I thought I was ~crushing it~ in quarantine. As a homebody, it was a relief to be left to my own devices without having to feel guilty about rejecting social interaction. My time truly belonged to myself and I quickly established a routine of working (on my day job and this site) in spurts of productivity, resting when I needed to.
But this week, I felt like parts of myself have gone quiet somehow. I was restless while working from home. I had no motivation to write articles. I didn’t have my usual appetite. My energy levels were at an all-time low. I stopped going for runs altogether and couldn’t bring myself to finish one when I finally forced myself out of my house. I knew I hit rock bottom when I made a playlist for my non-existent wedding.
I can’t be sure if these are signs that quarantine has finally gotten to me or I’m just experiencing a bad case of PMS. Eager to feel better, I decided to aggressively “do nothing”. What I really mean is, “dunking my head in the welcome vacuity of a content binge”. I’m not sure if distraction is the best coping mechanism to employ here but that ship has sailed and you can find me melting my brain with films, dramas, music and books.
Sentenced to a prolonged period of relative inactivity while we wait out the pandemic, our consumption – in both the literal and figurative sense – is what occupies our time, what keeps us sane (loosely put). In this piece, I ask fellow young adults to share the content they have been consuming during quarantine. Here, I’ll start.
If you’re not milking National Library Board’s eLibrary, you should be. I read The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, a book about how important our 20s are, and wouldn’t shut up about it. In fact, I made three friends get their hands on a copy. I read it in a frenzy and devoured the entire book in two nights. Every time the author referenced a sociologist, my heart did a little jig.
Next on my list is Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, who was labeled “the Marie Kondo of mobile phones”. This book is less palatable than the former and my eyes glaze over when I read some of the anecdotes. I am determined to take away whatever bits of wisdom I can glean from it though. In a bid to return to fiction, I’m also starting on a classic, Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery.
During mealtimes, I enjoy One Day At a Time. My resolve at watching one episode a day quickly weakened as I fell in love with all the characters and appreciated how the episodes highlighted the importance of the topics such as racism, LGBTQ+ community, feminism, sex positivity, etc.
I used Netflix Party for the first time while watching The Half of It. I love to provide my friends with unsolicited commentary but that was pretty distracting since I can’t pause the film whenever I type (like I usually do without the extension). Also, I’m convinced that teenage coming-of-age movies and dramas that feature Asian Americans almost always involve a dead parent to give the protagonist unresolved trauma (see also: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy and Never Have I Ever).
One of my goals for 2020 is to read one book a week. I’m currently reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown because I’m always struggling to prioritise the things I need to do in life. In the recent weeks, I’ve also looked through This Is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo Yeo Yenn (which is really good, I highly recommend!) and The Unfair Advantage by Ash Ali and Hasan Kabba ’cause I’m applying for jobs and freaking out.
During meal times, I watch The Good Place because I need something easy and funny to watch. I also like contemplating death and wonder if I’m living my life the way I ‘should’ or if I am bringing about a positive contribution to the world. I’ve finished it and am now moving on to Atypical after binge-watching Never Have I Ever in one day.
I’m also watching ‘If You Are the One’, a matchmaking series, on Youtube!!! Why do I watch this? It’s a bit of a habit; I watch it once the episode is out on Sunday. I find it amusing to see how different cultures approach dating and also use it to work on my mandarin. Other than that, I’ve been watching quite a few workout videos by Chloe Ting as I’m trying out her summer shred challenge and prioritising my mental and physical health in these stressful times. I’m on Day 8 and I feel bloody fantastic!
Something old, something new. I’ve been anchored and exploring while stuck at home, to find both stability as well as the exciting prospect of experiencing new things that I am genuinely interested in.
Coffee is more of a soul than body experience, and you can fight me on this! I’ve been relishing my slower mornings (sometimes, afternoons, shhh.) by experimenting a lot more with my pour-over coffee techniques and grinding my beans fresh daily. What keeps me inspired to do so (honestly, grinding beans is an annoying arm workout), is watching this YouTube channel named theseoulsearch. I feel like I’m re-living my greatly caffeine-reliant university years all over again through her vlogs. I finally have the time to brew my cuppa joe the way I’ve always wanted, and it’s so good, I’ve reverted back to drinking ’em black. On some moody mornings however, a splash of oat milk always hits the spot.
I studied a bit of film criticism and film theory back in school, and I have two goals during this time— to complete the Wes Anderson filmography, and to start watching Studio Ghibli films to see what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, I’ve only watched one Wes Anderson film these two months – Moonrise Kingdom – but I’ve seen… I’d like to say 4-5 Studio Ghibli films on Netflix. I’m happy to report that none of these films have felt like a waste of time, and that’s coming from someone who both loves independent film festival films, yet finds two hours often too much time to commit to a show (or anything, really).
Music keeps us all sane, and I’ve discovered a new love for lofi I never knew I was willing to explore. I had always associated it with Japanese culture for some reason— perhaps because all the lofi playlists on youtube feature anime artwork, and Japanese culture has never been all that appealing to me (besides the sush. gotta love the sush.) So I’m pretty sure my affinity to this genre is just cabin fever manifesting itself in another form, or maybe just what happens after you watch too many Studio Ghibli films.
I’ve been exercising every day with guided workouts on youtube, mostly blogilates, pamela reif and growingannanas. On days where I muster the energy and motivation to do a proper HIIT, I find that my mood increases drastically for the next hour or so. I’ve always *known* about endorphins and their effects on the mind and body, but it’s still interesting to actually feel it taking effect.
I’ve also made plans to do more crafting, because Pinterest is such a great source of inspiration and I peruse it daily. I’m hoping I’ll feel enlightened enough to plan another collection of polymer clay earrings, create more botanical sketches to be printed onto cards, and get down to making the wooden bead essential oil diffuser hangings (wow, what a mouthful) that I saw on Instagram.
Lastly, boOKS, of course. Nothing new to report on this front, except that I highly recommend The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. It’s a wonderful addition to the speculative fiction genre and I’m so glad I had the time to binge on them the past month.
Contrary to the trend, I haven’t been spending much time on Netflix at all during this period. The only show I’ve been watching on the site is Rupaul’s Drag Race, which I find to be both entertaining and endearing— just what I need now.
I have, however, been on a self-help/DIY binge on YouTube, watching everything from Procreate tutorials to mindful meditations. I think it’s amazing how we can learn so much with just a few videos.
I’ve also been spending my pre-bedtimes with my after-dark playlist and Ikigai by Albert Liebermann and Hector Garcia. It looks at the concept of ikigai, which is the Japanese’s way of understanding passion and purpose in life. I think it’s especially apt in this current climate, and the book has some really practical tips.
Quarantine has been a period of several vacillations between anxiety over the pandemic and a state of sedate isolation. These bouts of isolation have involved a consistent stream of reading, watching, and gaming— besides weak attempts to work from home, of course.
I’ve never been particularly good at history, so I’ve been trying to brush up in my own way. Hemming closer to my pet interests is Tristan Donovan’s Replay: The History of Video Games, which I’m halfway through. For a better grasp of Singapore/regional history, I’ve also started reading Lily Zubaidah Rahim’s Singapore in the Malay World, which has been illuminating—just the first chapter alone feels like a must-read for any Singaporean.
Perhaps somewhat complementary to Lily ZR’s book, I’m trying to catch a few golden era Malay films from Singapore/Malaya from the 1900s. An artist and film researcher, Toh Hun Ping, has been doing an amazing job of making these films available online, uploading them one film a day. Hussain Haniff’s 1961 film, Hang Jebat, comes highly recommended.
The games I’ve been playing lean more towards slower-paced, playable stories. I’ve just started on Mutazione by Die Gute Fabrik— it was on discount on Steam. The characters are warm and colourful; delightful to talk to and learn more about, and there’s the lovely game mechanic of gardening as a means of healing a community.
I’m also feeling quite aware that my ability to be cloistered away at home is very much a privilege— I’ve been spending some time on Wares’ Mutual Aid Spreadsheet, an informal system for Singaporeans affected by COVID-19 to voice their urgent needs, and for people to share resources with them. These needs vary from money for rent, bills, food, baby products like milk powder and diapers, IT equipment for home-based learning, job opportunities, etc.
Often, these are people who are in dire need of aid that government agencies or charities may take too long for— so it’s good to see informal networks of care sprouting up. Those hoping to help can take a look at the spreadsheet and contact the individuals directly to provide assistance.
Feature image by Kimberly Tong, follow her on Instagram @crimeofrhyme; all images by contributors unless otherwise credited.