Shanghai, China

In the late afternoon of Jan 21st 2020, after a client meeting, I walked out of a skyscraper office building in downtown Shanghai and emerged into a crowded underground cabin. I hadn’t known that would be my last face-to-face meeting and my last touch of the busy city life for another two months.

The next day, disturbing news about the virus started to spread, followed by a complete lockdown of Wuhan city on the morning of Jan 23rd, the last working day before the Chinese New Year holidays. Fear loomed over even quicker than the virus spread, wiping out every bit of the celebrative atmosphere. Everyone was checking if they had had any encounters with people from Wuhan. So did I.

The scene of my last meeting came back vividly in front of me. A suitcase with all sorts of stickers stood quietly in the corner of the meeting room, waiting for its owner to get on the next trip. We spoke about how lucky we were to meet in person amongst his busy travel schedule. Had he been to Wuhan recently, or might he just have come back from there? All these doubts flooded into my mind. I checked his social media. He did not have any recent posts, but his account indicated he was from Wuhan! My heart sank.

Over the next few days, I drank far more water than necessary, was sensitive to any feeling of dryness in my throat, took a few deep breaths every now and then to check if I had difficulty doing so, and kept wondering if I should write to him to ask. How can I find out the truth without putting a label on him, without being perceived as distrustful, without hurting our relationship? I noticed my anxiety grew with the case number curve. I questioned myself. “Am I going to spend the rest of my holidays like this? Can I trust he will inform me if he is at risk? Can I trust the medical system in Shanghai?” 

I chose to trust him, the knowledge and efforts of thousands of medical workers, and the beloved ones around me. I shared my drama with family members. After they laughed off my anxiety, we all agreed to stay in self-quarantine at home to eliminate any possible chances of affecting others. We soon found out we were just a few amongst 35 million disciplined citizens, who proved that we were trustworthy through our simple actions.

The vast majority of us have earned a GREEN QR code shown on our mobile app, that now allows us to go back to office buildings.

Exercising trust, holding faith and hope has allowed me to focus on what I want to be and do. I have since found a greater state of being that I would not want to let go of, even when things go back to normal. The virus has changed my life and work in many ways, and in hindsight, I am amazingly positive. I have made a promise to myself: be grateful for what I have, and stay focused.

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