July 8, 2020
With one newspaper announcement, life as we knew it here in Vietnam and the world suddenly changed dramatically. Commutes to work, cocktails in fancy bars, parties with friends, holidays, gym classes, hugs, and handshakes were all rescinded for few months. They were no longer daily privileges. Even today as life is starting to come back to normal with Vietnam’s incredibly success in controlling the virus, (only 355 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 354 patients discharged from hospitals and no deaths), life has changed.
For much of the world COVID-19 continues to kill today. Other than HIV/AIDS it’s perhaps the biggest crisis the world has faced in peacetime. Coronavirus and the lockdown have affected many facets of day-to-day life and changed the way we think and feel. For now, it may seem like we’re stuck in the present with the inability to plan. But life will return one normal day (perhaps a new normal) and we will have to assess our experience hitherto.
Jaïpal Tuttle, a Bliss Saigon reporter, delivers a no-holds-barred interview about his personal experiences in life here in Vietnam. He also discusses how Covid-19 affected him and offers some kind words and advice for others who may be struggling.
So how COVID-19 changed my life? What happened with me during the lockdown time and more generally with the crisis? I’ll answer loads of good stuff! It was good only because I was determined to survive and not let it get me down or turn to behavior that would be negative. I am a fighter and a survivor and I want you to be too.
As single parent of two kids in here Vietnam nothing is ever easy for me. COVID-19 is just another challenge – albeit an unexpected one. I am using it as an opportunity to grow personally and connect with family. Best of all, I’ve almost completely disconnected from social media – something I never thought I could do. The coronavirus lockdown offered me the opportunity to emerge a stronger and better person. I’ve had to do that a few times in life.
In High School I was a loser. I started taking drugs in the 1970s. I was a punk rock freak (Still am I suppose.). Everyone told me I would go nowhere in life. Everyone said I was just a waste case. I wanted to prove them wrong, and from that time on, I took every possible challenge I could to grow into a better person. I ended up getting a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and that opened up all kinds of doors for me. After grad school, I went to work on Wall Street doing quantitative finance. I was once at a corporate team-building retreat, and someone said, “Set a B.H.A.G. for yourself! (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).” That sounded cringe worthy to me and I did remember it and applied it for the last 25 years.
All along the way, as a big-wave windsurfer, I used to spend winter seasons at Ho’okipa Beach Park on the North Shore of Maui. I competed there as a pro. Sometimes the waves were so big that it took every ounce of physical and mental strength to not drown after a heavy wipeout – and then to go right back to sailing in front of a crowd. My work in Classical Vietnamese literature? That’s another crazy story in life, but I think it’s even harder than physics.
Anyway, my message is this: you can achieve incredible stuff if you believe in yourself and never give up. This current crisis and its aftermath can provide you that opportunity, but it’s up to you to grab the bull by the horns in the face of adversity. Even if this is a difficult time for you, don’t lose focus. Use every ounce of strength to survive. Maybe this is the time to reinvent yourself in a way that people don’t believe you can. Prove them wrong!!! So yeah, define a B.H.A.G for yourself. Achieve a goal that seems so out of reach. Come out of this stronger than when you went in and find something to do that blows people’s minds when they will find out what you have accomplished!!!
What have I been doing these last weeks? I’ve taken my passion for music in a different direction from my usual punk/goth stuff I’ve been learning to sing Cải Lương, which is Vietnamese opera! So that’s my B.H.A.G. (UGH I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM EVEN USING THAT PHRASE!!!).
One thing, though, for many reasons, we can count our blessings. We are all in this together. By participating with the difficult tasks placed upon us, we have collectively, to date, averted a health crisis in Vietnam that would have been devastating to witness. We are not out of the woods by any means, and continued diligence by the government is to be expected. They have acted heroically to save the population. I offer wholehearted thanks – and this is coming from an American who once considered NYC home.