Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Third Culture Kid identity: Struggling with claustrophobia in this global COVID-19 pandemic

Sunbathing and dancing under the sun in Lund

I have a confession to make... I struggle from claustrophobia

As an adult third culture kid, globetrotter, and home body. I struggle with feeling trapped. Trapped inside crowded places is one of my biggest fears but also feeling mentally trapped. With all the border closures and each country taking its own stance on restricting citizens, residents, and non-residents - it feels very claustrophobic for me. Borders and countries with strict visa laws have always been hurdles for me to overcome which at times feel exhausting but not impossible. 

But this COVID-19 pandemic makes me feel like the world is closing into itself. As a third culture kid with family strewn across the world in different places, I've always felt proud to say I'm a global citizen and can visit my family and friends and feel welcomed. But with this pandemic, people become isolated. Social distancing is the norm. No visitors are allowed into homes. No gatherings of friends. A lot of restrictions to where you can and cannot travel to. 

I like staying home actually so social distancing is technically not that challenging but more of a mental game. Not having the option to meet up with a friend for a meal or coffee is tough. Because you don't know if your friend or family member or yourself is a carrier. People have become cautious around each other. I've turned into a bit of a hypochondriac since January when the coronavirus arrived in Singapore just as Lunar New Year celebrations were starting. What was supposed to be a social period became interrupted and meeting friends were lessened and chosen carefully to pick spots that had good ventilation or outdoor seating. I'm not really a fan of sitting in the heat and humidity of Singapore but because it was safe then to meet in places like that. 
A lot has changed since then. I flew to Sweden just before Valentine's day so I could be with my boyfriend and cat. Everything quickly escalated. The number of cases increased in Italy, Spain, German, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and of course Sweden in a few short weeks. I was in Åre for a few days at the beginning of March for a quick ski trip when the cases in Italy were sharply increasing and then people were coming back to Sweden from their ski trips to the alps which in turn spiked the number of Covid19 cases in Sweden. I was practicing social distancing during my trip and was cleaning surfaces at the airport, airplane, and bus before sitting down. Luckily after skiing, I was so tired that my dinners were very quiet and I avoided crowded places. 

I had a conference in Bangkok mid March, a popup event at a organic and natural store in Singapore, a private baking birthday party in Singapore, and another conference in Singapore at the end of March planned. These were all events I had counted on to boost sales and branding of my cookbook "In search of the best Swedish chokladbollar". ALL of these events were cancelled one by one. I canceled all my flights. Calling the airline company was really tough as everyone seemed to be calling to postpone or cancel their flights at the same time.

The news is very anxiety-inducing as more news pour in from the United States, Singapore, Sweden, and global news. We have to remind ourselves to shut off the barrage of information.

Keeping sane by doing small things each day that I enjoy. Here are some of the things I've been doing: Reading a book, cooking, baking, dancing, working on my blog, posting past travel pictures on Instagram, working out, studying Swedish, cuddling my boyfriend and cat, binge watching shows on Netflix and SVT, sleeping in and napping, and most recently been adding biking around the neighborhood since I've purchased a new bike!

Sweden isn't on a lockdown like a lot of countries around the world but people are given recommendations for social distancing, staying at home as much as possible, frequent hand washing, and stay at home if one feels the slightest bit of feeling unwell and groups of 50 or more are banned. I think these are good guidelines to abide by and Singapore was doing this for the longest time before it went on lockdown a few weeks ago. However, there's always a bunch of people who aren't adhering the guidelines set in place. These guidelines are set in place so the spread of the virus is slowed and healthcare facilities are not experiencing a surge like in places like Italy, New York City, Wuhan, and other epicentres. You probably already about this enough... 

The weather is getting nicer by the day and having a bike around or just stepping into the backyard patio feels good. However, there are so many people either panicking or not caring that it makes the whole situation feel uneasy. I'm still feeling claustrophobic mentally because I can't travel anywhere, and events are all canceled. It feels weird and surreal at the same time.  

How is everyone feeling? 

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