I have not been to the shops nor seen anyone else (besides my family) since arriving home three months ago.
For the first few weeks, I felt myself going mad from the lack of socialising. I rarely called my friends as I did not fancy video calls, having preferred face-to-face interactions. However, I slowly worked out a weekly calling schedule with my close friends, and it greatly improved my moods. Just spending an hour chatting with a friend makes me feel recharged. Even though there is not much going on in our lives, having regular conversations and seeing familiar faces is a great way to maintain friendships in such times.
I realised that being forced to stay at home has made time scheduling easier. Without time wasted in the traffic or aimlessly walking around malls, I have more control over how I spend my time. I am trying to read more every day and learn new things online. As schools and universities take teaching online, the e-learning platform will become more developed. We should all use this to our advantage and upgrade ourselves with new skills by learning online. There are many free resources out there that we do not have to pay a single cent to master a skill. All we need is diligence and patience.
Weeks ago, I grumbled a lot about not being able to meet my friends or dine in my favourite restaurant. However, reading the news daily has made me realise how privileged I am to have a roof over my head and food on the table every day. Many who used to work for daily wages are out of jobs because businesses are put on hold. A lot are now depending on NGOs and charities for their daily necessities. I remind myself to be grateful for what I have and put my efforts into being productive, rather than complaining.
The condition we are in now is likely to drag on for many more months to come; instead of thinking “I will do this and that after lockdown”, try thinking “I’m going to find a way to do it now.” Time passes regardless of anything – if you have been putting off things because of the current situation, think again. A famous Chinese proverb says “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.”
Weeks of being in lockdown has taught me the importance of having a direction in life. We need to have a reason, or maybe reasons, to wake up, so that we do not easily fall into despair. I have set up a daily routine, and with each activity is a small goal. For example, my goal for piano is to learn a new piece every month, so I practise and learn new parts daily. Another goal is to become fit, so I run every evening, tracking my time and increasing my laps each week. Setting mini goals and pushing the next one a little further after the previous one is achieved is a good way to incorporate a sense of direction in life.
I am looking forward to returning to Oxford for Michaelmas 2020, though things are still rather uncertain now as I am writing this. As a Malaysian, the UK is a 13-hour flight from my home. Flight tickets are now more costly than usual, and with the flight schedules ever-changing, I would need to consider my travel date carefully. I really hope the UK will be able to “flatten the curve” and that there will not be a second outbreak by the end of the year, as I do not wish to be stranded in a foreign land.
I hope everyone who read this has been able to adjust to the new norm and make alternative plans. In such uncertain times, let us learn to embrace the unknown and cherish every new day.