I sit by my open window, inappropriately sleepless at 2 a.m., watching the stars as they twinkle teasingly at me knowing full well that I cannot step out to revel in the moonlight like them. The Singapore skyline glows like a beautiful hallucination upon the farthest banks of the tranquil sea. If I listen closely enough, I can convince myself that the gentle bobbing of the cargo ships is audible. Although I know it isn’t. They coyly surrender themselves to the waves’ embrace, almost as if made of cheap glue and yesterday’s newspaper and not steel. I tentatively stick out a palm to catch the raindrops that burst forth from the sky like little diamonds and smile as they gently dissolve into my skin.
It feels good to be back.
This time, returning home means more than just waking up to my favorite view in the world and getting blessed with an endless supply of snacks lovingly prepared by my mom. This time, it’s not quite that simple. It’s so easy to slip back into a state of childish contentment and put on a mask of ignorance in the name of self-protection during this global health crisis. But a retreat from the outdoors shouldn’t equate to a retreat to meaningless routine, albeit a newly-constructed one. While thousands out there fight for their lives every day, I can’t help but recognize the unintentional selfishness of my own sheltered little existence. Now, don’t get me wrong–I am not the toilet paper hoarder you mock in the memes or the ignorant jerk who shamelessly went out to drink with their friends and plastered it all over social media–despite the risks.
At the same time, I know that I am considerably luckier than most of my fellow globe-inhabitants right now. After all, I live in sanitary conditions with a pretty reliable supply of food and income, going about my day without ever really having to worry about my next paycheck or meal. Up until the turn of the decade demanded a forced return to bare necessities, I never actively thought about just how much I had to spare. I also know that although I am possibly not alone in this experience of guilt, now offers a good time for us all to practice gratitude.
Why wait till November to give thanks, when it should be a daily practice?
It goes without saying that in the last few weeks, all sense of order has come completely undone. The economy has been arrested in its tracks, everyone’s morale has taken a beating and the global carnage has left the world shaken to its core. And yet, in the midst of all this devastation, mother nature has generously extended us a second chance. A chance to peel back our mindless indulgence in the excess, and quietly utilize our newfound solitude to reconsider if we want to carry on in the way we once did. It’s a chance that we should excitedly seize.
So many of us reek of privilege but insist on bathing in denial. It’s criminal, really.
So, don’t take this time to angrily shake your fists at the news of an extension of a lockdown or to complain about your inability to laugh with your loved ones in person, but instead, use it to reflect. Reflect upon your lifestyle, upon the relationships that make you and the actions that shape you. I am not saying that we should expect to come out of this crisis born completely anew, but that we should at least make a sincere effort to mend some of the habits we know everyone would live without.
If you’re looking for a sign, this is it: quit smoking, write that novel, make that call, get out of bed or take up that weird hobby you’ve always wanted to try. I know that no one’s daily life has gone completely unscathed. I know that everyone has had to make some modifications to their work schedule and summer plans. But that doesn’t mean we should let bitterness become our favorite midnight snack.
Make your own happiness, even if it comes in the form of a shitty Tik-Tok.
COVID-19 has reminded us that time is precious, so let each word you speak and each step you take be filled with purpose. Just because you are not the one struggling to take your next breath does not mean you shouldn’t feel the need to make each breath count.