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Karyn Liow

Student

Dear COVID-19 You’re real. You’re serious. People are dying, hospitals are overwhelmed because they lack beds, respirators, protective gear, medical staff, things like that. You’re a global pandemic, but somehow there are people around the world who take you lightly. I wonder why. You’ve affected my life in many ways. You cut short my semester. You’ve prevented me from going to the office for my internship, from seeing my colleagues. You prevent me from hanging out with my friends. You withhold me from visiting my grandparents on the weekends. You’ve confined my life to the four corners of my room, where I sit in front of my laptop mulling over internship responsibilities, my undergraduate research project, and the massive open online courses I’ve been taking. The only times I leave these four corners are to have my meals, and even then my meals are brief ones, and I return to shut myself in these four corners once more. Having said that, you’ve also changed my life in many ways. Your presence has made me realise that I’ve taken physical proximity for granted. This realisation has allowed me to reach out to and catch-up with those whom I’ve not connected with for a long time - my secondary school and junior college classmates, for example. Your presence has allowed me to teach my grandparents how to use Google Duo for video calls, and it’s been wonderful to hear my paternal grandmother telling us about her week - watching Channel U shows, cooking different meals, and doing prayer devotions - while my paternal grandfather sits in the background listening intently and chiming in only when my dad speaks in Teochew. Your presence has given me the chance to learn things I didn’t have the time for - R Programming, Python Programming, Microsoft Excel shortcuts, conversational Korean, among other things. They’re going to be useful skills as this new normal takes over the world, a world where the possession of technical and data skills would be useful assets for future career opportunities. Most importantly, your presence has allowed me to be more aware of my mental health. The concept of "burnout" has been foreign to me for quite some time now. I’ve always wanted to accomplish many things to prove that I am equally or more capable than what people perceive me to be. Rest was never an option for me; the only option was to push through whatever came my way, even if it meant sacrificing sleep and quality time with family and friends. Before you came, I thought hyper-productivity would give me a sense of accomplishment and validation from those around me, but deep down, I was distraught and without identity. Your presence has given me the chance to talk to my family and friends about my insecurities and my guilt about not being productive, and these talks have helped ease my worries tremendously. Your presence allowed me to realise that it's okay to take breaks every once in a while. Your presence reminds me that life is not a bed of roses - there are good days and there are bad. You have given me the chance to realise that I'm human and failure is not bad, that failure is normal, that it gives me room for growth. I’ve come to terms with your presence, and I’ve come to terms with who I am. With your presence, my life has slowed down, somewhat. I’ve learnt how to appreciate the things God has given me, and the many opportunities life has provided. Though everything has been a lull and I can’t tell the difference between the weekdays and weekends, it’s been nice to have meals with my family, sitting at the dining table and talking about our experiences in the past week. Your presence has enabled me to grow more as an individual. So thank you for that. Covid-19, I’d like to believe God introduced you to us for a reason. Nevertheless, I do hope you’d leave soon. Coping with the new normal would be difficult, but I’m willing to try. Leave this world with grace. I don’t think the world will miss you, but we’ll look back on the times our pace of life slowed down, where various tourist attractions see wildlife returning and thriving, where we see the earth’s environmental recovery from our actions. I’d just like you to know that you’ve taught humanity quite a lot of things, and we’re more aware of how we should appreciate the things in life more.