Dear 2020 Nurul: Seek Comfort Where You can, When You can
Creative Chronicles is a series of articles exploring the lives of four Singaporean Creatives. Previously in Series 1, our Creatives shared where they are in their creative journey today through a selection of images. In this Series 2, they revisited a challenging time in their lives and wrote a letter addressed to their younger selves. The letters were then used as conversation starters during our chat with the Creatives.
In this article, we chat with Nurul, Founder of The Codette Project. Writing to her 2020 self, Nurul shares how in her self-soothing efforts during this period, she finds comfort in the familiarity of music and films she grew up with, and her realisation of the importance of prioritising calm and comfort.
We present her letter and a curation of themes that emerged from our chat. Instead of presenting the conversation chronologically, we delve into each theme through verbatim quotes from various parts of our chat. We hope you find them as insightful as we have.
Studio Dojo: What did 2020 look like for you?
I haven’t really been asked a lot about 2020 itself, so in writing this letter, it was interesting to look back at myself at a point before this huge pivot. It took me a long time to accept that COVID was not going away. I’m not sure if I have fully accepted it…but I’m accepting it more.
What I did find interesting in 2020 was how much content people consumed because we were mostly staying at home, and how we consumed them in very different ways. I really felt that personally. I generally don’t watch a lot of TV but I definitely watched more TV during COVID! I think that during this period of upset or upheaval, a lot of us actually went back to songs or content that we listened to when we were younger or during a period of relative stability. I listened to a lot of boy bands like Backstreet Boys growing up, and it has just been very comforting to listen to them in 2020. Some people have gone the other way and are listening to a lot of new things, and that’s very interesting but I think for me, because there were so many changes in 2020, a lot of my consumption was very neutral, old and familiar.
That was something that was made more acceptable in 2020 – you can just like whatever it is that you like. There’s an energy of embracing even the “uncool”. In our everyday lives, people can’t be “cool” all the time. There’s a part of you that just wants to sit in bed and have a lot of blankets and watch videos of cute chonky cats. And that’s really, really okay. You don’t have to watch the latest Oscar-winning movie. And it’s okay if you have never watched Oscar-winning movies. You do what you want. You have to do what soothes you and I think that acceptance is important.
Studio Dojo: How did you come to the above realisation?
I think what this period has done was to illustrate the issues with institutional systems that are focused on looking at individuals more as units of production and less as actual living humans. So then, how do we as individuals survive and lead our lives the best we can despite all this? I realised that in some ways, survival can be about understanding what calm looks like for you, and then figuring out how to create and emphasise that in your life.
Calm, relaxation, mental health, cosiness – all these are things that we are finally understanding to be incredibly important. And that comes from realising that when institutions and systems break down, how do we cope? How do I cope? If you can’t self-soothe, how do you deal with stress? If you can’t go out or travel or escape, how do you then build personal systems so that you’re less stressed every day? And it’s not a perfect solution. The last thing I want to do is put more pressure or responsibility on individuals to fix the brokenness that is institutional. But it is a necessary coping mechanism.
For myself, I have a comfort shelf which holds all the things that I consider to be relaxing. There’s a lot of things on the shelf – jigsaw puzzles, facial masks, massage ball, my crochet set. Having it made me realise my own needs for calm. If anything, COVID really highlighted how important it was for me to have calm as a part of my everyday life and to pay attention to my state of mind. I think everybody should have a comfort shelf of box of things that you like and enjoy!
Studio Dojo: It is interesting that you wrote lists of Top 5s to your 2020 self. Have you always organised your thinking in this manner?
Yes I really like lists! And I love post-its. My life is organized in post-its. I think lists are very logical and they express a lot of things very quickly, so they help me to think through things. I like that they also give room for your own choice as to what appeals to you.
I think that if my 2020 self were to see this letter with all these lists, it might actually be comforting to her. Her first thought would probably be – what’s going to happen this year? Why would I have so much time to do all these? But the lists would in a way provide a rough guideline of things to go to when stressed, or even to think of them as things to look forward to.
I think most of us learned during this period that you have to do a lot of the internal work. Whether you’re self-soothing through music or scented candles, it’s all part of that work. There is definitely a feedback loop between people and what we consume. For me, everything on these lists is something that I personally genuinely like and use to keep me in the frame of mind I’m aiming for.
And even though the lists are for my 2020 self, I also consciously featured different types of content. The hope is that whoever looks at my lists would be able to find something new that they may potentially enjoy and add it to their own lists!
Catch up on Nurul’s article in Series 1: #SuccessLooksLikeYou – A Journey to Better Spaces for Women