July 3, 2020

Throughout my formative years, I was the furthest thing from a homebody. The only time I spent at home was to sleep, while the rest of the day was off gallivanting all over town. I came and went whenever I pleased, unstoppable in my pursuit of freedom. Hence, you would understand why I was foaming at the mouth when the nation went into circuit breaker mode on April 7. Suddenly, I had to bid farewell to gym and dance classes, spontaneous shopping sprees and dining at chi-chi establishments with my posse. My initial impulse was to take the first available flight out of the country—anywhere seemed like a better prospect than staying here. But I soon got a reality check when my judicious friends poked holes in my “plan”, citing that every other country was under lockdown too.

Now that we have surfaced from our cocoons, and are in phase two of the circuit breaker exit, I’m looking at the world through new eyes. Being alone isn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. And perhaps the pandemic is a lesson for all us to adapt to the unexpected, embrace a new reality and discover parts of ourselves we did not know before.

No Longer Needing a Gym Membership

Four days into self-isolation, I felt like a lost meanderer ambling lackadaisically through the bizarre landscape of Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory. Around me, the clocks were melting into amorphous puddles and time no longer had any consequence. I feared that I would soon lose my sanity and morph into one of those “crazy cat ladies” (without the cats). For the first time, my life lacked structure and I had a surplus of jittery energy to burn. Moreover, since gyms were closed, the brownies I had been devouring for breakfast were making me flabby around my belly. I was safe from the coronavirus, but in danger of turning into a Pillsbury Doughboy.

Worried that I had grown a muffin top, I sought counsel from a friend, who had been rigorously working out to YouTube videos. Her goal was to be like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis; more toned and fabulous than before the circuit breaker. Although I didn’t have the same lofty aims, the fear of looking pudgy propelled me to search for effective home workouts. From Chloe Ting to Emi Wong, these fitness influencers were promoting two-week shred workouts, with the promise of significant weight loss. Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep my weight in check by sticking to their exercises and getting used to the torturous sensation of jumping jacks and bicycle crunches. Although gyms have reopened, I’ve decided to swop my gym membership for more of those delectable brownies from Bundt by The Backyard Bakers. Because on cheat days, there’s always waist hugs, a girdle-like device that is purported to tone your figure to your desired waist size, even at rest. 

Saving More, Spending Less

If someone were to count the number of steps I took this entire circuit breaker, it would be fewer than 1,000 per day. I basically walked to and fro between the kitchen, the bathroom and my bedroom (which I transformed into a makeshift workstation). After spending two and a half months in isolation, I saved almost a whopping $2,000 a month on Grab rides. Since I had no one to impress save for the occasional Zoom meetings, I did away with any form of makeup too. Zero trips to Sephora meant more savings in the bank. Furthermore, with only delivery or takeaway allowed, I substituted $7.50 lattes from hipster cafes for 3-in-1 Nescafé sachets.

Finding Love in Unexpected Places

Rihanna was pretty confident about “finding love in a hopeless place.” But do such prospects change amid a global pandemic? Gena said that she was lucky to have a “healthy, lasting relationship with battery-operated devices”—and intended to keep it that way. Karen spammed guys with messages on her Bumble account, but the conversations were typically insipid and superficial. And Michelle*, who was about to throw in the towel after receiving a slew of obscene pictures (involving the male genitalia) from men on Tinder, never in her wildest dreams expected to “meet” someone.

In early April, when Michelle was collecting her usual order from the Grab deliveryman, they struck up an unexpected conversation, which led to them exchanging numbers. The next day, the same deliveryman showed up at her place, with a bag of croissants for her. Soon they were texting and talking on the phone, still unaware of how the other person looked like without a mask on. Every few days, he would return to her place like a modern-day Romeo, with various goodies. Gradually, they developed more-than-platonic feelings for each other, despite not going on a real date or having a proper face-to-face conversation.

Going Meatless

Cooking has never been my strongest suit, considering how my parents nearly choked on one of my dubious creations from home economics classes back in school. During the circuit breaker, I watched my friends produce luscious, ‘Top Chef’-worthy food in their kitchen. Taunted by pictures of their culinary triumphs, I vowed to make something more complex than scrambled eggs on toast. My kimchi jjigae turned out better than I’d imagined, but my sister penalised me for including chunks of fatty pork—a meatless option would have been more ethical.

But that’s not all. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), many diseases like the coronavirus are a consequence of the unsanitary markets that house animals for consumption. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 75 per cent of emerging epidemics originate in animals, while other experts predicted that within the next 30 years, more people would perish from diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria (found in meat) than of cancer. With such alarming findings, it seems that the most logical way to eliminate animal-borne infectious diseases is to go vegan. Elisa Allen, director of PETA UK, agrees by saying that even if we all do our part by staying home, we also need to stop consuming meat, if we hope to save more lives.

As an avid meat-lover, the thought of subsisting on quinoa salads and avocado smoothies made me wrinkle my nose. Normally, the only vegetables I consumed were the bean sprouts in my prawn mee or creamed spinach alongside an unctuous slab of ribeye. Wanting to challenge myself, I went on a three-day vegan diet (begrudgingly), which included nut milk and soup from HIC juice, but was constantly hungry or bloated from eating too much fibre. On the second day, I found myself fantasising about Korean barbeque and spent the rest of the week tucking into fried chicken and burgers. It might take something more than a pandemic to alter my relationship with meat, but at least I tried.