19 during Covid-19: A time to reflect on what I value

During the circuit breaker, the writer, 19, is reflecting on what she values in life.
During the circuit breaker, the writer, 19, is reflecting on what she values in life. PHOTO: COURTESY OF CHLOE KOK

Adulthood: full of possibilities yet uncomfortably uncertain. At least, in the time of circuit breakers and enforced solitude, that is what adulthood looks like to me.

Having just graduated from junior college, much of the free time I have is now spent on thinking about the vague future, worrying about simultaneously everything and nothing.

Which university is the best choice, which career do I pursue, can my relationship last through the circuit breaker and, eventually, the thousands of kilometres when I head overseas for college, if the term can even start on time?

Speaking to friends over Zoom calls, Skype chats and Instagram, it seems I am not alone. The common sentiment among them is: "I don't really know," often said with a wry smile and a small shrug.

Between university choices, courses and scholarship applications, there is a looming feeling of uncertainty about which path to take.

This state of not knowing was uncomfortable for me. I was used to the regimented junior college lifestyle, where there was ultimately a mandated goal: do well for the A-level examinations.

It was not necessary to think much farther than how to answer an economics essay on market structure or how river channel patterns are formed. And answers were always available.

Yet now I stand at a crossroads, unsure of where to turn. It sometimes feels as if I am in limbo, pinned down by what I do not know.

Furthermore, many tools that prospective university students could usually use to better navigate their future are now out of the picture due to Covid-19.

I am grateful to have had the chance to continue my internship, albeit having to work from home.

Others have not been so lucky. Several friends spoke of cancelled internships and part-time gigs, which could have been opportunities to experience being in the workforce and get a better idea of one's future career prospects.

Likewise, university open houses have become virtual ones.

Yet, while uncertainty is inevitable, I have been trying to embrace it. I still worry about what my future may look like, but I have been trying to channel my thoughts in a more productive direction.

Since I started staying home, I have been spending some time to reflect on what I value most in a university, career and in life. For instance, I greatly value collaboration and having opportunities to take initiative.

From journaling to researching more about various paths online to having long virtual chats with my friends about the future, I am slowly figuring myself out.

When the circuit breaker ends, I can hopefully come out of this more calm, more sure about what I value in various aspects of my life and more certain about myself - in order to navigate the uncertain next chapter of my life that is adulthood.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 10, 2020, with the headline 19 during Covid-19: A time to reflect on what I value. Subscribe