“Hustle and bustle” sums up my first semester university experience. While it was less draining and stressful compared to A-levels, there were periods of burn-outs for me – particularly with the strings of deadline for assignment and presentation nearing the end of the semester.
In that period of time, I fell into a vicious cycle of pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines, overcompensating myself afterwards by procrastinating a lot, and then repeating the whole cycle. Aristotle said, one swallow does not a summer make – indeed, a brief moment of happiness from procrastination was simply not enough for me to recuperate from the stress and exhaustion. I grew increasingly exhausted and drained after every deadline. Every conversation starter “how are you doing” I was asked was answered with “well, I’m trying to stay afloat” – of course, the word “trying” and the tinge of fatigue underlying my joking tone gave away how unsuccessful my attempts were.
While not very successful, I really did try very hard to stay afloat.
I tried to eliminate whatever potential “obstacles” I could face on my way to being productive – I would attempt to resist temptations to relax and spend time on my hobbies, delay the need to do household chores like cleaning the room, think twice about going for events like interesting workshops or forums. I was literally trying to save every ounce of energy and time that I had to swim past the deadlines and to not drown before then.
It only dawned upon me that something was quite wrong, when I began feeling more and more lethargic in studying, and in doing literally anything. The state of not having breaks and pushing myself through everything was akin to the state of a drowning man dramatically flailing one’s arms, gulping and panicking, only to sink deeper, lose energy faster and slowly face oxygen-deprivation – alongside feelings of devastation.
At some point of time, it struck me that I really, really needed breaks. That life shouldn’t just be about getting by deadlines and getting satisfactory (academic) work done. I realised that ironically, trying so desperately to stay afloat was making me drown more. All I needed was to take a deep breath, relax, and I would automatically float!
Now, looking back at the semester, apart from all the hustle and bustle, I’m so glad that there were those moments of serendipity in my life. They were like happy bubbles, shielding me from all the work I had to do, until I caught my breath and regained the strength to continue facing what is to be conquered.
Those were the moments when I sat at the suite table and drew for two hours straight.
The feeling of contentment and coziness when I cleaned my room, hung up my fairy lights, and hugged my cat bolster as I read a book.
The sudden rush of motivation when I filled my wall with my favourite quotes and pictures, just right in front of my study desk.
Going for dog therapy sessions organised by my Residential College.
Listening to my OG mate’s rap performance during Arts week finale and chilling with friends.
Every hour-long breakfast and dinner chit-chat.
Distressing with my suite mates through “KTV sessions” in between studying for finals.
Exploring other foodstores in UTown with friends and finding this Hong Kong restaurant that sells really food Mala fried rice.
The amazing “Those Who Can’t, Teach” play put up by TSlate (Tembusu college’s theatre interest group) (on a side note it was really a great performance that discussed what makes a good teacher, and even beyond teaching – about complex issues in life)
Watching anime on the weekend with my boyfriend and just chilling in the room.
Sometimes, when I am taking these breaks, I feel guilt-ridden for “slacking” and “procrastinating”. Yet, in retrospect, these breaks really did helped me recharge, rejuvenate and restore the motivation and drive I needed in learning and in life.
Of course, the prerequisite to this is good time management and consistent efforts in completing one’s work (which I obviously need to work on for the following semesters).
But all in all, one really important lesson I learnt about self-care this semester, is to not be afraid of taking “productive breaks” (quoted from my friend) – breaks that we need to take things in strides and survive the marathon. As the common phrase in Chinese suggests, “to rest is to prepare for a longer journey ahead” (休息是为了走更远的路).