Toastmasters PM2-1: Evaluation and Feedback

How the Pandemic Has Transformed Me

It was 11 in the morning. I was just up and madly digging through my messy closet, disgruntled at how fast I had run out of clean clothes. It didn’t take long before I had to admit defeat. After throwing on a smelly T-shirt I had worn the day before, I rushed out of my 10 square-metre room with a basket of smellier T-shirts, slamming the door behind me. Just as I was relieved to find the lift empty and anxious to execute my laundry scheme stealthily without any embarrassing encounter, I suddenly realised, to my horror, that I had forgotten to take the detergent! When I finally finished feeding the laundry machine, seated myself at my desk, woke up my laptop and went to the part of my research project where I had been stuck for days, drowsiness immediately overwhelmed me and drove me to the bed just 1 metre away. But no sooner had I lied down, than a horrible panic chased me back to the desk. I need to work! But in less than a minute, I again found myself too sleepy to work, and had to creep back to bed.

My typical day under lockdown. I had never imagined that it would be like this. When the circuit breaker lockdown had just started, I was confident that the life ahead would not be a problem for me. No going out? No social gathering? Fine. Why would I need those things when my mission here was all about my own PhD degree? Wasn’t a PhD student expected to conduct independent research? Besides, wasn’t that kind of life basically just what I had always been living? During the summer semester of 2018, when I was still an undergraduate, didn’t I jump directly from my bed to my desk immediately after getting up every day, and, forgetting about time, skipping breakfast and lunch, work until the darkness outside finally reminded me to get something to munch before the canteen closed? During my first semester at NUS in 2019, when people asked me about my weekend plan, wasn’t my reply always “Stay in my room,” except for some fortnightly shopping at the same NTUC outlet? In a word, in the beginning, I firmly believed that this tiny UTown room would be a haven, or even a paradise, to me.

Except that weeks into the lockdown, it had already turned into a prison, a purgatory, and a bedlam. I started yearning for the end of the lockdown, for the day I could go back to the lab, for a walk with a friend, a bite at a restaurant, a trip to a new place.

Luckily for me, the restrictions soon started to ease, and since then, things have changed a lot. Now I go to the lab almost every day not because my work requires me to do so, but because I want to spend more time with friends rather than alone. I have moved out of UTown and started cycling between the lab and my flat, just for some time to exercise my legs, breathe fresh air and view the city. I have started playing squash, a sport I have only seen on TV before. If somebody asks me about my weekend plan now, I would most probably say that I am going hiking in a new place, just to enjoy the freedom of roaming around. The pandemic certainly isn’t over, but I’ve found how I could keep myself healthier, happier and more efficient by having more of going out, more social activities, and less isolation.

Pandemic. Horrible, isn’t it? It has threatened so many things in our life: our health, connections, study, work. But to me, it is no less a transformative force than a destructive one. Through its powerful threat, it teaches me to spot the gems that I have never recognised and to cherish the good things I have always taken for granted. It is in such change of views that when I look back, I find myself transformed and grown during this difficult time.