In the time of pandemic | Issue 17 | 2020
Who are you and what do you already know about yourself? How was 2020 for you? What do you hope for from 2021? Ingeborg Alexander talked on Zoom to young people aged twenty-one or thereabouts in Canada, the UK and Australia. What she heard, moved her.
With thanks to Chantelle in Toronto, Brynn in Vancouver, Clare in Bourne, and our Sydney cohort: Laura, Eliza and Annie; Jim, Jack and Brendan. Thanks also to Dr Alasdair Murrie-West (principal of Dunmore Lang College, Sydney), Carolyn McKenzie, Scott Atkins, Sacha de Klerk, Shirley-Ann Hunte; and others for wonderfully warm, openhearted introductions.
Chantelle | 11 November 2020 | Toronto
I’m a second year student at Osgoode Hall Law and I previously graduated from the University of Toronto with a double major in Criminology and Equity Studies.
I am a Black woman. I’m six generations Black-Canadian on my dad’s side and Trinidadian on my mother’s side and I’m the first in my immediate family to attend law school.
If I was to describe myself in three words, I would definitely say determined and passionate, very passionate, and powerful.
The type of work and experiences that I personally seek out are rooted in advocacy-oriented work. I want to create spaces for people to have their experiences appreciated and their opinions and perspectives accounted for. I’m very community-oriented.
Honestly, I could probably speak about all the females in my family who’ve inspired me and grounded my identity in making me confident and powerful and enabled me to understand that I have a say at every table, every room that I walk into. My mom was a banker for I think thirty-two years; she has always encouraged me, always been extremely proud.
At the beginning of the year one of my close friends got very, very sick. She had some heart issues. That was the first obstacle 2020 kind of thrusted my way.
It was March when everything closed down, we went completely virtual. The entire university shut down, it was like a ghost town. There was a lot of uncertainty, whether our finals were graded, and then just keeping on top of our volunteering, our work opportunities and obligations. It was chaotic.
I was living at Osgoode until April and when I finished school and what not I moved back in with my parents. They live in the suburbs, so it’s doubly isolating here, there’s really nothing to do regardless of whether things are open or closed.
My grandparents live maybe five minutes away, so I’ve been seeing them pretty consistently. When the cases started going up again, though, just prior to Thanksgiving, that’s when my grandparents kind of put their foot down, ‘Okay, you guys are not seeing us anymore.’
I don’t know how to drive, so I had to depend on my parents to take me everywhere, but I’m now in driving school so I will have my licence by next summer, so silver lining there.
When Covid first started, I think people, especially my age group, we didn’t take it very seriously. I wasn’t really understanding or comprehending what was happening on a global scale.
I had an aunt that passed away really unexpectedly at the end of the summer. She was a trailblazer for sure, and she taught me a lot about activism, and standing up when it’s easier to stay quiet and defer to other people, so that was a huge loss for the entire family. Her name was Denise Brooks, and she worked at the Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre in Hamilton, Ontario.
That was the first funeral I have attended, and that really opened my eyes to the idea of how short a lifespan is and can be, and I really struggled around that time.
When I think of 2020 and I think of this entire Covid situation, everything has been very shocking.
Immediate family, that’s where I go for solace. Virtually connecting with people is just not the same. So, yeah, there are times where it does hit me and I’m like, oh, here I am in my room again. I think the fact that I am a very extroverted person, I’m very social, it makes it worse being virtually connected.
I started going back to church and that has really helped with keeping me grounded in my purpose. Everyone is just very, very nice and very welcoming, and it’s fun.
In the summer I started camping. I pitched a tent in my back yard and I would leave all my electronics inside and then I would go out overnight. My friends tease me about that because it’s not like real camping.
I’ve been carving out time for taking care of my physical health, chiefly through exercise, making sure that I’m very committed to working out three days a week. I’ve started running. That has helped. And I’ve had to be conscious of just being aware, being ‘mindful’, being in the moment.
When it comes to Netflix, we have a tumultuous relationship.
This is the first time I’ve been home in a few years, so it’s easy to say, okay, I’ll do it tomorrow, let me go watch a movie with my family, let me go visit this person or let me just read something completely non-law related all day. It’s easy to say, okay, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow during this time.
In the summer I definitely experienced some FOMO, fear of missing out, because in Toronto things were slightly open and it was very hard for me to get down there without relying on my parents. But now that I’m back in school and things are back to 100% busy and my plate is 100% full, it feels like everything’s going by very quickly.
When everything went virtual, I had a group of close friends and what we started doing was to hold each other accountable. Two things. First thing, every day, we would be on Zoom or some other platform where we would visibly be watching each other, just studying and having that connection. I still do that with my friends to this day. The second thing: we send lists of priorities, like goals, and then we’ll check in at night and say, I’ve finished 1, 2, 3 but not 4 and 5.
I’ve been really, really rigid with structuring my time, so it’s down to like two hours a day for this, two hours a day for this, two hours... I aim for 9 am until 9 or 10 pm, and then I like to just do, maximum, maybe four or five hours per day on the weekend.
At Osgoode, we have a strong Black Law Student Association, and I’m on the executive team now. This past summer has seen a lot of political and social rallying. I think that that personally taught me the benefit of young people coming out and voting and educating themselves on what the issues are, what’s at stake. I hope that lasts, and I hope that those solutions are rooted in grassroots community perspectives. I believe that’s the way forward to create sustainable solutions.
We live in a society where we can’t just take a step back and say, hey, we have nothing to do with what’s happening. We’re all implicated.
I spent time last summer with KIP Canada. It’s an organization that works with youth that have an incarcerated loved one or parent. The youth KIP works with are predominantly coming from racialized or lower income neighbourhoods, so that for me would be an example of an equity-seeking community. A group of people that are left out of the conversation or the narrative when we talk about solutions to different, I call them ‘isms’ in society, so like racism, classism, sexism.
I do understand that I’m very capable and what I have to say does matter, but there are moments where I will second guess that and whether I have to back up what I’m saying with x, y and z of evidence or x, y and z of credentials, so I’m taken seriously and respected.
Brynn | 12 November 2020 | Vancouver
I hope you can hear me. I’m in a coffee shop right now. The pandemic’s kind of made a mess of workspaces.
I was 21 on Sunday. I was going to have a dinner of six or so friends but they implemented more restrictions in Vancouver the day before, so I went with my boyfriend to a little farm and we looked at pet goats. It was a sweet day.
I am an undergraduate studying sociology. I would like to be a lawyer, at some point.
I am very organised, a hard worker, a little socially unorthodox, I suppose.
I feel like I have a very standard life. I was born in Calgary Alberta. I grew up in Calgary Alberta. I did graduate high school early and I moved to London when I was 17; that was exciting, I felt very far away. We were three girls in a one-bedroom apartment, very intense.
I’m absolutely in love with my degree. I’ll be graduating soon, which is sad, but I’m excited to do more schooling in the future.
I feel like 2020 was the first year that I was ready to transition away from, you know, passive person. So many people in their younger years, 17, 18, 19, you’re very passive in the world, you’re just listening and learning. By 2020 I was starting to set up plans—do some workshops, present some writing, I’d kind of been offered a research position—just taking those big transition steps, and they did kind of unravel. It was a lot of unravelling and then pivoting.
I would definitely say there’s a very beautiful thing in not getting attached—not getting attached to the idea of a job, not getting attached to the idea of a relationship, just being able to take life’s hits without it devastating you each time.
My partner and I moved in together in February and by March we were in full lockdown. By September, I had to come home and that was unsettling, moving back to Calgary. Luckily I had my sister there.
We decided to terminate the lease. I was fine because I have financial guarantors but my partner is working full time as a carpenter and it got too expensive; we couldn’t find a place, so he decided to move in and split rent with his friend, and I didn’t know if I should be looking to sign another year-long lease. It was just all these moving pieces, just a bunch of small things, pivoting, if that makes sense.
I’m back and forth now between Calgary and Vancouver.
In the first week of classes being online I had such a big mental breakdown, everything felt ‘on the screen’ and untangible, really hard to get your head around what assignments were we doing when. Fourth year university is a big one for grad schools and it’s not really a year you can be messing up, so if you’re overwhelmed by classes and you’re messing up your grad applications… I thought it was going to be such a mess. But then I found myself being very productive.
The libraries are closed; that’s why I’m in a coffee shop; I’m here every day. I’m staying at my boyfriend’s house as a guest, and he doesn’t have a desk because he works with his hands, not on a computer.
I’ve sent off my first round of grad school applications and the second round will be in January. I applied to five programmes including anthropology and women’s studies and sociology (I’m applying to Cambridge for that one).
I don’t think you could be immersed in any degree and not have it shape the way you view the world, especially sociology, the study of society. I remember speaking to my therapist once and saying, Durkheim (he’s the father of sociology) was the first one to say that things we view to be quite personal, like suicide, are socially influenced, and when you have large social changes it isolates people from their beliefs and also isolates people from one another. So I remember hearing that we would be in isolation and thinking there is going to be a huge toll on mental health.
I remember, those first few days, thinking it’s crazy but also it’s very beautiful that we all go through it together.
Not to say that it is first and foremost a bonding experience. I think that is something that takes time to unpack and uncover and realise; and sometimes you just don’t want to, it just feels shitty, life feels shitty, being in a global pandemic feels bad, being alone feels bad, and that’s very fair for that to be the forefront of the text of your daily social scripts.
I got really into sewing when we were deep in quarantine. And my partner has just been a savior; I think we have a unique relationship because of it. And I feel so grateful to be in school in a programme that I love. The essays, the research, those are things that very much ground me—despite the fact that I entered this semester incredibly overwhelmed, knowing that my professors don’t know what they’re doing either.
I think your twenties are in themselves a very isolating time. You’re constantly in transition, constantly moving. And being a full-time student is isolating; I spent most of my time alone studying. I tend to work alone very well.
My partner was there of course and sometimes that was a little bit annoying. He likes to work, and he is a skateboarder, and so he is a very fidgety person who cannot just sit and read for five hours; so his coping mechanisms were different from mine; and he’s a very social person; and so those rising tensions were an issue, but nothing that was detrimental to the relationship, just a moment’s issue.
I definitely got to know him better; how you deal under stress and how you deal with uncertainty and how you deal with, yeah, another body in your bedroom who is leaving a mess or asking you to be quiet every thirty minutes.
I think we do remain on a material level, which means that what we see and engage with every day is what we think is. We are material beings, we live in our bodies, we have our things that bring comfort; and when you don’t have others around you, you do feel lonely.
I’ve been fascinated with loneliness since I moved to London. It came back to me with Durkheim as well, in the sense that we have a very urbanised world where we all have different experiences, and that’s isolating in itself, when you live one type of day and your partner, for example, lives a completely different type of day; he is working on a construction site every day and I’m working in a coffee shop or a library; that’s loneliness as well from one another, because you will never fully understand each other’s lives. I think loneliness kind of seeps into every part of our lives.
I ran into a friend here a few days ago and he was just falling apart, just so stressed, kind of like a starving artist, and he was saying, I’m just obsessed with love, obsessed with romance, and I feel like I’m forever looking for a partner but unable to commit, but I need love, it’s the only thing that makes me make art. And I thought, you know what, Love is so beautiful but it’s so overdone, it’s so overdone within literature, and so overdone within the art world, and I was like, you should just really get comfortable with loneliness, because it’s a dominant thing that everyone grapples with.
The summer was one of just crazy things happening. I mean, a fire broke out and one of the people we were with was stabbed in the neck. That was just insane, in so many ways, but that was a pivotal moment in my time and how I perceived the people I was spending time with, and the reality of life and also just the reality of Vancouver, which is a deeply economically polarised city. That was one of those life moments. It really kind of woke me up from the lull of the pandemic. I started to think about who I was surrounding myself with and if I wanted to be around these people. It made me very critically aware of who you passively consume as a social companion. I went home. I just bought a one-way ticket. Didn’t really know when I was going to come back. When I did come back, I made it very clear to myself, just said that was no longer going to be a part of my life.
In 2021, I would like to have things to look forward to and feel some ease and comfort that they will then come, because that is something we have had to let go of in 2020: you can look forward to something but it may never come, you know, the party, or the wedding, or the trip.
I would love to be accepted into my research programmes in 2021. I’m focused in my undergrad in human sexuality; I’m studying sex work specifically in relationship to sugar-babies.
I used to have big debates about sex work and sugaring and if it’s right or if it’s wrong, and I would say that sex work has always been around, even in relationships in which transactional mechanisms occur between a benefactor and a recipient in a hetero-normative sense. I mean, one of the bases of our society is marriage, is the bourgeoisie marriage, the wealthy man in the public sector and the woman in the private sphere. It is definitely a global pattern.
The biggest issue facing the world is polarisation. We’ve seen that ramp up in 2020—what we do in regard to racism, global poverty, the economy. I think that is going to be a paralysing issue.
Humans always have this feeling of progression while remaining stagnant. I remain hopeful in the day-to-day life but in the large scale I do question how much our societies do change.
I think you can save each other. I think humans navigating a world that is not always built for them—and you see that so often, this world is really not built for so many of us who populate it—when you find someone and you can offer one another something, some sort of relief, I think that’s a beautiful outlet.
I’ve always told my partner that we are not going to be together forever; and that’s not a brutal statement, that’s a statement of reality. We offer each other something so wonderful right now, which is stability and kindness and empathy and emotional, sexual, physical support, but we have very different desires for the world and this is just, you know, a crossroads. This desire to be together forever that I see so much is just setting yourself up for such a brutal heartbreak and when it does happen you’re shocked by it, when you really shouldn’t be. It takes away from appreciating them if you anticipate always holding onto something, because nothing is forever. And that’s what 2020 has taught us: there’s nothing that is forever.
Clare | 3 November 2020 | Bourne
Who am I? That’s quite a big question you don’t get asked very often. I am a 22-year-old American living in the UK. I’m an artist. I consider myself a good friend. And I try to have fun—in all aspects of life, I guess.
2020 has been a rollercoaster ride, a really long rollercoaster ride, from starting the year in the last leg of my time at university and ending it unable really to leave the house and just being sort of enshrouded by stress.
Lockdown kicked in hard; we couldn’t go into the buildings on campus and log on and work for five hours and then go home. Instead it was, get out of bed and then work next to where you sleep. It definitely affected the quality of what I was doing. I think that the feeling of almost defeat kind of took over.
We never went back onto the campus. It was really sad. We were talking to people and our tutors and then suddenly it was like, well, I guess I’ll never see you again.
My degree was in game art. It’s commonly confused with game design but it’s not the same. Game design is about the technical and coding aspects whereas game art is all about the art.
It’s been a year of two halves. My parents went abroad at the end of the summer and my brother’s away at university, so right now I’m on my own.
I feel like some days are already blurring. I think back and I’m like, what did I do this week? I probably did my laundry and I took out the trash and I cleaned the kitchen but, like, what did I actually do? It doesn’t help that I haven’t really given myself a schedule or a routine, which I do need to get back into. But that’s not to say I haven’t, you know, been having fun as well.
I like living alone. I guess my introverted side appreciates it. I don’t mind looking after myself. I definitely miss my family and my friends, especially now we’re going into lockdown again. But so far it’s been absolutely fine. I’m used to having to make meal plans and staying in a budget, so nothing’s been too new for me. The only thing is, I’ve been having to walk Jack every day, twice a day, myself, rather than having the family to share the walks with. But that’s fine. I’m really glad he’s here. I think I would be doing worse if he wasn’t here, to be honest. He sleeps in my room pretty much every night now and in the morning we kind of occasionally sleep in together.
I’ve been burying myself in medieval fantasy, back when you didn’t even have things like vaccines; at least I’m not living in the time of the plague, where you’d get your arm cut open and bled out, basically, to cure you.
In 2021, I hope I’ll be closer to getting a job. I hope the pandemic can finally start to go on a proper decline, but I just know that there are so many people who are being selfish, basically, they’re being too selfish, and I think that’s the same with a lot of things going on in the world. I really hope that 2021 is the year that we see more acceptance, and a lot more awareness, and open-mindedness. I also hope to go to Japan soon! I’m saving up for that.
I definitely did not save this month. I did a bit of retail therapy at the beginning of the month—another lockdown consequence, shall we say—but I have enough for a plane ticket.
I bought myself some cute dungarees, which I’ve always wanted, which I haven’t really been able to wear because they’re more like a Summer Spring thing, but I bought them from a sustainable company. I’m trying to avoid a lot of things right now, avoid fast fashion, harmful products—I recently bought bar shampoo and bar conditioner, which is, you know, zero waste. I bought some new plants; I’ve got eight plants in my room now.
I’d like an internship over a job because I’d like to have experience before thrusting myself into the world of game art. I’m someone who gets very doubtful about new things. I’m often thinking, am I sure this is right, how do I know? I like to have what you could call a practice round.
I’ve always been told, ‘go for what you want’; ‘if that’s what you want to be, then do something about it’—which I think is great, and I think a lot of people that I’ve met sadly don’t have the same attitude.
I’ve definitely learned over the years that if you set yourself a goal that is not easily achievable or too long term then you’re basically setting yourself up for failure, and that’s a horrible feeling! So I started setting smaller goals and being a bit more forgiving and trying to treat myself in a kinder way.
I definitely am a perfectionist in some regards—definitely not in everything.
I like to consider myself a minor expert on comfort. Unfortunately, a lot of it does involve being in front of a screen—which is a habit that I probably should break out of. But it also makes me happy, so at the same time I don’t feel that bad about it. I really enjoy taking walks as well, with Jack, especially in the autumn. And then baking. I definitely bake for joy.
I make about thirty-three cookies in a batch and I end up eating about five a day. I could say that I’m blessed with good metabolism, so I don’t end up putting on weight from cookie consumption. I do tend to give my baked goods to anyone I might be visiting. I recently made pumpkin pie with a friend and I brought over half of my half to my boyfriend’s family. The last thing I baked was a new recipe for banana bread which had a lot of maple syrup; I was really disappointed with the outcome!
This month I probably won’t be baking, because I’m going on this sugar-free month-long charity stint, for the Alzheimer’s Society.
I think I’ve sort of abandoned rigour. I’d like to reintroduce it, though. I go very floopy if I’m unstructured. I waste away the hours and I get up late and I stay up late and it’s not good. I think that’s what a lot of people are doing right now, though. I’m thankful that unlike some of my friends I do get up before noon.
I hope a lot of people are getting to know themselves better during this time. Once you are aware of something, that’s the first step to taking action. And just being forced to confront yourself I think is really important. During this sort of time you can’t be always distracted by social interaction and always busy doing something; and you find yourself being alone more of the time. I think your brain will naturally start to wander toward thinking about yourself and how you act and how you are and how you think.
I’m in a bubble of I guess you could call it ignorance. I’m aware of some of the things that are happening around the world; and I’m definitely aware of the pandemic, I mean that stuff could never not be blasted into my face. I get the news every day and I hear the numbers, but ultimately because I’m in this little bubble I don’t feel directly involved. There’s only so much I can do from a little screen about a lot of the things that are happening.
I think I’m able to accept things and keep moving quite quickly; that’s probably why I seem to be doing all right. I used to wonder, well, where’s my reaction to this? Then I would think and realise I had already accepted it.
Art is quite a complicated subject for me right now. It almost feels like my education, not just for art but in general, has sort of reduced my passion. Thinking back to school, I used to doodle in the back of my book all the time, but, because of course that’s not good behaviour, eventually it got kicked out of me and now I don’t doodle anymore; I just never feel the need to doodle, which I think is really sad. And then, art education, I had to do it every single day for years, it wasn’t an easy course, and they expected a lot. And so I was constantly grinding and you can’t help but not like what you’re doing when you’ve been forced to do so much of it. Coming out of university, I wanted to just feel free with my art. I received a commission recently and was really happy to work on that, but these days if I try to draw for myself I end up having too high of an expectation, so anything I create is dissatisfying; it sounds silly, because of course when you draw more it will become more satisfactory. I just have to get myself back into a routine of art; and I’ve been trying to feel more inspired, and sometimes I do. But I really am taking an ultimate break this year from art and, you know, from education.
I got a First class for my degree. It was definitely a surprise. I was really, really happy to see that but I couldn’t believe it, I had to keep checking—am I sure? Is this a First?
At school, my best friend and I would watch anime together and read the same manga and we’d say Japanese words to each other and sing the theme songs. When you watch that much anime and read that much manga, you can’t help but be interested in what it’s actually like in Japan. We hope to go within the next couple of years. Obviously we’ll see how the pandemic goes.
I actually feel grateful that I have completed my education and now I have this time to drift. I don’t feel as bad about drifting as I think I would if this was what you would call a normal year. It’s nice to just enjoy the small things.
I do feel worried about the state of the world but I also feel really hopeful, because so many people have started speaking out this year.
The toughest issue facing the world is the environmental issue, big time. So many people are so used to how things are already, companies are used to how things are already. I think it’s going to be hard for people to go out of convenience’s way and ask for change.
I have not really felt loneliness, I think because of being able to stay in contact and visit people and have people visit me before I go down the rabbit hole of feeling lonely. And plus the dog helps.
Laura, Eliza and Annie | 10 November 2020 | Sydney
I am a country girl from a country town six hours away from Sydney. It's called Griffith. I do a business degree, which I never thought I’d do. I’m actually enjoying it.
I stress a lot and it’s probably not good for me but it gets stuff done.
I grew up in a country town called Orange four hours west of Sydney. I’m in my 3rd year at uni. I study law and arts, and am majoring in international relations and global governance.
I am still figuring out what I want to do with myself. I feel like, at 21 years of age, it’s okay.
I love to travel.
I feel like I’m being pulled two ways. Part of me wants to work in advocacy with refugees or Aboriginal Australians and the other part is pulling me towards a more corporate world.
I’m in my fourth year of a combined arts and law degree. My arts major is creative writing. People laugh when I tell them my combination.
I’m a residential adviser at the college. It’s like a senior student whose job revolves around pastoral care.
Home is a little beach town six and a half hours north, on the coast.
I was a year young when I finished school, not because I was super smart or anything, I just started earlier. I didn’t have a gap year.
I couldn’t afford to move to Sydney unless I had a gap year. I worked in a winery, which was really fun.
I’m on youth allowance. And I get a relocation scholarship, which helps a lot.
I work at the college in reception a couple of days a week, from ten till five. It’s really good. I can just go back to my room and study. And I can sleep in.
I got a job in September as a para legal in the city—so I don’t get to sleep in like Laura. I work there two days a week. I just feel bombarded with everything, but it’s good, it’s getting better and better.
I wanted to have a gap year and work in the UK as a boarding housemistress (during the holidays you get to travel around Europe) but I didn’t get into the programme that I applied for.
I’ve been working at Subway since I was 14 and I often just go back home and get myself a little shift and make some money and then come back here. I worked at Subway when I was at home this year.
The Australian government’s been pretty nice. Youth allowance. Job keeper. And I have a scholarship. I have definitely been lucky.
I’ve had to stay here for most of the year. Because I’m a residential adviser, I’m only allowed three weeks leave, although the college was nice enough to extend it a bit. It’s 40% off the college fees. I have a scholarship that covers the amount left over, so essentially my accommodation is free. I’m also on the fortnightly payment from the government.
My classmates have all got law jobs or summer internships. I’ve not been seriously applying yet. It’s really competitive. This year a lot of places stopped hiring new people.
At Christmas last year we were driving down to Sydney and all the Blue Mountains were burning. It was like you were driving through two sides of fire.
The fires feel like ages ago. Russell Crowe owns a property near ours. His property caught light and mum was at home with my sister and they were quite worried. I actually stayed up all night listening to the fire radio, the walkie talkies, trying to see if the fire was going to come close so I could call them and wake them up and tell them to leave.
At the start of the year, I was literally in my room most of the time and I didn’t really socialise a lot. There were a lot of people who went home. I went home for a month and then I realised I couldn’t focus at home, because I was getting too distracted by my dogs and my family, so I came back.
I actually felt, when I was at home I worried a lot more about the virus than when I was in Sydney. My dad was constantly, I don’t want you going back, what if you get really sick; and that’s when I thought about the virus more seriously. Since I’ve been back, I don’t think I’ve followed it as much as I did at home. I used to watch the news every morning, every night, see every update.
In country towns, it’s like nothing’s happened, it really feels like it’s not even going on, until you look at the news on the TV.
I went home for six months from the end of February. Every time my parents did something not related to studying I would just have to go and do it with them, because it was more interesting than studying. So I came back.
I think my rigour has gone down. Corona has killed the motivation.
My motivation’s definitely increased this year. I find it so much easier to just have my stuff at my desk. I have everything I need, my laptop, highlighters, I love stationery. My surroundings is a big thing for me. All my classes this year have been online and it’s really helped with my exams because I have the same learning space.
I was really motivated and on top of things for the first four weeks of uni, and then I lost it. This semester, the tutorials have been non-compulsory. That really hasn’t helped with my work ethic. It’s probably been the least I’ve attended classes in my whole four years of uni. I just haven’t gone. I’m a five-minute walk from uni and I just don’t have the motivation to go. It’s been really bad. I haven’t told my mum. But my marks have still been pretty good, they’ve stayed consistent.
At the end of last year I was struggling with anxiety and stuff. This is really weird, but being indoors and being by myself, alone, and with a small group of people, I’ve actually gotten so much better and I’m so much happier.
I’m more confident now. I trust my judgements more, if that makes sense; I used to doubt myself but now I’m more like, ‘no, you can do this’.
Getting the job has made me grow as a person, made me think for myself.
I go and see my boyfriend sometimes during the week. That’s really helped me, getting out of here for a bit. And just talking to my mum on the phone makes me feel so much better.
Eating my mum’s food is solace.
I’ve been lucky this year, I’ve had a good group of people around me. I’ve not really felt loneliness.
Each year, there’s been a different group of people in my inner circle, as people move out of college and people come in. So the thing I’ve learned, which I feel I have to relearn every year, is, the people you are around really can uplift you and play a big part in who you are. It’s been really interesting for me, this year, being around people who have similar interests and who want to do things to improve and to learn, and the impact that that’s had on me. I think it’s set a standard for next year (I’m moving out of college at the end of this year) for the calibre of people who I’ll allow to be around me. I’ve also made quite a stance within myself, that if someone isn’t pushing me to be better, or is just a drain on my life, that you can just get rid of that. That’s a big learning for me, that some people don’t really matter.
Next year—I would love for some of the major world stresses to be solved.
Personally, I’d love to get a law job, that would be a huge stress off me.
If I get a job, once I get a job, that’ll play a lot into whether I do postgrad studies. If I hate it, I’ll maybe do my Master’s or maybe even a PhD.
I just want a vaccine so I can go spend time with my grandparents. My nonno is 97. I saw him in the break but I had to wear a mask and I couldn’t give him a hug, which kind of sucked, but I still got to see him which was nice, but, I don’t know, a hug’s something special, I guess.
I feel ‘globally isolated’. I hope for international travel to start up again in 2021, that’s my big hope. I was supposed to go to America for my 21st, that was all booked this year and that got cancelled; it would be nice to do that eventually. That’s a five-year plan.
I don’t set goals in my life. I don’t know why but I just don’t think I do. Maybe I should.
My goal is to work as a lawyer. My dream is to just be able to travel and not work. My goal is not really rewarding for my soul, whereas my dream is.
Jim, Jack and Brendan | 18 November 2020 | Sydney
I am 21. I come from a small country town seven hours away, called Nyngan, and I went away to boarding school in Orange when I was twelve.
I know what I want in life and I know the challenges that I have to go through and the potential for failure.
I come from a rural town called Tamworth, five hours away, up north.
I study Law and Business Administration. I’m very goal oriented. I’ve wanted to study law since I was fourteen.
I’m from a place called Orange. It’s slightly closer than these guys, about three and a half hours away.
I’ve been here three years, studying Law and Science. I’m still not sure which side of my double degree I’ll end up using.
I work at the college in a pastoral care role, and we were in a meeting getting a rundown of all the Covid protocols, this was early February, and I remember sitting there and going, this is ridiculous, it’s going to be the same as Ebola, Covid will never come to Australia and we’ll be fine. And three weeks later I went to rugby training and one of my mates had Covid and then we were all in isolation. I must have been among the first 15,000 tests in Australia.
I feel that this year has gone weirdly slow but weirdly quick at the same time. It feels like it’s been an age since Covid started.
I usually work in a bar, so Covid took away my source of income. So, with all the expenses of living away from home, it became quite difficult. There was one time I had to wait to get my tax return back from the previous year before I could fill up my car. I eventually got a job towards the end of the year, which was at a law firm, so everything started going up.
I’ve been out of Sydney for ten days since February.
We’re all in the same building. Staring at the brick wall, constantly. You go to sleep and you stare at the same brick wall.
I have a lot of mates who have moved out and are in houses with nice big back yards and my plan was to go once a week and visit a different mate. But then travel even outside the suburb was frowned upon, so I went long periods of time without going to visit these mates; and that was difficult. We’re here by choice, obviously, but you almost felt trapped; it almost felt like the brick walls were just staring at you.
I thought I would struggle with the switch to online learning but there are only so many times you can procrastinate before you actually sit down and do the study, when you have nothing better to do.
I’ve been home for three weeks since the start of the year, so a bit longer than Jack, but still a lot less than I would generally spend with my family.
My parents have both been able to keep their jobs throughout the virus. A couple of my uncles in Ireland got coronavirus but, over here, New South Wales hasn’t had that many active cases for a while.
I was nervous at the start, because of the uncertainty and I didn’t know how contagious the virus was. I thought, if somebody in college does end up contracting Covid, it’ll spread so quickly.
My 2020 has actually been one of the best years I’ve seen so far. This year has been very, very big in my self-development, emotionally and physically. I’ve made a lot of friends and, yeah, I’ve had a particularly good year.
This year I actually came out as gay to my parents, so that was one of the biggest things I reckon I had done up until then. It was a particularly big moment for myself. I knew my parents were going to be fine with it, but for myself it’s a big thing to say out loud.
My parents were also dealing with things like the drought. But they received enough rainfall for us to have more cropping for the year, livestock numbers increased, stuff like that, so my parents were very lucky, they were able to keep their jobs and keep my brother going to school in Sydney. So it’s been a particularly happy year for my family. We’ve not had any major losses, which is funny in a pandemic: you’d think the worst of things would come out, but for me and my family it was actually quite good.
In places like the Blue Mountains the fires were coming literally across the roads. Some people had to actually drive through fire. For us, the drought killed a lot of the bushland, so there wasn’t that much left to burn.
As soon as the fires happened, everybody forgot about the droughts; and then as soon as coronavirus came, everyone forgot about the fires and focused on the coronavirus; and now we’re slowly starting to see it happen where people are stopping to care about the coronavirus. I don’t think that’s an issue just in Australia, I think we’re seeing it all around the world. Lockdown has been happening for so long and people are getting sick of it and deciding that it’s over before it’s over, and I think that puts the world in a precarious state.
Coronavirus is such a pressing issue, I feel like it’s pushed a lot of other issues to the back of the mind of the politicians.
I think the mental health of people, especially the loneliness: that’s the toughest issue facing the world. You have a lot of people—they might be able to heal physically, but mentally you really don’t know what’s going on inside someone’s head. I think coming out of this there will be a lot of issues where you have to think about other people’s wellbeing.
Something that I’ve found very touching is how many people are willing to check in on you, just say, Hey mate, I haven’t heard from you for a couple of weeks, thought I’d see how you’re doing? The fact that everybody’s aware that they’re not the only person doing it tough, everybody’s doing it tough, and that people are willing to help out, I find that quite comforting.
Jack hit the nail on the head with that one. We all need people to stay connected with, because that’s how we’re going to keep going through this, even though it’s difficult.
I Facetime my mother a lot. I used to call her, but I think she really wanted to see my face. At Easter, we all had a Zoom session, my family and my grandparents. We had a couple of drinks and just joked for about an hour. If it wasn’t for Covid, we probably wouldn’t have even seen each other for Easter.
I’ve definitely experienced loneliness this year; I think it would be pretty hard not to.
I’m part of a rugby club and that got shut down, and I know a lot of people struggled because that was their social outlet, all your mates on a Saturday morning, and you all go to the pub afterwards. I definitely think that affected people. It certainly affected me.
Sometimes you would just sit in your room, especially when a lot of people had gone home. I stayed here in Sydney and the halls just sort of felt empty. There was a lack of noise, a sort of silence, which personifies loneliness.
But my last academic semester was my best one in my three years of study and I think a large part of that was that silence, that lack of human interaction. I’ve definitely had some productive hours in silence, where you just get into the zone.
At the start of this year, when everything first happened and there was only about half the college here, I was quite lazy. My first semester, I didn’t do badly or anything, but it was probably my worst marks so far, and that was because I lost motivation. Next year, I’m hopefully going to pick up my marks a bit, put a bit more effort into myself and make sure I don’t drop back down to how lazy I was back then.
I’m going to be moving into a house with my friends next year. I’m really looking forward to that. I’m kind of keen to start cooking for myself.
And I’m hoping that I will get more of a clear idea of what I’m doing. Then I’ll be able to set a goal.
In 2021, I am going to finish my arts degree of my education degree, especially my history major. The plan is to become a teacher.
A friend sent me a list for a music festival in 2021. I still don’t know if it’s going to happen but that might be a really good thing to actually go to. I wasn’t much one for music festivals before but I can tell you now that I will be, because I want to do something.
I feel like a large portion of 2020 has been just treading water and so I would like for next year to be a productive year, where by the end of it I will know where I’m headed and how I’m going to get there.
I’d love a house with a yard. Somewhere I can go out and kick a ball. Somewhere that hasn’t got brick walls.
© Norton Rose Fulbright LLP 2020