Ahmed Mayeesha Reza Agomoni
Tough laws, enforced to combat the spread of Covid-19, have prompted mass engagement with technology. As we stay at home in the midst of the worldwide pandemic, we are constantly being swamped with never-ending, stress-inducing news, and an onslaught of advice on how to be more productive by making use of our alleged free time.
There is a lovely derision to the fact that the mediums that we turn to so often for procrastination are the exact mediums that ridicule us the most for doing so. Having spent the vast majority of the day binge-watching shows and reading books that have been towering over for years now, you cannot help but feel more aware of the hours and days slipping right by you.
Individual circumstances differ, and people tend to cope with incidents in their own ways as they deem fit. This quarantine could be career-defining for a budding writer or groundbreaking for a researcher, and yet here you are, having spent more than a month at home with no magnum opus.
If you are anything like me, then this realisation comes with a wave of guilt, shame, and resentment. With our real lives being on pause for the time being, our exposure to digital media has sky-rocketed. In this pandemic, we are constantly being fed with motivational messages, urging us to “Hustle from Home”.
We are so hooked on the idea that we have to utilise every minute of our free time doing something productive, that any action not geared towards productivity has no value in our day-to-day life. The pressure to “get shit done” is more dire than ever and becomes more inescapable by the day.
I was one of the many who fell into this alluring trap. Being a productivity fanatic, I was excited to have all this free time on my hands and was immediately on board with the idea of using it “wisely”. I was finally ready to get rid of my food baby belly, master my favourite Bach sonata on the piano, and sound like a native French speaker.
Within a number of days, I had gone from being exhilarated to being completely crushed, leading to a period of utter inactivity. It turned out that setting colossal expectations was one of my biggest mistakes. I was completely torn between one voice telling me to take advantage of all the free time, and the other prompting me to relax because I might never have this much free time again.
William Shakespeare may have used the 1606 plague outbreak to pen dazzling works such as King Lear, but he did not have to navigate an endless barrage of updates about the state of the world and fight through the temptation to dive into various sources of online entertainment. The hustle culture and our desperate desire to avoid “wasting time” have distorted our perception of which activities fall under productivity.
I have found myself being more grounded by setting some manageable tasks, and lowering my usual productivity bar has given me some structure.
Here’s the thing: We do not need to prove to anyone that we have outworked the virus. It is okay to pause for a bit and reflect on things. We are in a pandemic. It is only natural for us to be overwhelmed by everything that is going on around the world. Disorientation, agitation, and penitence are just byproducts of this catastrophe. These feelings cannot be swept under the rug by beating self-imposed deadlines.
Do not upbraid yourself for prioritising the things you love doing. It seems that in a society that puts so much worth on forward progress, we have forgotten how to just pause and take a breather. Before you know it, the world will tick back to its new normal, and you will wish you’d taken the time to just be.
Agomoni has a bittersweet relationship with speaking Java and convincing her parents to watch soap operas and YouTube with her.