Opinion My circuit breaker in a nutshell

My circuit breaker in a nutshell

While whiling my time away after my final exams ended in early May, I noticed another less obvious change. I felt pressure from other people to do something useful with the time that I had

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Uneventful but could be worse. This is how I would describe my experience during circuit breaker.

The biggest impact circuit breaker had on me was in terms of my school life. Since my school makes it compulsory for all students to stay on campus, we had to vacate the school campus and move back home. From feeling a small sense of independence to being thrusted back into living under my parents’ roof, it was a very jarring and sudden change.

While whiling my time away after my final exams ended in early May, I noticed another less obvious change. I felt pressure from other people to do something useful with the time that I had.

I have grown to become less bothered by what people around me do. Despite that, for some reason, when the circuit breaker period rolled around, I felt pressured by the knowledge that my friends were finding things to keep themselves productive, and the knowledge that I had the time on my hands to do the same.

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I spent most of my time crossing books off my reading list, exercising, or talking to my friends online. When day after day of this routine continued, I started to think “so am I really going to waste my time like this?”. The combination of being able to find out easily what my friends were up to, and the fact that I had more than enough time on my hands to make myself useful, made me feel very pressured to do something.

Not that I acted upon that though. I reasoned with myself that I had wished for a break when the school term was busy, and now was the break that I had wished for. So I decided to just enjoy it by doing only what I liked.

It really opened my eyes to how easy it was to be caught up in the rush of what other people are doing, and what other people show social media what they are doing. I did not want to be like a leaf, going wherever the current led. Especially during the period where what we have most is time, I realised the importance of knowing what I wanted for myself.

Like most other people, coming to the end of the circuit breaker period was a big deal, but that was quickly dampened by the fact that the restrictions in Phase 1 were mostly similar to those in the circuit breaker.

Being through the circuit breaker period, I leave it with three things that left a bigger impact than the feeling of being cooped up for two months did.

The first thing I quickly came to understand was that going through a historically significant period is not as exciting or interesting as I thought it would be.

It definitely seemed to me that people in history who went through historically significant times must have felt like this when they were living through exciting times. For me, I felt that it was mundane, with the news getting rather suffocating to keep up with.

On a much more serious note, this led to me understanding another thing better. The meaning of “privilege”.

The sound of the word “privilege” is extremely misleading. Privilege is not limited to the rich or the powerful, nor is it an unchangeable state. People who are not particularly rich or powerful can still be considered privileged, and being privileged is not something that once determined, cannot be changed.

Some people can be privileged in one way and not privileged in another, and some people can be privileged at one point in time and not in the next.

This was something I thought about a lot as I sat at home, in safety, bemoaning how bored I was feeling. To be able to be bored at a time when many frontline workers were putting themselves at risk, and when people in some other parts of the world find safe distancing a luxury that they cannot afford. I certainly am privileged to be where I am.

The last thing that came to me was not something that I just picked up, but something that the circuit breaker helped reinforce. The grass truly is greener on the other side. While being allowed out only to exercise and buy groceries, I longed to go out even if I had no plans and nothing to do. Quite a foolish thought. I know for a fact that if it had been life as we knew it, going out would have been a whole hassle. Despite knowing that, I still felt a ridiculous sense of excitement (and a bit of apprehension) when the starting of Phase 2 was announced.

As it is with everything else in life, this period too has passed. And again, as with everything else in life, the future remains uncertain. Circuit breaker was one phase of the fight against the pandemic and surely there are more phases ahead that would require us to adapt to and to accept.

Misaki Tan, is an editorial intern at TheIndependent.SG and is currently a liberal arts student at Yale-NUS College. Although she has still not decided on a major, she loves reading up on history and understanding crime.

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