Ramadan, zombies, and deadline bugs

Juggling commitments during the holy month.

Your tutor’s voice echoes ominously inside your head: “Remember, the assignment is due tonight.” Duh, you’d thought to yourself, but it doesn’t seem so obvious now. Your fasting stomach rumbles quietly in protest against the assignment, and the four hours of sleep you had last night shows in the haphazard sentences you form. In the background, you start to hear the low buzz of people filtering into the house for Iftar.

Bang! The door bursts open and in come a horde of children — nephews, cousins, cousins of cousins — and whatever momentum you had is lost with the cacophony of shrill demands. In the end, you do hit the submit button, but you can’t shake off the feeling that you could’ve done better.

In Ramadan, Iftar gatherings are a staple phenomenon. From the art of distributing food equally, to taking that first sip of chilled orange cordial after hours of no food or drink, the whole experience is so unique. The communal vibes are unparalleled, and you wish you could prolong the moments of gratitude and utter bliss, encircled by those whom you love most. 

That is, until you’re greeted by the deadline bug — the pesky little arthropod inside your head that injects an unending dose of worry, stress, and anxiety into you, as if you didn’t already know that the deadline for that assignment is so close, you can almost smell it. Suddenly, spending those extra hours with the family is impossible because if you don’t start that assignment now, you won’t be able to wake up before sunrise for suhoor. And if you don’t get enough sleep after suhoor, you’ll show up to uni looking like a total zombie. Unless you’re going for that all-year-round Halloween look, nobody wants that.

Few can master the art of staying productive while juggling religious commitments, work, family time, and university assignments. Not everyone is an Ali Abdaal or Matt D’Avella. Things can get hectic, and that ruthless productivity guru buried deep within may not immediately come to life, especially without the necessary doses of caffeine throughout the day.

But for me, this year was going to be different. This semester I grit my teeth, assembled an arsenal of stationery, binge watched ‘How to stop procrastinating’ videos on YouTube, downloaded the ‘Forest’ app to keep me off my phone, and went completely military mode in preparation for Ramadan. I wouldn’t let the deadline bug overwhelm me, and I certainly would not burn out just because I was fasting for twelve hours a day.

This dedication lasted about a week. After that, my sleep schedule went out of whack, my energy levels plummeted, and my motivation hit rock bottom. Procrastination was my best friend, and the deadline bug, my greatest enemy.

But it would be wrong to say that I didn’t learn anything about myself during this time. I’m more convinced than ever that everything I set out to do was indeed possible, all while fasting and setting time aside for faith and family. I learnt about University support services like the Learning Centre, and SUMSA (Sydney Uni’s very own Muslim student’s association) which host tons of events to make students feel safe and included during the Ramadan period. And if things aren’t looking up, the options for special considerations, simple extensions, or even just knowing that there are understanding tutors around, is always reassuring.

As always, this Ramadan was interesting, challenging, draining, but above all, rewarding. At the end of the day, fasting students may well need to compromise, and prioritise, but we’re in luck, because that’s exactly what Ramadan teaches us. Like me, maybe next year you’ll finally learn to strike a deal with the deadline bug, or otherwise swat it out of your life altogether.

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