Photo credit: Camillia Dass

How COVID-19 got me to (finally) take a break

Apparently, the world won't end if I spend a day doing completely nothing. Who knew?

Camillia Dass

Published: 8 May 2020, 1:29 AM

As someone who chronically overworks herself, Singapores circuit breaker is probably the best thing to ever happen to me.

When it was first announced, I was knee-deep in the middle of my last semester of my third year in Nanyang Technological University (NTU). I had essays to complete, presentations and two exams to sit for.

I also had two paintings to finish for an elective art class I had taken, and was juggling a number of freelance jobs that were each demanding in their own ways. I was swamped.

It didn’t help that NTU was changing its assessment requirements almost every other day to match the rapidly changing situation in Singapore. It was an incredibly stressful time.

The two paintings this struggling artist had to finish at home with zero guidance. Photo Credit: Camillia Dass

But once Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that a circuit breaker would be put in place to curb the spread of the virus, everything changed.

Within a few hours, NTU released an email cancelling all our final exams, allowing students the option to switch all our classes into ungraded ones. This meant that while we still had to work hard to pass, these classes would no longer affect our overall GPAs.

Immediately, what was supposed to be weeks of intense studying and assignments vanished. Instead, I only had a handful of assessments left and a ton of nothing stretching out ahead of me.

I panicked. I’m a person who regularly maxes out the number of modules I can do in school every semester while also holding up to five freelance writing jobs at any one time. I also meet my boyfriend three times a week, work out regularly, spend time with family and friends, go to church and more.

For many years, I haven’t had a lot of time to myself. In fact, I constantly make sure my school books are in my phone’s e-reader app so that I can work even when I’m on the train or waiting for someone.

I am constantly doing something, working to complete yet another thing or meeting people. As much as I have always loved and dreamed of time to just relax, I never have had the time to.

Normally, my 30-minute workouts are the only time I have to myself. Photo Credit: Camillia Dass

So imagine my surprise when I realised just how bad I was at actually doing nothing when the opportunity presented itself in the form of the circuit breaker.

At first, it was really tough. I kept trying to keep up with my friends on social media who were trying out new workout routines or learning new recipes.

In the first week, I made ondeh ondeh, baked bread, strained my own almond milk, attempted bubble tea and started a bunch of workouts that I found on YouTube. I was desperate to make sure I wasn’t falling behind in any way.

I enjoy cooking, but it’s a lot of work and not very fun when you’re only doing it to keep up with social media trends. Photo Credit: Camillia Dass

However, things changed when I stumbled across something a friend said on social media.

He wrote about how we are constantly on the go in this fast-paced life and how we can choose to look at this opportunity as a time for rest because it was likely that this was the only time we would ever get in our lives to literally just do nothing.

There are no friends to meet, no assignments to complete, no mad scramble to get into the office. As heartbreaking as it is that our lives have come to a standstill and that people are losing jobs, incomes and their livelihoods, the fact remains that we are all on pause and there is nothing we can do about it.

Armed with that reassurance, for the first time since I was 12, I bought myself a $15 computer game.

For 11 years, I associated gaming with addiction (which I quickly learnt was not true at all) and frequently told myself that I just don’t have time to be addicted to anything other than my school work and freelance jobs. So buying this game was a pretty significant milestone for me.

The game was Stardew Valley, a farming simulation game, which essentially allows you to build a farm and a virtual life. It is very relaxing and I quickly fell in love with it.

According to Stardew Valley, I’ve spent 146 hours on my farm so far (oops). Photo Credit: Camillia Dass

I also started reading (or listening to) books for leisure, which is something I have been neglecting.

I used the National Library Board’s app, Libby, to download audiobooks that I’ve been wanting to get to for ages. I have since finished Michelle Obama’s 19-hour long autobiography, Becoming and I am now on to Stephen King’s latest novel, The Institute.

Michelle Obama narrates the audiobook version of her autobiography, which is a wonderful way to experience it! Photo Credit: Camillia Dass

If anything, COVID-19 has taught me that it is okay to pause and take a complete break. It’s okay to sleep in or to have spent an entire day camped out on my bed doing nothing but playing a little farming game.

The world won’t end. I will not fall behind. Everything will be okay.

If you’re a workaholic like me, struggling with the sudden lack of productivity and activity in your life, I just want to encourage you to fight the Singaporean in you.

No matter your situation, allow yourself to rest so that when this is over, you can be fully ready and energised to tackle life once again.

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