FOR more than a decade, Penang has always been the premier happening place with festivity almost every night in July.
The seemingly never-ending line-up of cultural celebrations was a top draw in luring hundreds of thousands of revellers to the state over the years.
But in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the month-long celebrations were either cancelled or postponed.
It was indeed a cruel blow to the state that prides itself on culture and heritage.
You won’t get to indulge in festivities like Penang Hill Festival, George Town Festival, George Town Heritage Celebrations, Balik Pulau Festival and a few others.
This brought upon mixed feelings among Penangites, and those from other states who had been enjoying these annual celebrations.
Despite being in the recovery movement control order (MCO) phase, it is impossible for these festivals and celebrations to return anytime soon.
In Penang, it seems that July will be another empty and ordinary month for many.
But in the same period, I have met people who could agree that they had found their new way of having ‘fun’.
With the coming months seemingly devoid of celebrations, many people have taken up new hobbies and interests.
They have turned inwards to reconnect and rediscover their true interests after being forced to take a step back from the fast and noisy world during the MCO period.
In fact, a few Penangites whom I met were actually happy to have their normal lives disrupted.
Many found time for themselves and embraced activities, online workshops, communication groups and chats to make the most of their time.
They picked up skills like coding, programming, baking and cooking through YouTube videos and online classes, while others went on paid platforms to pick up language skills and attend workshops like marketing, sales, commerce and self-development.
A lot of them found joy and passion for new interests and hobbies.
And those who revisited favourite pastimes were grateful that they found a moment of realisation during this period of restriction.
To quote one of them “It had to take a pandemic to force ourselves to make time so that we can reconnect with ourselves on the inside, and pick up where we left with our family and friends.
Essentially, time spent before the pandemic were all on work, socialising, meetings and other activities.
Many of us had never really made time for ourselves or the people we truly love and care about.
Now that many of us are making time, or forced to pass time, people have found ways to enrich themselves with hobbies, passion, interests and work that are meaningful to themselves.
Surely, we have all learnt something from the situation, and would bring a memory or lesson with us into the future.