In Lent, we realign our identity in Christ and recover our sense of being loved into existence by our Creator.
As a Singaporean, I grew up immersed in a national culture defined by stress.
These instincts were arguably more learned than anything else—my Malaysian father and South Korean mother moved to the country from the United States in the 1990s. So much of how I grew up was shaped by the intensity of Singapore’s academic culture, shuttling between exam-heavy course loads, afterschool tutoring, and reams of practice papers to complete.
Different phases of my life would come to mirror this rhythm: spending hectic days in high school between writing long essays and serving in church, balancing responsibilities during military service while leading a small group and trying to keep up with reading, managing the busyness of my undergraduate life and subsequent tenure as a graduate student, and, even now, trying to uphold different commitments to ministry, creative writing, editing, friends, and family amid a full-time job.
The last time I felt thoroughly burnt out was about five years ago, as an undergraduate in England. Between reading and writing essays for class, keeping active in Christian fellowships, participating in theater productions, and rowing by dawn, I found myself gradually compromising my sleep schedule. Seven hours a night got slashed to six or even four and a half. I’m not entirely sure what drove me back then. Perhaps it was a feeling of duty and responsibility I felt I owed the people I had made promises to or a desire to not let any part of my university life slip by. Lurking beneath all this, perhaps, was an impulse toward optimization.
Optimization can be described in two ways, opines writer Jia Tolentino. First, it is a means of achieving profitability by “satisfy[ing] …