|Illustration by Trịnh Lập
By An Phương
“Life has turned completely upside down!” is the expression I have been hearing the most during the COVID-19 outbreak.
As of March 26, Việt Nam had a total of 148 cases and authorities have asked many nonessential business firms to suspend operation and urged locals to stay at home and avoid close contact with others.
To protect myself and others, I decided not to go out, but be on call for a quick chat with three of my closest friends.
Tuấn Nam, 27, told me that he had practised social distancing for a week straight.
“It’s so boring … I wake up every day and feel like my source of energy keeps draining,” he said.
“As my company has required all employees to work from home, I have no choice but to keep my door shut. Though I can work at cafes, I don't because chances are people at my favourite café spot could carry the virus,” he added.
“I don’t want to be an F1 or F2 (someone who has had contact with an infected person, or someone who has had contact with the latter) as it’s time-consuming being quarantined and the worst-case scenario, being infected!”
But that option looks like impossible now that cafes have to shutdown to curb the spread of the virus.
Vân Anh, 26, shared a similar story and said that she had not gone out for four days.
“My mom has prepared every essential item that we need to stay indoors for up to 14 days,” she said.
“As my mom is 62 years old, I appreciate her effort to keep us fed. I don’t mind COVID-19, yet I have concerns over my mom’s health if she were to be infected because of me. I’d better stay home to protect my mom,” she added.
That being said, Nam, Vân Anh and I couldn’t help but feel stuck working from home.
As much as I understand being able to work from home is a privilege that many don’t have, it sucks waking up to four walls.
“I’ve come to realise I’ve taken my ritual of going to work for granted, ” Vân Anh said.
“To be honest, I don’t 100 per cent enjoy my job as it involves unnecessary workplace dramas and the fact that dealing with numbers is hard. However, my perspective has gradually changed after three days at home,” she added.
Nam agreed with Vân Anh, adding that he misses basic communication with his co-workers.
Communication makes us human, they said.
“Even though I have to reply to emails, which is essentially communication, and complete assigned tasks to reach my KPIs (key performance indicator), text messages aren’t enough to be defined as communication, and I don’t have the feeling of fulfilment at home compared to doing my work at the company,” Nam said.
Thanh Quang, 27, a mutual friend, added that his job performance hadn’t been great since he worked from home.
“Since I have created a mental association between my office desk and work concentration, it is difficult to be efficient when not being at my desk,” Quang said.
Regardless of initial discomfort after social distancing, all of my friends agreed that the pandemic provided them with a precious chance to start slow living.
According to Wikipedia, slow living is a lifestyle emphasising slower approaches to aspects of everyday life.
I have never thought that one day I would actually embrace slow living as my life is very much entangled in the hustle and bustle of city life.
Because time is precious, I have a habit of maximising every hour to fulfil meaningful tasks, which could either be completing my to-do list or exercising for a healthy body that is also beneficial to my work life.
“Me too!” Quang said, adding that he is often caught up with work, thus neglecting quality of life.
“I used to think money makes up the quality of life, but it’s actually health, both physical and mental health, that determines how well we are living our life!” he said.
“After seven days at home, I have had nothing to do but rest. It was awkward at first since I’m not used to having a rest. In fact, I don’t know how to rest as with my casual days, I can still watch a movie while thinking about optimal solutions to reach my KPIs. However, I have come to terms with resting! I feel more refreshed now that I’ve given myself a break, ” Quang added.
I couldn't agree more.
Meanwhile, Vân Anh has once again found her passion for cooking!
“I used to love baking but with my busy lifestyle I fell out of that habit. These days, I bake more often and have even learned to cook Vietnamese dishes from my mom. We’ve had quality time and I enjoy every little moment!” she said.
“After the pandemic is over, I will definitely take a professional cooking class as it certainly gives me joy,” she added.
Unlike Vân Anh, Nam doesn’t know how to cook and very much enjoys food-delivery services.
“I don’t cook but I do TikTok-ing", Nam said, explaining that TikTok is a social platform where creators make short videos on specific musical themes or effects.
“TikTok has taken the world by storm. I watch hundreds of TikToks per day and have even produced some myself. The experience is very entertaining!” Nam said.
Though I don’t use TikTok, I understand how it has become one of the top trending social platforms.
During this unfortunate period, a little spark of joy and entertainment can be encouraging and it gives people some positivity to move forward.
After all, despite detrimental health effects and fear, I guess the pandemic has clearly shown how people are going about their lives and provided them with another perspective of how to really live life to the fullest. Life can be slow but, at the same time, definitely quality.
We are all uncertain of what is about to come. But for the moment, please stay healthy, alert and safe! – VNS