With regard to the Academic and the Pandemic ..
When I thought that 2020 would be my year of redemption. Means that it would be the year for my development, in terms of academics, all of a sudden it changed just during the first quarter of 2020. In March, my university decided to change and move the face-to-face method of learning activities to fully online. All of it was indeed because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The university decided to take preventive measures, which is good. The Pandemic has really affected all aspects of our life, and yes, education is one of them. At first, I really enjoyed the online method of learning. But after going through it for two or maybe three months, I was starting to get tired of the environment around me and keep on questioning the method.
A short background about me, I was born in an ordinary family, nothing really special except the existence of my strong dad. I have an older brother, but I do not want to talk a lot about him. I lost my mom when I was 12, she died during her battle with cancer that lived inside her long before she knew it. Somehow, since then I have this weird feeling towards hospitals and people that are being treated inside them. Some kind of trauma, but I do not really know the exact term for it. My dad had to terminate his job during a full 40 days of treatment for my mom. And since then, my dad is jobless. I think it is because of his non-productive age, but I do not know, I do not want to judge him. Then how am I still alive until now? Well, it is all because of my big family, my mom’s big family. They help me and this small family of mine until now. Thank God. And during more or less 8 months of quarantine or learning at home, I lived in my aunt’s house in Jakarta. And it was a really unique experience that I will discuss later.
Now back to the academic context. Online was fun, I guess. With this kind of method, I can learn whenever and wherever I want. I do not need to go to campus to attend classes, and now I can do it only using my laptop and a pair of headphones, which the distance is only five steps away from my bed. Second, I think it is comfort, referring to the first point regarding ‘wherever’, I have the authority to set up my own learning space, according to my comfort-o-meter. And last I think is the ability for me to do several things at the same time. For example, during my class, because it is online, I can do other things like managing the student organization that I am involved with. Or maybe I can also attend another webinar or another zoom call. It is not that positive, I know, especially for the lecturers. But it is what it is and I believe that I am not the only one who is doing it during the online classes.
Talking about the disadvantages, let’s start with the screen time issue. The reality that I need to be on screens for hours, 5 or even 6 days a week, and maybe from day to night because I have things to do other than regular classes like working on my individual assignments, group calls preparing for presentations, webinars, clubs and organizations meetings, and so on has made my eyes sore and flushed. It can affect my eyes health and maybe I will also develop bad posture and other physical problems due to staying hunched in front of a screen. The inability for me to focus on screens for a long period of time is also an issue related to the previous. During the online method, it is easier for me to be distracted with other things like my own phone or maybe anything from the environment, because clearly, I do not live alone inside the house.
“Zoom and Pandemic fatigue” is a real thing, it is not a joke or maybe even just a simple term that is used by hopeless millennials. With those amount of times in front of a screen, plus the inability for me to really “socialize” and “interact” with my friends, isolated from each other, and knowing that I am located in a “black zone” (based on the virus’ transmission rates) is really stressful. Not to mention if maybe some of us, the students, are having technical issues such as devices problems and internet connectivity. Not all of us have a dedicated internet access facility at home. It is actually a privilege. And talking about privilege, how do we keep our sanity in the middle of all of this? There are 2 most important things for me and I call them privileges because not everyone has them, those are motivations and support systems.
It is hard for me to maintain my motivation. And this is the reason why I wrote about my background in brief before. I, a student, a teenager, a son, have the ability that has been graced upon me by God called feelings. And it is an obligation for me to feel things because that is what makes me a human. A living being. Being a child or a teenager does not mean that everything inside my head is only about college, parties, women, have fun, and somehow we are on top. For teenagers like me, that have a complex background and I can say least-privileged than most of my friends in the university, I need to find and feel my own motivation and create my own support system. Thinking about my next steps in life, while carrying the hope of my family. Staying 8 months in someone’s house, with its own environment and atmosphere that is completely different from me, also with no one that can be talked to about my day, my problems, and others, is hard, very hard. And in this case, inequality shows up in its original form.
I am not trying to blame the circumstances here. Instead, we need to be grateful for it. I believe that 2020 was a hard time for my friends, my lecturers, and others too. But hey, 2020 was just trying to do its job by becoming the best mentor of ours. And I know COVID-19 is not only trying to attack and weaken our physical health but indirectly our mental health is under attack as well. I am dying to ask and hope for a real class experience and everything back to normal. I do not want to waste my family’s lot of money in exchange for a Coursera-alike experience only. I do not want to lay on my bed all day in front of my laptop like a depressed e-boy. I need to get out and move, I need to develop, and I need to prepare for my future. However, I realized that back to normal is nonsense and impossible seeing our condition right now. But I still have hope and optimism for our world and country in the future despite what is currently happening, because that is what makes me alive until now, a simple hope as the key.
And for the youths or any other people out there who are currently struggling with everything you are doing right now, just keep swimming and do not even try to look back in the mirror. If you are tired or exhausted, take a rest. Go watch Netflix or something. Get out. Call your friends. Get some laugh with them. Love yourself, make this a priority for 2021 ahead. Do not hope and expect, to God, to make 2021 easy on you. Instead, go pray and ask Him so that you have the strength to face what is going to come. All of this is just the beginning, I guess, so heads up and do your best. Stay alive, people!
Oh right, happy new year folks.