I find myself huddled under the blankets, hugging my plush shark. I’ve been thinking, and thinking, and overthinking, and overthinking the overthinked thoughts. I’ve been thinking about my past, my present, and my future. I mean, university life is so short, I’ll never be a first-year student again, I’ll never be a second-year student again, I’ll never live this semester again. I find myself mourning what I never had, the painstakingly planned events that were never executed, the summer trips that never came through. I think of January and February and March and April, countless sleepless nights worrying about student welfare and student initiatives and student wellbeing and well, student everything. What’s going to happen to our Malaysian students? Will NUS get their S/Us? What’s going to happen to classes? To finals? To learning? To staying on campus? To interacting with friends? To moving… home…?
I’m currently baking cookies. At, 4am? My sleep cycle is nowhere near ordinary or socially acceptable. What few precious daylight hours have me hunched over my laptop, Zoom after Hangouts after Skype after Zoom – how far should we plan? When will this end? Do you think we’ll be able to settle for events to start in Semester 2? Our term is going to end without the usual Appreciation Dinner. What are we doing now? What should we spend the excess funds on? How do you bring a camp online? How are our incoming freshmen going to feel? This is such an anticlimactic start. Wait, then if exchange is cancelled, I won’t get this chance ever again. This circuit breaker is forcing me to jump headfirst into work, I won’t even get a break or a reset and I am utterly exhausted. This summer sucks, it was supposed to be amazing.
Then, I spend my nights, still hunched over my laptop. What’s going to happen to my academic plan? PLEASE don’t cancel my internship, I was really looking forward to it, maybe summer school next year? I do want to experience studying overseas. Or should I stick with Student Life? I don’t even know how to plan, what to plan, what to think, what to do – it’s all so volatile and swirling and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel so lost. I think, and think and overthink, and overthink the overthinked thoughts.
It’s an utter and complete mess, a jumbled cacophony of thoughts. But, I am thankful that this break has given me so much time to think, to reflect on past mistakes and work towards growth, to re-evaluate my priorities and what I want to achieve, to consider alternative pathways for the future. I miss my friends so so so much, I miss the ability to explore Singapore, explore the world. But I know, that with time, I’ll be able to see them in person, hopefully soon.
I spent night after night replying emails and responding to the concerns of hundreds of students. I felt their worry, their panic, their sadness, in some cases, sheer misery. But I am thankful, that this pandemic has given me the ability to experience crisis management on an unprecedented level, learn from the best in responding coherently and making provisions for those who need the support. To have the chance, to represent NUS students in advocacy and negotiations with NUS management, and perhaps, create new opportunities and pillars of support.
I am thankful for this trial, this baptism of fire, to have to make hard decisions, to make horrible mistakes, and learn, learn so so so much and grow. I am thankful that I am trusted to ensure that the interests of students are met, to fight the good fight. I am thankful that no matter how tough it was, no matter how much I cried or broke down, I was loved and I was supported all the way, that I had such precious friends that had my back.
It is going to be a tough year, so many things are uncertain and it’s so hard to look ahead and predict what is to come. But with my team, with my friends, with my loved ones, with my family, I think we’ll make it through. It is a time of disappointment, of frustration, of worry and anxiety. But it is also a time of tremendous kindness, an upsurge in community spirit and volunteerism.
You know what? I am just thankful. So many others have it worse, so much worse. There are those who lost their livelihoods, lost their jobs, their gigs, their loved ones and their lives. Every time I get frustrated, get annoyed, I quickly feel this immense sense of guilt, of privilege, of entitlement. Hey, what’s a cancelled programme when I have a home, an education, a future and a path ahead? Sometimes, I wonder, why are we squabbling over the number of modules I can S/U? I mean, not that it’s not important to me, but still. Maybe we could have done something else, but all this is said in hindsight, at that juncture in time, it seemed like the most important thing in the world.
And there lies perspective and attitude. I think, in this time of reflection, the world might seem like it’s coming to an end. Then again, crisis is opportunity, to grow strong, to grow resilient, to take a step back and rethink, and re-evaluate. To form new ideas, to hunker down and innovate, to re-work basics, to learn something new, there is so much that you can do when confined that it really might not be a bad thing after all. I miss my friends, I miss my old life, but hey, as long as we are all safe, they really aren’t going anywhere. Literally. This could be a time for growth, a hard reset, a golden opportunity for self-reflection and self-development. I mean, when one door closes, doesn’t another one open?
So I say, value this time. Stop mourning the loss of things you miss. Stop the self-pity and the frustration. Change your perspective and set a goal, see the possibilities and opportunities that you could pursue. It is going to be rough, but you are strong and you can do this. I, like you, am worried too. I am sometimes frightened, sometimes anxious, sometimes sad, sometimes miserable. But I am thankful and I want to believe that at the heart of this chaos, lies opportunity, growth and immense kindness.
No matter how rough this feels, how frustrated you are, how uncertain things seem, take heart, for this too, shall pass.