From getting into shape to tackling inner demons, Tatler Singapore friends share their revelations from a year like no other

The beginning of a new year presents the opportunity for everyone to enjoy a fresh start. While it’s easy to allow the negatives from last year to cloud our positivity, it’s always more fulfilling to adopt a growth mindset while looking forward to hopefully brighter months ahead. Seeing as the pandemic has given people ample moments of quiet self‑reflection, Tatler Singapore spoke to seven members from our community who shared their key takeaways from 2020.

For some, the past months have allowed them to put the gears of unfulfilled fitness‑related goals in motion. For others, it’s a new‑found appreciation for the company of loved ones.

Regardless of their reasons, one thing’s for sure: that our resilience will see us through tough times, just like it did in the throes of one of the most challenging years for humankind.

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Above Andre Huber with his daughters Ashley (pictured left) and Hayley (Image: Darren Gabriel Leow)

1. Andre Huber, Executive director of Huber’s Butchery

“There are multiple lessons I picked up last year, but most importantly, I have learnt the value of good health. Last August, I hurt my lower back and couldn’t walk properly for three days after playing with and tossing my toddler son on to the bed. It was something so simple that caused the injury, and I knew it was mostly due to me being unfit. Hence, I made the decision to start eating well and exercising with correct form to strengthen various parts of my body.

Since then, I have lost 12kg and I am probably at my strongest ever. My wife, Belinda, also started her fitness journey during this time and she is also at her fittest level. Together, we enjoy going to the gym and constantly encourage each other to eat well. This year, I will prioritise health over other things, making sure I spend time to exercise and eat well because you can’t train with a bad diet. With obesity rates in the world on a steady incline, I will also look at bringing in healthy and wholesome ingredients for my customers so that they can prepare healthy and nutritious meals for their families, too.”

2. Stephanie Dickson, Founder of Green is the New Black

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Above (Image: Darren Gabriel Leow)

“Each of us has dark and light, shadows and gifts that we bring into our lives. I have spent a long time trying to escape the darkness and pain, while also never really facing it head-on. Last year, I had to confront a lot of it, largely due to the compounded effects of uncertainty and anxiety. I am still deep in the process of healing, but am doing my best to face my own fears and learn to accept

them. A big part of this is learning the art of surrender. And the deep truth that the only person who can really help you is yourself. I’ve done the courses, and spoken to people, including paid professionals. But in my experience, until you are ready to do the inner work with yourself, profound shifts will not happen. Till now, I am still really only scratching the surface of the learnings. It is a practice that will take time.

So for this year, I will continue deep contemplation, facing the hard truths. I look forward to what will be on the other side. I hope that as we are building back and working towards a new normal, we build back better and greener too. It’s very clear our system is broken, and last year has given us the opportunity to redesign from the inside out. Hopefully, we rise to the challenge to do things better, to change the status quo, focus on regeneration and making a more equitable world for all. It starts with small, collective steps, and we all play a role.”

3. Benjamin Kim, Aviation professional

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Above Benjamin Kim and his wife, Serene Tan

“Prior to the pandemic, I had inadvertently taken two things for granted—namely health and family—both of which I had assumed would always be fine. While I have never been terribly unhealthy, this episode has driven home the need to be continually conscious and deliberate in maintaining a good dietary and physical fitness regime. I also have had more time to bond with my wife Serene (pictured right) and this has brought us closer together.

Amid the hustle and bustle of pre-Covid Singapore, we never really took the time to sit back and just spend time together. My hope is that the new year would bring about a viable vaccine available for us to return to pre-Covid activities. Should that happen, I would be over the moon, to say the least, and then I would need to quickly remind myself to stay the course, lest the post-Covid euphoria and exuberance insidiously draw me back into the habits of old. It is crucial for me to continue to eat well and exercise, spend time with family, bask in the opportunity to mingle in larger groups, but still deliberately meet in small numbers to make for meaningful conversations.

Aside from that, I look forward to Inauguration Day on January 20, when the new president of the United States will be sworn in. It will spell a fresh start for everyone and mark a turning point in global history, seeing world leaders lead in earnest and giving sound, science-based guidance that will see us through this pandemic.”

4. Paige Parker, Author

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Above Paige Parker with husband, Jim Rogers

“I always knew that people are good, but it was reinforced in the most incredible way with the outpouring of goodwill offered to others during the circuit breaker period in Singapore. The government stepped forward in an epic way, while citizens donated to charities, gave PPE (personal protective equipment) to those in need, and supported our essential workers. Even children created fundraisers to help out, and friends sent food, drinks and gifts to one another to tide them through the surreal time.

My daughter Happy wanted to contribute, so she taught Mandarin lessons via Zoom. All proceeds from her classes (over $8,000) went to the Ray of Hope initiative, a local crowdfunding charity to help families affected by Covid-19. There were countless examples, big and small, of people stepping forward to do good and help others. The sense of community was profound, and life-affirming. Last year, I was also able to spend five months at home with my family. Bee did home-based learning; Happy was forced home from boarding school in the UK; and Jim (pictured right), who usually travels a great amount, were all mine.

I will never again have my entire family together like that. For this, I am grateful. The pandemic taught us how the little things are, in fact, the most important, as well as how time with those we love is our most valued luxury. My hope is we will continue to value experiencing the meaningful versus ticking the boxes of the multitudes of minutiae that too often consumes us.”

5. Angelina Tan, Corporate lawyer

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Above (Image: Darren Gabriel Leow)

“Learning to be adaptable in a year full of curve balls has definitely helped me to embrace new working norms. In fact, these new changes also brought an added advantage as I found out I was expecting at the start of last year, so working from home allowed me to spend more time with my husband just before our little one came along. With motherhood, things are ever-changing at every stage of your child’s development. I hope to be able to stay adaptable on this wonderful journey so that I can bring out the best in my child.

As a first-time mum, I’ve benefitted a lot from the tips and support given to me, and would definitely want to pay it forward to someone who reaches out as well. During this time, I’ve also learnt the importance of staying connected with family and friends. While 2020 has been an isolating year, there will be no lack of warmth and mutual support if you reach out to your chosen community. There could be challenging times ahead of us in 2021, but my wish is for kindness to continue to permeate through society.”

6. Adrian Ng, Anaesthesiologist

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“I’ve had some time to reflect on the past year—as an anaesthesiologist whose work is intimately linked to the care of patients on ventilators; as a doctor who is plugged into the Singapore’s medical response to this pandemic, and as a member of society whose usual routine has been disrupted.

I have observed that the human spirit remains indomitable and this is strongly reassuring. I have seen how the world can come together—if they choose to—for the greater good of mankind, and how many in society have lent their hands to fellow beings who might need that extra help during this crisis. Certainly, we have seen and heard negative rhetoric coming from various sectors, but if we filter through the noise, we will be able to discern the resolute human survival instinct.

Rather than changing my perspective of the world, I would say that it has further reinforced my appreciation of the human spirit. It is the never-give-up attitude of how we face up to this challenge that defines who we are, and I will continue this belief and echo these sentiments in 2021. But with the extra time on my hands this year, I’ve managed to tick a couple of things off my list. I learnt to solve the Rubik’s cube with speed (in about a minute on a good day) and improved my physical fitness with home-based HIIT or high-intensity interval training (my resting heart rate now is much better than that during my National Service days), among many others. The list goes on, but I’m a firm believer that if life deals you lemons, you should go make champagne with them!”

7. Rishi Naleendra, Chef-owner of Kotuwa, Cloudstreet and Cheek Bistro

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Above Rishi Naleendra and his wife, Manuela Toniolo (Image: Rishi Naleendra)

“The pandemic made me realise that life still goes on no matter how hard it gets—and it’s all about finding ways to keep moving forward. As we were not able to travel over the past few months, I ended up with a lot of time on my hands. That’s why I took up art and journaling during the circuit breaker period without realising how much joy it brought me. I learnt the importance of allocating time for myself, and would like to continue painting. As for my career, I’m still in the early stages and last year was a testament to how life can change so quickly and how as humans we can adapt with the times. There is no doubt that there will be more challenges to come in the future, and I can only hope that we stay open to change and new ideas.”

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