, we started gaming together on Genshin Impact, a MMORPG, which even the youngest have an active account on. We now spend a few hours every weekend questing together and during the weekdays gushing over the latest character and story developments. I don’t think I will ever give up these precious moments with my children. As they say, those who game together, stay together.

COVID-19 has been devastating to our economy and the livelihoods of millions of people. But when I look back at what my family has gone through and how God has brought us divine appointments in His own beautiful time, my heart and faith can only be transformed. The only question for me now is how does God want me to bless others after He has blessed me so much.

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