I’m not a runner, but every day, I feel the constant need to sprint.
With the monotony of the current situation, time feels fast. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel real. I wake up at noon, sweating through my clothes because someone turned the fan off. I blink; suddenly, it’s 3 p.m., and I need to attend a webinar in Zoom. I blink; it’s dinner—my mum made my favorite, sinigang na hipon. Then, it’s 11:59 p.m., my most dreaded time of the day, and I press “submit assignment” before it’s too late.
Every day feels the same, such that it’s difficult to tell the days of the week apart. I tell my days apart through my deadlines; it’s Tuesday, and this assignment is due today. Though often, I just want to get the week over with, so I squeeze a week’s worth of workload in five days so I could breathe easier on the last two. Sometimes I only get a day. It makes me so tired, and I’m aware it’s unhealthy. I should probably stop. But I won’t, I can’t. I need time to breathe.
At night, my brain is so loud that I write on a journal to sort my thoughts out. I’m thinking of the deadlines this week, the book I just finished, how I’m so annoyed at the ending, and the last time I drank water. I drink sleeping pills because my sleep schedule is messed up. I need to wake up on time the next day to have enough time to answer discussion boards, email my professor regarding extra credit, watch lectures I missed, start on my reflection paper, film a video about the self, solve problem sets — I need to catch up on work or else I’ll fall behind. Or else I won’t get to breathe.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it, spending most of my time doing schoolwork to get a subpar grade. I wonder if it’s worth grinding five days a week to get a two-day break where I spend most of it planning for the next week anyway, creating a meticulous to-do list. At the end of the week, I ask myself what I have learned, and I can’t remember. Perhaps I went through it too fast. Well, at least I caught the deadline. At least I have time to breathe.
One time, at 1 a.m., I took a break and I asked my best friend what she was doing. She said she was studying for a test this week. Good for her, maybe she’s sprinting, too. But I got a message from her at 3 a.m. — I was already asleep by then — saying she was tired, that her eyelids were shutting down against her will. She told me she missed reading, but she “gotta catch that deadline.”
With the monotony of the current situation, time feels fast. It’s module after module and deadline after deadline I need to catch. I’d like to believe it’s worth it; after all, there’s still two days’ worth of rest. But is it rest, really, if I spend it worrying about next week? I fall asleep expecting to wake up to the same day of sprinting. I’m on a track field in a race that never seems to stop. Something is running after me, it’s big and scary, and I’m sprinting because I’m scared of being caught.
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Ysabel Laura U. Mercado, 18, is a freshman at Ateneo de Manila University. She lives in Pasig.
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