A week after I posted my personal essay on navigating unemployment in Singapore as a young graduate, I went for a job interview. The next day, I found out that the company posted another job listing for the exact role that I applied for and assumed that I didn’t make the cut. I mourned the loss of an opportunity that I truly valued and moped all night (as one does). The next morning, I received an unexpected phone call from HR, telling me that I had secured the job.
I am so thankful to have finally found a job that aligned with my interests and skill sets, especially in the midst of mass furloughing and hiring freezes due to the coronavirus pandemic. The events portrayed in this diary happened before the circuit breaker period commenced and while precautionary measures were already in place, I feel compelled to acknowledge that I was out of my home out of necessity as well as of my own volition.
Job: Web content writer (i.e. copywriter for the company’s ecommerce division)
Hours: Flexible, I can start work anytime from 8 to 9.30 as long as I complete 8.5h (+ 1h of lunch) of work per day.
Day 1, Monday
7.10am: Upon waking up, I was excited to receive the very first newsletter by Haley Nahman, the former editor of Man Repeller (it’s my favorite fashion and lifestyle website that unearthed my interest in expositional writing i.e. personal essays), in my email inbox. I couldn’t resist reading half of it before getting dressed for work. My outfit was a black long-sleeved top with a tie detail from Korea and a pair of Stretch-Wool Belted Trousers from Michael Kors.
7.50am: Left my house once I was done with my makeup. I was cradling my water bottle in my arm and I didn’t close it quite right so I wet my entire left sleeve. Loved that for me! :-)
7.58am: My bus was quiet except for a young child talking animatedly to his father. It’s been a while since I had taken a bus in the morning and I had forgotten how quiet bus rides were without music. I also realized how all the passengers on the bus were in relatively close contact with each other, something that I was not exposed to during my unemployment. As my bus passed by a nature reserve, I saw a rooster in the sunlight against a backdrop of green. It was one of those moments where the beauty of the sight hits you for seconds and then, it ends just as suddenly.
9.11am: After catching my second bus to work, I successfully navigated to my office. I had to use Google Maps and at one point, I even followed a stranger and hoped for the best. With the help of the receptionist, I set up my face and fingerprint recognition, which will be used to clock my hours and unlock doors.
9.15am: A HR executive gave me a brief office tour and informed me that office attire is casual. For my interview, the dress code was business stylish (whatever that meant). That was great news because my wardrobe lacked business wear. I also received a bag of stationery, including a notebook with “Fashion does not own me. I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.” stamped on it. I laughed.
9.30am: Reported to my superior and got my work laptop. Since I used a Windows laptop for my writing test, I was resigned to the fact that I probably had to use Windows OS for work. I rejoiced when my superior told me that I would be getting the MacBook used by the writer that I was replacing when she leaves on Wednesday.
12.36pm: I head off for lunch alone and had Korean dumpling noodles. I was grateful to have some time to myself since I truly relish in having meals alone. I love taking my own sweet time to savour my meal while watching videos.
12.54pm: I finished one episode of How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). I started watching the series a few weeks ago and I love it so much (even more than Friends) because of the continuity in the episodes’ plots. Some aspects of the characters (most prominently, Barney’s treatment of women) may be problematic but I understand that the show was created in a different socio-cultural context and that what passed off as humor in the past may no longer be acceptable today.
As the coronavirus crisis unfolded, I found myself gravitating towards entertainment (specific to video content) that was made from a different time. I derive comfort from knowing that the content was created and the characters exist in a world untouched by the anxiety that has since enveloped everyone. A world long gone. So I have been avoiding YouTube and exclusively watching drama (fine, just HIMYM) on Netflix for weeks now.
3.37pm: I was given my first task after all the note-taking I had done earlier on and it was clear that I needed some time to put all that theory into practice with ease. Had a headache because my body was still adjusting to waking up so early after months of sleeping at 3-4am and waking up late in the afternoon. However, I was determined to avoid coffee all week as it gives me really bad gastric.
5.52pm: I struggled for 40 minutes before I could get started on my second task due to technical difficulties— there was an issue with the copy and paste function on my laptop. I felt like a nuisance when I repeatedly went to IT for help.
6.07pm: As I was about to take my tea break, I realize that the pandan cake that I brought to work was mouldy!!! Good grief, I already had one slice for breakfast earlier on… Sent thoughts and prayers to my stomach.
7.01pm: Absolutely ravenous on my first bus ride home. I felt so drained after staring at a screen all day and the warm light in the office didn’t help. My last 9-5 stint was a three-month long internship in 2018 and I’ve been spoiled with flexible work arrangements since. One perk of having a desk-bound job: my electronic devices will always be fully charged.
7.52pm: On my second bus ride home, I dozed off and dropped my phone in the process. That was the third time I dropped my phone in one day. :-) I passed by the venue for the Meet-The-People session where I volunteer every Monday. While I was tempted to drop by, I decided against it since I could barely keep my eyes open.
11.01pm: Headed to bed after drying my hair (managed to squeeze in a final episode of HIMYM while I did so).
Day 2, Tuesday
7.20am: Was starving when I woke up so I made oats to tide me over. Every time I have oats, I hear Andre Braugher (Captain Raymond Holt on Brooklyn99) going “[…] oatmeal. It sustains you” in my head.
8.00am: I spent way too long deciding on my outfit, which is why I resolved to plan them in advance. I ended up wearing a basic black spaghetti top from Primark and a pair of grey checked trousers with two pockets from Exhibit store. I brought a brown cropped knit cardigan that I got during my recent trip to Seoul, Korea, along with me too.
10.56am: I met the writer that I was replacing, F, and instantly took a liking to her. It was a shame that she was the one person whom I couldn’t get to know better. I unlocked a new task after being briefed by her.
1.14pm: F invited me to lunch with our desk mates. We shared an omelette, basil pork and kai lan at a Thai restaurant. This isn’t a money diary but I’ll have you know that I thought it was a pretty good deal since we paid $6.80 per person.
7.03pm: My parents picked me up and offered to get me bubble tea, which I rejected because that would mean plastic waste (which I prefer to incur as sparingly as possible). Also, I was on a sugary-drink ban for the week since I foresaw that I wouldn’t be able to exercise all week.
7.37pm: Back home but dinner wasn’t ready yet. I removed my makeup and took a shower. I have to rave about how good Nars’ Powermatte Lip Luster is (mine is in the shade, Pierce)! I applied it in the morning and didn’t have to reapply even once. My lips were not dry by the end of the day and there was minimal transfer.
9.30pm: My parents start working after dinner. Guess it’s because they worked from home today and took a break to send my grandfather for a medical checkup.
10.26pm: I read two articles by ManRepeller about whether we should still be shopping and a personal essay about quarantine. I am unceasingly attracted to the content produced by this site— in the first article, the writers discuss fashion in an intellectual manner and in the second, the founder of the site weaves the complex heavy stuff (i.e. the critique of the American healthcare system) into a relatable story about her life. I tried to write articles for Wild Child but I had a hard time concentrating so I went to bed.
Day 3, Wednesday
8.01am: After I left my house, I looked at the mirror in the lift of my block and thought how nice it was that I could bring a medium-sized bag and carry it with a shoulder strap. It was my mother’s Kate Spade dome bag that had white and black stripes. Okay, more like yellowish-grey and black stripes because it’s so old. Then, as I was running for my bus, my bag strap broke. I didn’t want to wait 10 minutes for the next bus to arrive, so I continued to run. At one point, my strapless bra practically fell to my waist.
8.25am: To my dismay, I forgot to bring my sweater to work today. Oh well. I didn’t do anything on my bus rides but look out of the window. I’ve always loved taking in mundane everyday scenes— parents dropping their children off at a childcare, the ferns and flowers by the road and the office crowd making their way to work.
11.16am: I worked at the pantry because it’s warmer there and has natural lighting. I finished 12 social media captions. My favorite line from the existing list of copies is “the minimalist world is your sartorial oyster”. It has such a nice ring to it.
1.30pm: I was introduced to another colleague, R, during lunch. One of the girls teased him for wearing grey ribbed socks with his black sandals. I think it’s cool. We head to NEX for lunch. At Green Dot, an uncle tried to take my temperature and he said that my temperature was so low that he couldn’t get a figure. Then he told me it was 34.1 degrees. What was going on…? I submitted that temperature on the online contract tracing form anyway. For my meal, I picked the lion mane mushroom rendang and another mushroom dish and was mildly affronted that it cost over $10.
2.42pm: We made our way back and my colleague complimented my outfit. It was a grey sleeveless top (that has a similar cut to a muscle tank) and sweatpants basically, but it looks like a jumpsuit when I pair them together. I had long forgotten where I purchased them as I’ve had them for years, so the conversation ended with the lame “thank you!” that I uttered.
2.43pm: R smells so good. There was an internal battle within me because it might be weird to ask him if he uses cologne (maybe it’s just his laundry detergent!). Not knowing was driving me crazy.
2.45pm: I did it. He uses Maison Margiela’s REPLICA Jazz Club Eau de Toilette. I believe I asked if “[he knew he had] a strong scent”. His first reaction was a worried “do I smell bad???” After I assured him that he did not, he told me that he really dug the scent he ended up with when paired Beach Walk with another note that I didn’t catch because I was excitedly texting my friend that I got the name of his cologne.
3.03pm: Went to get my new laptop from IT and I was so stoked because it was a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Adobe Creative Suite!!!
5.17pm: Started on new task. Wanted to work in the pantry but there was a photoshoot. It’s been a while since I’ve been around a fashion shoot and catching a glimpse of it transported me back to the time in my life where I was immersed in the world of luxury fashion.
6.38pm: Left my office pretty early but my second bus home was going to arrive in 15 minutes.
6.57pm: While waiting, I entered a garden center. I was briefly tempted to buy a pot of mint. It cost only $6 and I once paid $17 for seeds that didn’t grow. But I wasn’t keen on lugging a pot back home.
8.01pm: Wanted to go for a run but I got a text saying I had to collect my EzBuy parcel consisting of a keyboard protector for my new personal laptop and two accessories hangers (for my mom and I).
10.44pm: Very excited to discover that Season 4 of Kim’s Convenience is out but I watch one episode of HIMYM instead because my Taurus moon demands that I stick to my bedtime routine.
Day 4, Thursday
8.09am: Headed downstairs with my mom before we parted ways for work. My outfit of the day was a houndstooth blouse and a skirt with two front pockets from Mango.
8.59am: I always sit on the left side of the bus so I can have an unobstructed view of the sights. Lately I’ve been fantasizing about living in one of the lovely and small houses along MacPherson.
9.12am: TIL that I could scan my face at the entrance near the security office, which would shave a minute off my arrival time since I always scan it when I reach my floor. Since half the office was working from home, I got to meet members from Team A today. Since it was my first week of work, I had to go to the office every single day. I thought that I would have to eat lunch alone since I don’t know anyone from this team but two girls invite me to lunch and I accept.
12.37pm: Team A goes for lunch earlier, which I was pleased about since I get hungry at about 11am. I joined a group, thinking that the girls might appear but they never did. I forgot about them shortly after.
12.45pm: We ate at Jjak & Co, where I built my own poke bowl. Tried their spicy sesame salmon and it was pretty good.
1.11pm: I asked a coworker how she achieved the wavy bob that she had. She confirmed my suspicions that a perm wouldn’t work on short hair because the ends would curl outwards. I admire her dedication to curl her hair every single morning.
5.03pm: I came across a Skype message from the girl who invited me to lunch earlier in the morning. She asked to meet me in the lobby and then texted me again to ask if I left with another team. I didn’t realize I had abandoned them without a word of warning. I apologized and she reassured me that it was fine that I got the teams mixed up.
6.55pm: I posted Wild Child’s second money diary, which was supposed to be the money diary of a BTS fan, but the contributor was unable to retrieve some of the prices so I had to publish that article much later. Then, I nominate my workplace for a Poké stop using my dad’s Pokémon Go (PoGo) account because he is the only one in my family who has reached Level 40.
7.32pm: Decided to take the train back because the bus rides home are far too long and torturous. While listening to Claudia and Finneas’ first podcast episode, I quickly realized that taking the MRT back home was much quicker but it meant that I had to change lines twice.
8.24pm: Finally had the time to go for a run since my mom was still working at home. Even though I was quite tired, I really wanted to work out before the end of the work week because sitting down all day makes me feel like a bum.
9.35pm: Managed to squeeze a shower in before having dinner. Immediately after she takes her last bite, my mom starts replying emails on her phone. Her workload had been intense for the past few months.
10.37pm: I was tired but too full to sleep. I discovered that my VPN doesn’t work so I made a note to get IT’s assistance the following day.
11.40pm: Headed to bed after pondering about future articles for Wild Child, unsure if I will be able to stick to an editorial schedule of one article per week in the long term.
Day 5, Friday
7.50am: Even though I could have worn jeans any time all week, it just felt more special to save them for Fridays. I wore my fav pair of jeans, Re/done’s high rise stove pipe, and a white square-necked top from Cheep Vintage, which had multiple outlets around Western Australia. I also busted out my trusty pair of whipstitch trim ankle boots, which I wore religiously for the entirety of fashion month. The one time I switched them out for a pair of Stella Lunar boots, my feet ached after ten minutes. This pair of boots was produced by the company that I now work for. I can’t believe that I play a part in naming the products from now on.
8.06am: It started to drizzle. I contemplated taking the MRT since I didn’t have an umbrella but the bus was arriving so I hoped that the rain would stop by the time I reached my destination.
8.28am: I watched the world go by through the bus windows and motorcyclists put on their raincoats at the rain shelter by the side of the expressway. Uh oh.
8.58am: On my second bus, there was a girl with bright green hair. An old lady with pastel purple hair boarded the bus and she checked the girl out like there could only be one of them.
9.07am: The moment I alighted, it poured. I was hesitant but eventually made a run for it because I didn’t want to be late. I was caught in the rain for about two minutes. What a day to wear a thin white top. I think I might be flashing everyone I meet but I didn’t have much time to entertain that horrifying thought.
9.14am: I asked a cleaner auntie if there were hand dryers in the washrooms. She said it’s her first day here. Oh. (I later realized that this might have been her last day of work in a while.) I brushed my hair and tried to look as presentable as possible. I ate two mini red velvet cupcakes from Happy Oven and saved a mini slice of blueberry cake for tea.
9.34am: Had a mini tour/introduction of my team because I was speaking to a nice colleague, one of the girls whom I accidentally ditched the day before. Started on my to-do list, which included social media copies (captions featuring products).
12.40pm: Had laksa yong tau foo for lunch and there were only two barely-visible drops that splattered on my shirt after the meal, which I considered a win.
2.16pm: After we returned to our office, I found out that one of my colleagues loved to write about skincare products. We talked animatedly and she recommended writing on Medium. I convinced her to send me some of her work for this site and she said that she felt inspired to pick up writing again.
4.50pm: Finished all my tasks and was given one more – writing copy for EDMs – which I had never done before. I had no idea how to even begin, especially since my superior was working from home.
5.26pm: Ate my blueberry cake and realized that I had nothing much to do. I read the announcement of the circuit breaker measures, which would commence the following Tuesday. My helper did not cook dinners on Fridays and so earlier on Wednesday, I had made plans to meet my friend, T, for dinner.
6.34pm: Suddenly swamped with tasks when I was planning to leave the office at 6.41pm.
7.31pm: T and I were considering between a few restaurants at Holland Village that offered Burpple Beyond’s 1-1 discount. We decided to go to a restaurant named Kanpai Izakaya and Bar, where we ordered curry pork cutlet with rice. We had a screwdriver each but they tasted rather terrible. Tacky acoustic covers of pop songs were also playing on repeat.
9.24pm: T and I decided to order white wine. We were seated diagonally opposite each other and kept one meter apart from everyone else. The restaurant was not very crowded and consisted of about four groups of customers. T commented that it was weird that there was a lady opposite her, who was with four men, that kept smiling at her and waving her hands in the air like she was in a club.
11.54pm: The lady approached us and asked if we liked the songs. We replied that they were much better now that the covers had stopped. She asked us for song recommendations. The first song that I chose was Troye Sivan’s Take Yourself Home, a song title which I promptly forgot in my mildly inebriated state. So I said, “Take Me Home” and her friend group cheered.
12.02am: We made more song recommendations and they came over and spoke to us. At one point, they even gave us a $10 note to thank us, which we politely rejected (they took it back too). The lady told us that she was 38 years old. We told her that she looked not a day above 30, which was true, and she was visibly pleased. The friend group kept asking us how we knew old school songs when we were 24 years old. We basically had a karaoke session. T would pick old songs and when they complained, she would say that these were songs from their generation.
12.07am: We found out that they were friends with the owner of the restaurant and they ordered more glasses of wine for us. They footed our entire bill, even after we rejected their offer. I guess they saw this as the last hurrah before the circuit breaker and they wanted to be nice to their fellow Singaporeans.
12.15am: T was a bit tipsy so we went to Clarke Quay to meet her boy_friend (read: boy spacing friend), J, together. The Grab driver was super friendly and it was his birthday so he was headed for drinks with his friends after his shift was over. We wished him and T decided to leave him a tip.
1.22am: I was preoccupied with finding a toilet the entire time I was in Clarke Quay. After searching high and low for a public toilet, I ended up using the one at the bar that J was at. We booked another Grab back to the supper stretch near NUS, as T would be spending the night on campus.
2.00am: Once we reached Al Amaan Restaurant, I booked a Grab home. T suddenly broke down. I thought it was because J was going to leave for his home country soon but it turned out that she had an American friend who had passed away because of the coronavirus. And that was why she wanted to drink more than usual. She regretted not driving up to meet her friend when she could have done so last summer. I couldn’t comfort her because my Grab had arrived but I knew she was in safe hands with J.
2.22am: The Grab driver told me that business was bad and that nobody would book a six-seater nowadays. He was a Diamond Driver and he felt bad competing with the rest since he would have priority for customers who required a four-seater. I thought this sentiment displayed his kindness, given that his own earnings were also affected by the pandemic.
2.36am: The driver reached my block and we bid each other goodbye. “Please take care” slips out of my mouth. Partly because of the guilt I felt for taking private transport and being in close proximity with him. Partly because of my acute awareness of how we were bound by our circumstances, as workers in a capitalist society. Some more so than others, depending on the nature of their jobs.
In a world before the coronavirus, whenever someone asked me to take care, I would reply, “I’ll try”. I’ve always felt that it was a silly request given that some things may be out of my control. But at that moment, I settled for a simple gesture that allowed me to momentarily forget how powerless we are.
Feature image by Sherryl Cheong