Overthinking Should Not be a Crime (Personal Essay)


It is 2020 and COVID-19 has forced many to stay at home under quarantine. My country, Singapore, is no exception. Dubbed the "Circuit Breaker" (which is our fancy term for 'lockdown'), what was initially meant to begin on April 8th and end by May 4th, got extended to June 1st. 


Being forced to stay home makes you think. But I'm here to make the case that thinking and overthinking are not bad traits to be avoided. 


Before I get into it, I would like to begin by saying that I am not oblivious to the true, negative side effects of overthinking that others do experience - to the point of being diagnosed medically to be mentally unstable. It is these experiences I draw from my youth that I make my case. I would also like to note that I am thankful that the road I went down on had led me to where I am today, and where I am today? It's not really that bad a place to be. 


Being okay with overthinking comes with life experiences and chance encounters.


Prior to my life experiences and chance encounters - I used to have mental breakdowns of all sorts when I was at Art school at 20. The thought of being financially unstable after graduation constantly brought me to tears at night. The criticism of my work made me worried. And being broke from buying materials always sent me to fits of anxiety. Going to a counsellor for a brief period of time to talk my problems out helped a little - but at the end of the day, I came to realise that the only person responsible for me is going to be me. This was a tough and daunting realisation to come to at 21, with the possibility of having no job prospects as an artist to be. 


Overthinking made me quite sick - literally. But now I am thankful for my trait of overthinking - because when I can use it for good, things usually turn out for good too. Overthinking helped me to overprepare for life. A year before graduation, I already had my post graduation plans laid out. I did not know I was going to be working at a stat board for a brief period before making the decision to go to Australia to further my studies, but I stayed grateful for my opportunities as they came. Overthinking in Australia saved my life - I had a life-threatening infection that I did not know could potentially end my life while I was close to graduating from uni - and my gut feeling and overthinking sent me to the doctor to be diagnosed and to receive the help I needed. Overthinking led me to the doorsteps of a martial arts gym that literally changed my life - with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and powerlifting. Overthinking helped me to chart my part to my current career as a teacher - when I felt things were not going to work out anymore and any chance of permanent residence there was close to zero, I zealously revisited my Art skills and started to gather my resources to prove my worth and be given a chance to teach. 


Fast forward to 2020. 4 days before my country was due to go into lockdown, it happened to be my 30th birthday. Wow - 30. Imagine that. At 20, I would have been paranoid and depressed over this situation. But knowing now that overthinking can be channelled for good use, if I wanted to, I began to gather my resources available to me.


As I mentioned earlier in the essay, being okay with overthinking comes with life experiences and chance encounters. I cannot imagine how 20 year old me would have handled this news, but with life experience, 30 year old me is now armed to the eyebrows with the latest news to do with the coronavirus, circuit breaker measures (thanks Channel NewsAsia app!) and the privilege of leaning on my Australian friends' experiences of being in lockdown because I have learnt to ask and be okay with asking for help. Life experience had taught me that it pays to overthink, which is often easy to do when bombarded with information I have yet to process. 


My chance encounters with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and powerlifting at the age of 25 had prepared me mentally and physically for this new challenge. At the time of the news, I was at a cafe eating some ice cream to celebrate my birthday, preparing for a busy weekend ahead to film more videos for lessons and fiddle with online resources (I am an Art teacher). Little did I know I was going to have to make this my life for a month (eventually, 2 months). Jiu Jitsu taught me that no obstacle is truly insurmountable - things can be broken down and eventually, defeated, if I took the time to breathe and work my way out of the sticky situation. Preparation - and plenty of it via mat time - was also another key factor to tackle foreign situations. Broke down I did - not in my emotions, but in breaking out lists of things to get to. I remember listing down in my navy blue Typo journal - all the groceries I needed, all the Art materials I needed. What I needed to take home from school. Some would call it overthinking - I call it preparation. 


I guess what I am trying to get you to consider, is to not doubt yourself the next time you find yourself feeling like you're overthinking something. I would suggest to keep it there, but have a trusty notebook at your side, ready to pen these thoughts down and make sense of them. More often than not, overthinking just means you care about something enough to think about it over and over again. In a world that is often obsessed with consuming information more than taking the time to process it and make sense of it before moving forward, isn't that a trait worth having and celebrating then?