Note to future self: Don’t forget what you learned in lockdown

Note to future self: Don’t forget what you learned in lockdown

A visual artist, playwright and musician send reminders to their future selves about lessons they want to remember from the COVID-19 lockdown.

By Lijynn, M. Sivasilan and Fa Abdul
Edited by Adeline Chua

A three-month long national Movement Control Order (alongside a global health crisis) is not something to forget. But the human mind is an amnesiac one, which is useful sometimes for self-preservation. At other times though, forgetting is a nuisance at best and detrimental at worst.

As life moves back to resemble old routines, it becomes easier to forget the things we learned about ourselves and the world while in unprecedented lockdown. Three art practitioners write reminders to themselves to hold on to lessons learned while in isolation.

Note #1: A life in rhythm with nature is a life that never stops

By Lijynn – self-taught artist and urban sketcher.

Entries from Lijynn’s journal during the lockdown

Hello ME,

Today is Sunday 14 June 2020, we’ve just moved into the Recovery Phase of the Movement Control Order (RMCO), 89 days since it started on 18 March. I must say, the lockdown did a lot of good to my head and heart where I got to spend time working on my art and pondering about life. I feel quite rejuvenated and able to have clearer thinking.

Nobody can tell what the future holds but we mustn’t let it stop us from our life’s work. Seeing how a virus can bring the economic world to come to a halt makes me feel very insecure. A lot of people lost their jobs overnight and had no money to buy food.

Before the lockdown, I was so busy I forgot to grow some vegetables and had none to harvest. Luckily, I could still get good quality organic vegetables from Mr Lee of Happy Farmer during the MCO.

Dear future self, have you learned how to grow your own food? If you haven’t, please consider getting a little farm and start growing lots of fruit trees and wild vegetables so that if you’re ever put in a lockdown like me, you’ll have a delicious supply for yourself and especially for those in need.

Three other reminders:

  2. Continue to sketch and make art to your heart’s content.
  3. Stay focused on studying herbal medicine and building up a herbarium wholeheartedly.

Lastly, remember that a life in rhythm with nature is a life that never stops.

Lijynn is currently working on her antique roof tile series capturing old architecture in Penang with traditional medium.

Painting of the Armenian Street Twa Peh Kong temple on century-old salvaged tiles with Chinese ink. 
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Note #2: Don’t get too comfortable!

By M. Sivasilan – performing musician and teacher.

Photo by Thum Chia Chieh

Dear Future Self,

The COVID-19 deal might be over but if it taught you anything, is that you should look out for opportunities other than music. When push comes to shove, the live music scene is one of the first ones to bear the brunt of it. We are, as they label it, ‘non-essential’ and if they can’t sell you to a physical audience, well that’s that.

The life you had revolved around performing in front of a live audience. Your stage might now only be a virtual one so get yourself more acquainted with streaming tech and set aside some cash for equipment. It will also come in handy when teaching. Not being in the same room with your students has its own challenges so check out more videos on YouTube to learn how best to set up. 

Build a better portfolio for both music and photography. If you have a clear and ‘sellable’ portfolio then it’s easier to market yourself. Learn also to cook simple food and do basic wiring for your house (it is easier than you think). Cooking will get you more mileage financially and more food photography for your portfolio so, focus!

Fine tune and adapt skills you already have but at the same time, look for avenues outside of your normal music ventures.  Keep learning and don’t get too comfortable!



Sivasilan drums for Bunga Raya Band, Jeep Jazz Trio and leads the world music band Culture Shot. He is also a music tutor at two schools.

Sivasilan (bottom left) performing with fellow musicians on Facebook live during the lockdown
(Link to recording on YouTube)

Notes #3: Channel despair into your art, not your living

By Fa Abdul – playwright, director and producer.

Hey Fa,

I wonder how you are doing. I wonder how the new normal is treating you. I wonder if the theatres have resumed operation. I wonder if the new SOPs are driving you up the wall. To be honest, while having all these things to wonder about keeps my mind occupied at times, it doesn’t make things any easier for me. I worry for you, Fa.

We both have great love for theatre. From drafting a script based on a simple idea all the way to staging a crowd favourite theatre production, each layer of the process gives us the satisfaction we can never derive elsewhere. 

Fa, if there comes a time when live theatre performances are still not a possibility, I hope you persevere. Please, do not take your last bow and forever live in regret. Trust me, I know how you feel.

Having my 2020 plans shelved, I may have spent more than 80 days under MCO/CMCO, but one thing keeps me hopeful (and I wish it keeps you hopeful, too) – and that is our love for theatre and the performing arts.

If you end up heart broken, be heart broken. If you feel angry and you want to scream, then be angry and scream. Channel your despair into your writing, Fa, and not into your living. That is how masterpieces are created.  So what’s your next masterpiece going to be, Fa?

You will be okay, Fa. I have faith in you.


If things go back to normal, Fa Abdul hopes to stage Leela Jhansi, a play about a child bride set in late 70s India, at the end of 2020.

Fa Abdul’s last play, Tales from Malaysia Baru was staged in November 2019 at penangpac.
Photo by Jia Chen Lu Photography.

Cover image: Compilation of lockdown journal entries from Lijynn. Courtesy of the artist.

Adeline Chua is an arts and culture writer and educator. She is the editor at Penang Art District.