Toastmasters PM2-2 Evaluation and Feedback (Speech 2)

This was the second speech of this pathway project. It was based on the first speech but improved with feedback from the evaluator.

How the Pandemic Has Transformed Me

“Jason, any plan for the weekend? Wanna try this new barbecue place?”

“No thanks. I’ll just stay at home.”

“Jason, do you want to go hiking at Bukit Timah during the holidays?”

“No thanks. I’ll just stay at home.”

“Jason, how about coming to my place to play Nintendo Switch together?”

“No thanks. I’ll just stay at home.”

Home, in fact, was nothing more than a tiny little room at UTown no more than 10 square metres of area, with a desk, a bed, a closet, and a window that could only be half-opened. After housing this generous amount of furniture, it hardly had enough space for my yoga mat. Every afternoon, the sun heated the room up through the window, and, having no air conditioner, I had to push the limit of the fan to keep the heat on a tolerable level.

Yet I enjoyed staying at this tiny, shabby, isolated home. No barbecue was more delicious than a pack of potato chips on my desk which I could enjoy without having to pretend to care about others' babbling. No Bukit Timah was better than my yoga mat which allowed me to relax or exercise at will without any pressure from others. No other home was more comfortable than mine where I could freely choose whatever games I liked to play, whatever music I liked to listen to, whatever book I liked to read… Of course, It was not exactly true that I stayed at home all the time. I still went to the NTUC for grocery every two weeks and got a haircut every month. But that was about it. There were times when I felt lonely, but when that happened, I would think to myself, “well, I am a PhD student who is supposed to bear the burden of loneliness and conduct independent research after all!”

This was the mindset I brought with myself into the pandemic. As a result, in the beginning of the circuit breaker lockdown, I smugly thought that I would cope with it well. I would even use it to my advantage, wouldn’t I, because now I could avoid going out without ever needing to find excuses. No matter how chaotic and dangerous the outside world was, I would always have this haven, this paradise to myself! Never did I expect that it’d very soon become a prison, a purgatory.

It was 11, a typical morning under the lockdown. 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 room with a basket of smellier ones, slamming the door behind me. Just as I was relieved to find the lift empty and anxious to execute my laundry plan 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 the bed. Weeks into the lockdown, I started yearning for its end, 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 things have changed a lot. Now I go to my 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 also started playing squash, a sport I had only seen on TV before. If somebody asks me about my weekend plan now, I would most probably say that I am going hiking or cycling 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.