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Singaporean Youths and the New Normal: Pre-, During- and Post-Circuit Breaker

Singaporean Youths and the New Normal: Pre-, During- and Post-Circuit Breaker

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Image credit: Aki Tolentino on Unsplash

With Singapore’s Circuit Breaker (CB) set to end on June 1, Singaporean youths are taking things in stride, staying strong and safe at home, while gradually adapting to the ‘new normal’.

Contrary to what we’ve seen in the news, the majority of youth have been supportive of the CB measures, sharing their activities on social media and finding ways to keep busy (Zoom calls, HouseParty app and what not). A recent poll conducted by the National Youth Council revealed that 89% of youths are concerned about COVID-19 and most of them are willing to be responsible and play their part to stay home for Singapore.

A few have stepped up to start their own projects, such as The Happiness Initiative, which posts “happiness” articles every week (similar to what John Krasinki did for SGN). It also organises Netflix parties with post-show chit-chat sessions on Google Meet, all in the name of helping everyone cope and engage.

Image source: Happiness Initiative website
Another initiative, Advisory, a youth-led non-profit, is an online mentorship programme which match-makes anxious and graduating students, with industry mentors on career prospects and interests. There’s also the series of resource videos from My Working Title, co-founded by Jael Chng which is a company and movement that inspires and empowers people to actively design their own careers.

It’s clear that there’s no shortfall in youth-led engagement opportunities for youths staying safe at home. So we ask a few Singaporean youths how they are gradually adjusting to the ‘new normal’. With CB about to end, how will they take these experiences and prepare to return to school or work?

For Jorden, the CB itself marked sort of a milestone in his life. He’d recently celebrated his 30th birthday at home; probably a once-in-a-lifetime affair.

“This was a whole new experience for me. I think quite a few people can relate to it, especially when you’re turning 30, but not many will have the badge of ‘I celebrated my 30th birthday during CB’.”

For many youths celebrating their milestone birthdays during CB, it means sacrificing get-togethers, dinners and presents. For Jorden, it meant re-evaluating the past thirty years of his life and the next phase of his adulthood, knowing friends and family are far more critical to help him get through this period more than ever.

“I got a case of beer and cake for it though,” he said, noting that celebrating his birthday online was a unique experience. Perhaps this could be a positive trend moving forward, especially with care packages and Zoom parties changing the traditional notion of physical celebration and making it easier for more people to join in.

Jorden (top right) and his friends have gone from meeting at a bar to toasting drinks online virtually. “The only downside to this is we can’t slap each other when one of us says something stupid.” Image credit: Jorden

Jorden works in corporate video production and laments the loss of inspiration as one of the drawbacks of staying home during the CB.

“I long to see outdoor traffic, feel the vibes of a place or smell the area. I find it hard to think of videos to create or stories to tell, because these days, I wake up, go on Zoom meetings and then, I am stuck on my chair for the whole day. So, to cope with the routine, I inject some home exercises in-between meetings, read a book or do some cooking.”

Jorden spends time working on his own personal YouTube channel at home. Since he’s also doing corporate videos for work, it’s a great way to stay fresh and up-to-date when he returns to the workplace after CB. Image credit: Jorden

Jorden also found the works behind Creative Nation’s Cr8studiosg interesting. It hires youth freelancers by giving them a platform to create content, which they can then share with others—a prospect he’s already doing in his free time and is open to exploring.

Another Singaporean youth, Jane Tan, 28, fancies herself as more of a stay-at-home person, so the impact of the CB hasn’t been as devastating as what many would paint it out to be. Working as a customer retention marketer at an insurance company, she had to commute for two hours daily between her home in Jurong and her office in the CBD prior to CB.

“I don’t need to commute to the office now. That’s an extra two hours of time saved right there. I’m using the time and energy for mealtime conversations with my parents, and we’re bonding better as a family. With everyone working from home, including my dad, we are able to finally have lunches and dinners together—no appointments needed.

“Also, my partner has recently gotten me hooked on a mobile game app called Gartic. It’s an online game where you guess words with your friend’s drawings. We spent hours playing over the phone after our work hours. It’s a great bonding game.”

Jane spends much of her time at home playing a Pictionary-like game on Gartic with her friends. Image credit: Jane Tan

Another youth who’s determined to innovate is Glenn Wong, 33, a full-time realtor and part-time client lead in an ad agency. He understands the need to stay home. “Complying with safe distancing rules during CB is good for everyone. We do not endanger others and our own lives. I appreciate the government’s efforts and framework put in place to make it possible for everyone to appreciate the importance of doing so.”

During CB, he guides his potential property clients to attend virtual seminars remotely with him. This is in preparation for upcoming house viewings, dos and don’ts, and things prospects need to know. For Glenn, this additional step helps him mentally prepare himself prior to meeting his customers face-to-face once CB ends. It is also a way for him to continuously engage them, especially if they are interested in a particular sale.

To stay relevant in preparation of returning to work in the ‘new normal’, Glenn has been attending his office webinars and guiding his clients virtually. Image credit: Glenn Wong

Sherlyn (not her real name), 29, an accountant, relishes the day when she can resume her dinner dates with friends after work or over weekends. With CB now, she’s mostly stuck at home while her husband, who works for the Air Force and is posted to Australia, video calls her every day.

“Besides my husband’s video calls, my cats entertain me quite a bit at home. When my sister and mum, who work in essential services, return from work and I “knock-off” from e-work, my family will have dinner together, so it’s quite fulfilling.”

When she’s not video-calling her husband who’s overseas, spending time with her family or e-working, Sherlyn finds entertainment from her pet cats. Image credit: Sherlyn

Sherlyn and her family just put their home through a massive spring cleaning. Having gone through what they’d always thought was just mess and clutter, they discovered things from their childhood, bringing back many fond memories.

She was amazed by the mementos her parents and older siblings had held on to—real throwbacks to the past.

As her father was recently hospitalised due to a minor stroke and currently undergoes rehabilitation therapy, the spring-clean is also a way to make space for him and his wheelchair when he returns.

“The upside to all this is that my aged parents are learning to video call one another more frequently and we spend more time cooking, eating together, which rarely happens before CB.”

The thing about CB is that there are opportunities to extend one’s passion for something with others as well through digital means. Youth Corps Singapore for example, has recently launched Virtual Red Box. It’s an online platform for youths to share skills and hobbies with their peers and encourage them to contribute positively to the community. These skills can be carried forward into the ‘new normal’ even after the end of CB.

One Youth Corps Leader, Owen Tan, even raised funds via social media to buy food like chicken briyani to be distributed to seniors of Thong Teck Home (as they weren’t able to step out). He’s set aside S$600 of his Solidarity Payment and pooled donations to support residents and healthcare workers staying in these homes by buying and arranging for delivery of hawker food to keep their spirits up.

Considering we’re almost at the tail-end of CB, what are youths looking forward to next? Would staying home for the past months make them appreciate this freedom even more and not take it for granted?

Sherlyn remains pensive and optimistic. “I hope family members who were not close before, or didn’t have many opportunities before to communicate, find the chance to mend bridges and rebuild the family bond during this period,” Sherlyn says.

After CB, I’m sure I will have to make adjustments and down time to get back to my old routine. But I believe I will be able to adapt quickly since this is what we’ve all been doing for years.

Jorden too foresees himself honing a closer connection with his family even after the CB period.

“While I’ve always had a deep connection with my parents, CB has made us spend more time indoors. This in turn helped us see our flaws a lot more. There’s a lot of nagging for sure. I sometimes nag at my parents to eat their lunch after I’m done cooking, or they nag at me and my sibling to wash the dishes. Even if it’s nagging, we’re communicating far more than usual!”

“As a realtor, I am really looking forward to taking my clients to the showrooms,” Glenn tells me.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand and great deals waiting. But I think I will need to adjust my sleeping patterns when CB ends. Might be a little tough but I’ll take it slowly. Commuting to work may need some adjusting for sure.”

Jane is more introspective. She quoted a repost by a Facebook friend: “This is a pandemic. Not a productivity contest.”

“While social media has given people a huge push into thinking that we should be more productive and focused than ever, such as slotting in a yoga session every morning, or learn how to make a new cake every week, it can be overwhelming,” she said.

Jane acknowledged that it is encouraging to see others trying their best to make meaningful use of their time. “Take things in your own way and time. We are all trying our best to get through it.”

Jane (top left) doing a bubble tea drink session with her mates via video call (before the BBT shops closure). Image credit: Jane Tan

To help adjust herself to the future situation, Jane has found some resources useful, especially the ones on personal finance. “I’m actually interested to hear from Seedly.sg on how to manage my finances, especially when the economy is going through a recession and layoffs are happening as we speak.”

Similarly, Jorden recommends mehgowhere.sg. “The compilation of different useful information there keeps my mind busy. Staying home is important, but a healthy mental well-being is also important. I’m not the kind of person that can sit still for long periods of time, so I’m always pacing around my house or just doing something fruitful.

A Stronger You(th), for example, focuses on issues that might affect youths like mental health. The site comes with information for all of us to stay connected, tap on career resources and so on. I think it’s very important to prepare for the ‘new normal,’ especially if you’ve graduated, ORD-ed or left your previous jobs.”

Jorden finds the impending return to office after CB bittersweet though. “Heading back to the office means I get to interact with my colleagues, go out for shoots again and use the studio. It’s going to be hard to get back on the routine for sure. Worst case scenario—wake up earlier, go for a morning jog and then, head off for work.”

For youths like Jorden, Jane, Glenn and Sherlyn, the circuit breaker is just the beginning of a new normal, or at least a new way of looking at things (pre-, during and post-CB). Some adjustments will be necessary once it’s over, but they’re more than willing to push themselves, learn new skills, and lean back on the great relationships they’ve built with their parents and siblings. For instance, authentic stories of youths staying strong together are being documented on Dear Covid-19 where youths can share and learn from their collective experiences, empowering them to be the change in the ‘new normal’.

Their positivity and optimism are well-placed, judging from my conversations with them during the CB period. They understand the need to adjust to the future, so that everyone can emerge stronger and more resolute as a society.

Is this a reset for them? For some, probably. The commuting and daily grind may need some adjustments. While the circuit breaker period has made them more inward looking rather than outward, the intrinsic value of the emotional bonds they’ve built with family and friends (at home or through video calls), whether it’s cooking together, getting nagged, or spring-cleaning, have only gotten stronger and made them feel safer.

So together, we can stay strong and safe. It’s one take away Singaporean youths will never forget.

This story is sponsored by the National Youth Council (NYC).

As we’re moving into a ‘new normal’, NYC has dedicated an array of resources to support youths who want to level up further to prepare themselves better.

Head over to MehGoWhere for resources on jobs & the economy, mental well-being, financial literacy as well as ideas to keep you engaged at home

Aspiring content creators can also check out Cr8StudioSG, NYC’s partnership with Creative Nation for job opportunities and mental well-being for freelancers to create content from home.

Other resources include My Working Title’s Career Resilience, Lit.sg’s Virtual Mentorship (FREE!), Seedly.SG’s money management, Bold At Work/Home’s IG Live Classes and Chope and Save gift cards.

NYC in partnership with DSTNCT has also embarked on a nationwide youth memory project, called Dear Covid-19, to share their experiences through user submissions in different formats such as photos, poems, songs and letters to preserve this historic moment in time that the world is going through.

Let’s all do our part to stay strong together and head towards the new normal with confidence.

Author

Terry Ng Senior staff writer