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If someone told me in December 2019, that I would be moving twice in one week in January 2020, I would have probably told them something about themselves. I mean really – I had just given birth in Shanghai which was traumatic enough let alone have to move house with 4 kids TWICE in one month. PLEASE.

But that is exactly what happened. In early January my husband and I signed a new rental agreement to move into a high-rise apartment building very close to the Bund in Shanghai. We were super excited to be moving away from the stuffy center of Pudong to a more urban setting with better restaurants and easier access to the metro. Although we loved our gated community in Pudong filled with Model Xs, it was time to experience the real Shanghai a bit more.

Around January 15, I had heard from a friend at work who worked in Government Affairs, as well as a doctor acquaintance that something was going around and that I should not bring the kids outside too much. I didn’t pay it any mind because there is always something going around and you can’t always protect kids from germs. I paid little attention to the advice.

We moved into our new apartment around January 19th and started unpacking. My in-laws were due in from Serbia in a couple of days and the house was a mess. I had way too much on my plate. A newborn baby, a new move, in-laws coming in; I felt as though nothing was prepared. Then the news about the “virus” became more and more prevalent. It was strange because I could only catch drips and drabs from US and other foreign news media outlets on Twitter. Finally on January 25th at 5:30 am China time, I saw a video clip from a doctor in Wuhan that made the hair on the back of my neck raise.

I realize that most of you have no idea what this lady is saying. She is essentially saying that she wants to give an update on the current situation. And that 90,000 people have died as of this video. She states the virus is extremely contagious; 1 person can fatally infect 10 – the infection rate is high, don’t leave your house.

Her video was the sole source of truth. It forced me to make one of the hardest decisions of my life – to leave China with my husband and 4 kids with only the belongings we could pack in our suitcases and flee to Serbia with his parents not knowing when we would return. We did not have complete information, and I did not have confidence that the Chinese government would provide all details to the public. So we left.

I don’t regret the decision – even though now China claims to be almost COVID-free, my family’s safety comes first. I could not leave to chance, having watched the heart-felt plea from the doctor, or having heard inside information from my colleague with close government contacts that the world was about to be turned upside down. My main mistake was thinking that if we left China, we could somehow be safe from COVID. We now know that was completely untrue.

So in one year, we have lived in two residences in China, Serbia, and now Singapore. I’m exhausted. I’ve changed – some for the good, some not. I have no idea how this year will leave its mark on the world, or my children. We don’t go out as often as we used to, so of course we are more sedentary. My working from home also doesn’t promote much physical activity. If I had to guess, I would say we are all slightly less healthy and in worse phsyical shape than we were last year around this time.

But we have learned to not take anything for granted. Every day, every hour, every minute is precious. We have lost loved ones and friends – we know the importance of time.

I’m sure we are not the only ones. For those of you that had a really challenging year, I hope that you take comfort in knowing that you are not alone and that the entire world is experiencing chaos in some form. Be thankful for the small wins, show love to friends and family – and above else stay mentally strong.

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