Life Update | Our Wedding + Staying Sane Through COVID-19

Lifestyle

Last Monday, my partner and I flew to Queenstown, excited to finally get married in our dream mountaintop wedding. The COVID-19 alert level was at level 2, and I posted a Instagram photo of Diony, two seats away from me, with the caption: “There’s at least one seat between each passenger. Good on ya @airnz!”

The moment we landed and our phones could be switched on, we saw the news that COVID-19 alert level 3 + the imminent level 4 lockdown had been announced. Our wedding was cancelled as the company could no longer operate, and everything in Queenstown was closed. 

The next two days flew by quickly, in a blur of anxious phone calls and messages as we tried to get a flight home before lockdown. Luckily, on Tuesday, it was announced that the deadline to get home via domestic flights was extended to Friday. Yas!

With that, we breathed a sigh of relief and made the most of our next three days in a Queenstown hotel. With stunning views of Lake Wakatipu from our two balconies, we spent this time eating nothing but room service food (we ate twice at the hotel restaurant before it closed), watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and playing board game Fog of Love, while Diony played games and I read books I’d luckily brought with me. We also went for a walk along the lake on our one trip to the local supermarket. Did I mention it was absolutely freezing in Queenstown? I’m so relieved to be back in Auckland!

Our wedding wasn’t the only thing that was cancelled / postponed. Our honeymoon to Japan has also had to be put on hold, and with that, our NZ mini moon at a beautiful sanctuary we booked to replace Japan when overseas travel was banned. Am I devastated? Yes and no. Becoming Mr & Mrs would’ve been wonderful after planning for over a year, but looking at the bigger picture, it’s more than okay to wait. Plus, we now have $12,000 in Topdeck Travel credit and $3000 in STA Travel credit to use when the crisis subsides!

It is SO good to be home. I decided to keep my leave for another week to sort things out and settle into life for the next 4 weeks, and it’s already paying off. Here’s how I’ve spent my time at home so far, and what I’ll be doing for the rest of April ❤ 

Learning something new

I recently signed up for Masterclass, an online platform where you can learn from the world’s best. I first heard of them when I gifted Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting to Diony for Valentines. They’re currently doing a promotion where you can score 50% off – for $310 you get a membership for yourself and a membership to gift! 

So far, I’ve gotten through most of Bobbi Brown Teaches Makeup & Beauty. Today was meant to be simple: dedicate the whole day to Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing. But it turns out she is not the most charismatic at speaking, so I turned my attention to some other courses I have no actual interest in pursuing: Natalie Portman Teaches Acting, Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking, Gordon Ramsey Teaches Cooking.

Halfway through this seemingly pointless pursuit, I realised why I enjoy watching these classes so much even though I will never act or make a film: I get to watch people talk about what they’re passionate about. I get to hear about their life’s work. I’m so glad I got this membership cause there are still so many classes to explore!

Here’s all the masterclasses on my list:

Annie Leibovitz Teaches Photography
Christina Aguilera Teaches Singing
Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking
Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting
Natalie Portman Teaches Acting
Judy Blume Teaches Writing
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing
Neil Gaiman Teaches The Art of Storytelling
Chris Voss (FBI Negotiator) Teaches The Art of Negotiation
Massimo Bottura Teaches Modern Italian Cooking
Gordon Ramsey Teaches Cooking: Restaurant Recipes at Home
(Diony & I watched him teach us how to cook red wine poached egg, asparagus & mushrooms – yum!)

Masterclass 1Masterclass 2

Exercising + looking after my body

I feel really lucky to have a treadmill at home, having bought it after feeling like I was wasting too much time and money going to the gym. Now it’s definitely coming in handy and means I won’t get fat during quarantine! I simply aim to run 3 kms every second day and do a Blogilates squat challenge every day. I had been trying to lose weight before COVID-19 happened anyway, so I’m also staying in shape by taking garcinia cambogia before every meal and a digestive detox tea after.

My home workout playlist (top five):
Shoot Down The Sun / Hook N Sling
Floating (Filous Remix) / Alina Baraz, Khalid, Filous
Alien / Sabrina Carpenter, Jonas Blue
Fire / Peking Duk
Say It (Illenium Remix) / Flume, Tove Lo, Illenium

Cooking

Last night, I cooked the most delicious Creamy Mushroom & Cherry Tomato Fettuccine with Parmesan & Garlic Pangrattato, an amazing recipe by Hello Fresh! I’m so grateful they’re still operating. We re-activated our membership after having stopped it a few months ago, and it’s great not having to worry about what to eat or having to go to the supermarket a lot. The recipes are exciting and always give us something to look forward to!

For breakfast and snacks, I’m keeping it simple: toasted muesli with berry yoghurt & fresh blueberries; strawberry, protein & honey smoothie; creamy garlic mushrooms on toast; apples & a little peanut butter. Being at home is making it easier to eat healthy, without the temptations of convenience food.

Hello Fresh

Reading

I’m currently reading Soul Coaching, a guide to discovering your authentic self – created to be read over 28 days, it’s the perfect read for this time! It takes you through a soul coaching program using the elements of Air, Water, Fire & Earth:

Air / clearing mental debris
Water / connecting to your emotional self
Fire / clearing the shadows from your spiritual self
Earth / strengthening your physical self

It’s very enriching so far. Confronting – I’ve realised I’m unhappy in certain areas of my life – but enriching nonetheless, and what better time than now to make much needed life changes?

I’m reading it continuously instead of day by day, and I realised that this morning, I was already connecting to the element of Air. I’d put my phone away and mindfully eaten my breakfast out on the deck, breathing in the fresh, dewy morning air. I’d watched cyclists, runners, and couples with babies going by. After finishing my food, I’d slowly sipped my green tea, closed my eyes, felt the warm sunshine on my face and cool breeze on my bare skin. It was bliss. At that time in the morning, I would’ve usually been driving to work, restlessly going over my to-do list for the day. While we get to press pause on life for a while, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to stop and soak in the everyday things we take for granted.

If you’re looking for optimistic, wholesome reads at this time, my favourite heartwarming books are The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, The Happiness Project, For Small Creatures Such as We, The Alchemist, and Veronika Decides to Die. You can get them as e-books on Kindle or as audiobooks on Audible!

Practising meditation + kirtan

Meditation and kirtan are two things that soothe my soul. I like to practise outside in the evenings, when the world begins to go quiet and I can marvel at the gorgeous sunset. My favourite meditations are by Rebecca Campbell and Stop, Breathe & Think. Kirtan involves singing mantras infused with mindful intentions – something I find so beautiful. I remember going to my first kirtan session and saying it felt like I went to a day spa for my soul!

My meditation & kirtan playlist (top five):
Gajumaru / Yaima
Ra Ma Da Sa / Snatam Kaur
Sat Nam Wahe Guru / Gurunam Singh
Gobinday Mukunday / Snatam Kaur
Ong Namo / Snatam Kaur

Making candles 

As some of you know, I make candles as a hobby as well as for weddings, gifts, and selling on Etsy. It’s such a relaxing, satisfying hobby; one that forces you to be mindful and present while you melt the wax, stir in the fragrance, and get the temperature exactly right before pouring the perfect candle. The day after we got back from Queenstown, I made two fresh new candles for our home: Vanilla & Coconut, and French Pear sweetened with Lime, Basil & Mandarin. If you’re also a fan of candles & home decor, now is the time to use that fancy candle you’ve been saving for a special occasion. To use those nice wine glasses. To use your favourite fragranced hand wash or body butter. We’re going to be home all day, every day for at least 4 weeks – might as well make it the most rejuvenating experience it can be!

Working from home

Once I return to work, I’ll be working from home – hooray! I feel so blessed that my colleagues and I are all able to do so and don’t have to worry about our job stability / income in these tough times.

It’s funny how things work out. A month before lockdown, I’d asked my manager about the possibility of working 4 days a week (9-10 hours per day), or the possibility of working 1 day each week from home. I then applied for a job where I’d asked for a 4 day work week to use my spare day to go back to volunteering, and the company was more than understanding when they interviewed me. Offering a higher starting salary but much less hours, if the company hadn’t needed to put a freeze on hiring and I’d gotten the job, I would’ve earned 80% of what I earn now. 

Well, this week, my current work asked for those willing to work 4 days a week instead of 5, to be paid pro-rata at 80%. While working from home too. What a coincidence, right?!

My WFH playlist (top five):
Magazine Bay / Yumi Zouma
Right Track / Wrong Man / Yumi Zouma
Come On Thru / MADEIRA
1950 / King Princess
Greensmoke / imugi

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I struggled to keep my anxiety in check, constantly reading the news and worrying a lot. But now, I’m focusing on all the things to be grateful for. Such as:

  • Having the ability to practise social distancing. It means you live in a home big enough to do so, with the luxury of personal space & privacy.
  • Not having to worry about money / income. Whether you’re like me and can work from home, are an essential worker, or you’re eligible for the COVID-19 wage subsidy, there is noone I can think of who actually has to worry about money / income at this time. Now New Zealanders in Australia don’t have to, either!
  • Having the time for my skin & hair to breathe. No makeup & straightening for days!
  • Being able to go out for walks, enjoy nature, and go to the supermarket where everything is still abundantly available. We still have access to everything we need and more (flowers, magazines, stationery, organic wholefoods etc)!
  • Saving time & money on commuting, buying food & drinks at restaurants & cafes, seeing movies at the cinema etc.

Perhaps the most important thing that has come out of this lockdown, for me, was a realisation.

The other night, I called people out for being racist. Honestly, I have been extremely disturbed and disappointed in the racism & xenophobia since this pandemic happened. While I acknowledge the origins of COVID-19, it’s never okay to spread hate, blame and negative stereotypes against Chinese people. 

It is very hypocritical for the same people who posted ‘Kia kaha’ / ‘They are us’ / ‘This is not who we are’ following the Christchurch mosque terrorist attack against Muslims, to be posting racist content now. This is not who we are? What is not who we are? Racist? Stereotyping? Discriminatory? Full of hatred and intolerance for others? How did we so quickly forget that racism is not okay? (The post was deleted – thankfully.)

That night, I cried. I cried for the world; the fact that it is full of so many problems – especially now – and how hopeless and useless I feel that I can’t do anything to help. I thought maybe I was going crazy, but it turns out others across the globe also feel the same.

After I finished crying, I realised I’d been doing it all wrong. I’d been looking for a part-time job so I could spend my spare time returning to volunteer work, like I spent all of 2018 doing – the work that filled my soul, helped me contribute to my local community, and made me feel connected to humanity.

But no.

I realised I didn’t want to work part-time and volunteer. I wanted to work part-time and study. Study something meaningful. Study something that will help me help people.

A bit of research later and I found out that I could obtain a degree in Human Rights. Or further my Criminology degree with a postgrad diploma in Criminal Justice.

And so, I have a whole new outlook on this lockdown. Pain was necessary for me to realise that I didn’t want to wait for what I know I want to do; something that will get me closer to achieving my life purpose and finding my dharma, instead of volunteering indefinitely but never truly growing in knowledge. Once this lockdown finishes, I have more direction than I did before as to my career & study path.

Another realisation I had during this lockdown is how much more I should’ve invested in my home. Instead of all the money I’d spent on things that were in my home, such as books, collectibles, and decor, I should’ve spent more money on the essentials.

So today, I went online and placed an order for:

  • A thick, luxurious goose feather & down duvet;
  • A blush pink, quilt duvet cover set;
  • Plush goose feather & down pillows;
  • Mulberry silk pillow cases; and
  • Mongolian lambswool cushions!

This was only the first part – I bought these from my work, which I can get once lockdown is over. I’ll then pause on recreational spending and invest in a new quality sofa, a new monitor, and everything else at home that needs replacing. 

Phew! And all of this has only been in one week!! I hope the rest of these 4 weeks goes by with even more productivity, inspiration, and life-changing realisations. ❤ 

Here are some random snaps from the past 2 weeks: after I got my hair colour fixed up, enjoying gorgeous Queenstown views, my cooking, and a snap of me & The Alchemist for my work’s social media!

Collage (1)

Take care and stay safe! ❤ 

Sophia

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