Claire Acettola, Interveiwed by Morgan Switzer
So what year were you in and what were you studying when the pandemic was declared? In March of 2020?
I was in second year. I just turned 19 and I was studying history. That's my major. And political science is my minor.
Okay. And were you involved in any extracurriculars on campus at the time?
No, not at the time. I was on a few email lists, and I wasn't really involved with anything.
And were you working at the time?
I worked in retail at the time, so my job was really affected.
Where were you working?
I worked at a store called Blackwell. I don't know if you heard that. It's really small. I worked there from 16 years old until, like, this time last year.
Okay, Awesome. And where were you living at the time?
So I grew up in Guelph and went to high school in Guelph so when I started university, I decided to live at home. And I so I had already been at home during the pandemic when everything hit.
Okay. And how did the initial shutdown affect you?
Okay. So at the time, I had just kind of I'm sure you understand because, like you're in first year, I had just finally settled on like, who my core group of friends was. When you're in first year, you meet so many people consistently. Finally, I had had my my four of us that I felt really comfortable, strong with. I got really cool with one of the girls and I was super excited. And then like literally three days later, the pandemic hit and I didn't see her again until two years later. Until 20. Yeah. We texted constantly, like, we were literally texting right now. So I would say, like, I know it sounds strange, but the biggest change I noticed other than school was the fact that all of these developing relationships had just came to a complete, immediate stop. A lot of people I talked to kind of were in the same position. So that would be the biggest one. And also the transition to online school. I’m in the history program, there's a lot of seminars and it's a fairly social program. I think a lot of people don't realize that political science is structured the same way. And so to go from that to immediately online, I had no idea what to do the process and know what to do. Almost all my exams were canceled. It was really strange.
Yeah. Where did you go when the initial shutdown hit? Like, did you have to move anywhere? Did you stay at home?
Like in the initial shutdown, nothing happened. I stayed at home. It really was not a big transition for me at all, luckily, because I'm from Guelph. So yes, the only thing was obviously I couldn't go anywhere and I think that was a little bit weird compared to some other people's experiences because they immediately had to just get out, leave, go see their parents. And I just was like, okay, and sat there quietly.
What happened to your work? Extra curriculars and your study?
Okay, so work wise, I was in probably one of the worst industries to be in at the time of the shutdown. Actually, I don't know. It kind of depends like what you decide is the worst. So for me, I didn't go back to work until around. I want to say like July or August - it was full summer time by the time I got back to work. And at the time I was working, I had just taken a break from my job at Blackwell to work at a different store, Harmony. And I had one week probation training and then everything shut down. So I actually lost my job due to the pandemic. They let me go because I worked for a mom and pop small business. I'm so sorry. But that would be the the big one, work wise, extracurricular, wise. I did not do anything. Obviously I'm extremely outgoing. So like, I think the extracurricular was just hanging out with my friends, so I wasn't really affected. And what was the third category?
Um, I was in second year history, which is when all of our, um, like requirement classes are they still are like that, right? Like most of their requirements are in second year right?
I'm actually not in a history program. This is just like a one off class, so I'm not sure personally. But I believe you. I believe you. I'm in justice and legal studies.
Oh, good for you. My house mate is in that. It's really hard. Yeah. So all of our core requirements at the time were in the second year. So I was in all required classes, which as a historian like now in my fifth year, I've come developed a taste for what I kind of enjoy and what I like. And I at the time have really good budding relationships with profs. And so having that all removed and I found myself like locked in a room studying like stuff that was like just forced on me. I did not want to do it at all. And I think essentially, like the hardest part was being a political science student when everything locked down because everything was so political that my homework was all just reporting on my personal life and the pandemic. At that time that I just so badly wished I was in something like math or like nutrition so I could just, like, have a distraction. But it was my entire studies to look at how these things impacted us. So mentally it was really draining school wise. But when it came to courses, so many profs had no idea what to do and I do not blame them. And there were virtually no supports in place for any of us. And so I would say the majority of my studies were like final assignments were canceled. I think I only had about two because it was March. All my exams were canceled. So I ended up just ending my classes with my midterm marks. Compared to a lot of my friends I think it was a best case scenario, even though it was still kind of shitty.
And did you return to school for the 2020, 2021 semester?
Yes, I did. And I will tell every single person this is my biggest regret in my entire university. Back to school, yeah. So it was during the pandemic that I realized, like living at home, I was like, I can't do this anymore. I'm going to go insane. I, I cannot do it. So I ended up moving out in October of 2020. I was subletting a random room that someone just abandoned. I found myself alone. I was alone for 30 days straight. I didn't have a human interaction with anyone else. Oh, wow. I know who I am. I lied to myself, and I was like, “Oh, I'm a good student, which I was. So I can, like, continue doing this online. No problem.” But my mental health was so extremely bad, I got sick. My average went down. I think I was sitting at like a 78 average and I went down to a 62. I failed my first few classes. I failed my first class in 2022 and there was like a short period of time where I had to move back home in February because I was in between places and it had gotten so bad that I was fainting about five times a day because I just could not take school. Like I just sort of it made me feel just so, like, terrified and like, like depressed. And I started fainting like, left and right and I got really sick and I failed my classes. And that's why I'm in our fifth year now.
I've gotten to the point now where I feel, like, nauseous all the time, just thinking about school. Like I see my calendar with all my due dates and I feel like physically ill, like it's like a body reaction.
It really is terrifying. I was in third year at this time, and third year, I would say is one of the hardest. A lot of people I talked to agree with that. I wish I listened to my body because I knew that I should have taken a semester off. Just one. Yeah. And I didn't do that. And because I didn't, I had to drop from full time because I knew I was going to fail all my classes. So I dropped all of my classes down to two. And because of that, I got put on financial probation from OSAP. So now I don't receive funding for school because of all of these like domino effects. That's why I was like, I will happily volunteer for this interview because it was horrendous. Yeah.
I don't think the university, like, really understands how difficult it is if you get sick.
Its so case to case. I have one prof that’s like if it's late, I don't care. There's no penalty. This shit sucks. Another prof, it's 10% per day. Last semester, I actually got pneumonia cause I worked so hard. So now I have my deferred exams. I was literally writing them for her class.
What did you do in the summer of 2020?
I was in isolation and then things started to reopen in the summer and I had turned 19 in December right before the pandemic hit. So I never really got the opportunity to, like, go out and party and have fun. Luckily, because I'm from Guelph, all of my high school friends lived down the street. So I was I wasn't completely ripped away from all of my friends. I had a lot of them there, which was really nice. So I found myself like going out a lot, not in a bad way. Just having some fun. In the summer, I’d have one or two friends around the campfire having a few drinks just because I could. That summer, I found myself trying to supplement all those things that I lost. I went back to working at Blackwell. I did everything in my power to not be at home. My entire immediate family are nurses. So I was like, I can't be around you right now. So yeah, I think yeah, I think that's how I spent the summer. I'm pretty sure. Yeah.
And how did you find online learning at the beginning?
Horrendous. It was one of the worst experiences in my entire university career. I think they could have done it literally any single other way. It was so bad. Just before the pandemic started, on February 2020, I found out that I had dyslexia. And so becoming immediately online with a new dyslexia diagnosis was a bit of a challenge. Seriously, that was hard. The isolation part was hard because it's nice, having that person next to you class to talk to. But I just felt like at the end of the day, no matter how many virtual lectures I attended, how many assignments I did, every time I closed that laptop, I would sit back and think like, “What did I even learn today?” I felt like I wasn't gaining anything. Everyone had the attitude that this was so bad, even the profs felt like it shouldn’t be happening and it was really distracting to my learning. But I just think what they were asking from all of us was simply unfair. Like, what they were asking of profs was unbelievable to be doing those things at home on top of their primary research. My best friend's dad is a prof at the university and I know it was like really hard on him. I can't speak for that though, obviously. And then like for us, I don't know, a single student that was loved it. I've never met anyone who thought it was awesome.
I originally wanted to go to medical. And then COVID hit when I was like end of grade ten. That got completely sidetracked. It was absolutely brutal. I'm taking everything online and I ended up having to basically change my entire course because in high school they paid attention to the people who were in class, not the people on-line. And there wasn't the same opportunity to ask for help . You can't work with a partner. You can't be like, Hey, what's the answer for five? Can you help me? You didn't have that. I haven’t written an exam since grade ten. I feel like I have so many gaps in my memory from like all the stuff I learned in high school because I wasn't actually processing stuff. It was just like, I'm doing the work to do the work and get the mark, but I'm not like actually learning anything.
That's like a really good way of putting it. Like the mentality was the same for university, but with us they were pretty fair about online and class balance. They really made sure that everything was 50/50 for students.
I know my cousin goes to McGill and they had a policy where it was like they couldn't have like timeframes for the exams. At least that's my understanding, because they had international students. Like when I write my exams, it's like you have from 4:30 to 4:45 to start writing the exam, but for them they're just like opened it up and they had like the week to write it.
I'm trying to think. I don't have exams because my program is just a type of program where we have final essays. As a historian, we work with primary sources. We couldn’t go to archives really bothered a lot of the history profs. Study spaces – I had to do my homework, eat and sleep all in the same room. Profs will never really understand what that was like because they had a full developed adulthood. The only thing I got was like, I think $1,000 less than what I was paying in tuition the year before. And I remember thinking “What are you paying tuition for?” Um I also forgot about something I did in the summer. You reminded me, is it okay if I go back to that question?
Yeah, of course.
I nannied for a family, I nannied for a family that was in my bubble because there was a nurse at my mother's unit, Like, this is peak pandemic. This was like, probably May. It was a nurse on my mom's unit, so they had already been interacting with one another. And I had a nannied for that family before. So four times a week I would walk to their house during the lockdowns and I would work from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and then walk home when the sun rose. Watching those kids. It was insane. You would not believe what it was like. I was kind of shocked at the way that schools handled that. So that's another thing that I did, which was really I loved it. I was like one of the only people I knew that was able to go out and do something. And it was at nighttime. Cause that like that transition back into regular life was terrifying. I mean, you can agree, right? Yeah, it was nice, like okay, I can interact with other humans for like a few hours, even if they are like 6 years old.
And then put them to bed and have my evening to myself in another place. And so, like, I will forever be grateful for that opportunity.
How old were the kids that you were looking at after?
Grade 4? Two of them were in grade 4, and one of them was in grade one or two. Yeah.
I did some babysitting for like next door neighbors over the pandemic, and I'm like, looking at kids like that who didn’t get socialization for two years straight. They weren't in classes. They're on their iPads in their living room watching their classes, which is basically teachers talking to them, not understanding or listening to them. Their social skills were bad. One of my best friends, her brother was born in 2020, right before the pandemic hit. And he's still I think he's two or three now and he's still at the point where, like he sees strangers, he screams because like for like a year and a half straight, it was just like him and his family - he didn't meet anybody else. And so suddenly he has all these, strange people coming into his house that look different, like, and yeah.
The kids I was nannying for their dad died the December before of really horrendous cancer and like he died within six weeks of his diagnosis - like I.V. in like hospital bed in their living room kind of cancer. And then one of the kids was recently fostered to adopt. So he just got brought into a new family and the dad immediately died and now there's a pandemic. And he was Indigenous and this family was Italian. And I'm half Metis, half Italian. I have to teach this kid about his culture during the pandemic because he was essentially ripped away from it and locked away in a house full of white women and he was suffering a lot.
I don't know if Dr. Carstairs mentioned to you, but I'm also Metis myself. This is just like my own personal question, but I found personally that I had a lot more opportunities to like for cultural connection over the pandemic with all of, like the Zoom meetings and stuff. Yeah, that was one of the perks of it, was I found that I was just I gained a lot more knowledge and espect for the culture. And I feel like I just had a lot more of like connection opportunities because I grew up very privileged, but I was surrounded by a bunch of white conservative assholes my entire life because that's just like the school system that I went through, the area that I lived in.
And where are you from?
I'm from Lorne Park in Mississauga. It's like the millionaire... Yes. So I never had, like, any opportunity in the school for, like, Heritage Connection and whatever. Like, my school was like 95% white, I think. And so there was no, no opportunities for like Black students or Indigenous students, any people of color in the school system. I found that the school board that I was in, Peel did a lot of like outreach programs. So they made like a google classroom and then you could sign up for opportunities.
The MNO in, the Toronto Peel Region, they're one of the best MNO. communities. They're so amazing. I'm friends with, like, some people on the council. I had the exact same thing. I knew I was Metis and raised Metis, but I never did anything with the MNO. And then, my brother got really involved with it in 2020 with the extra time. My brother’s actually the chair of the Youth Council and my cousin is actually the president. So throughout the pandemic my brother was like, Claire, you should really dedicate yourself to this because I study history and political science, I went from like I'm Metis whatever to I work for the MNO now. I have jobs lined up for after graduation. Like, if you need funding, let me know. It's kind of crazy. Yes, the cultural connection was a really amazing part of it.
They did some things through like the school too, where you could sign up and they would drop off supplies. So they did a moccasins workshop, They did Dreamcatcher workshops, they did beading ones and they would come to the school. These, two ladies would drive all around Peel, so like Caledon Brampton, and Mississauga and drop off all these little like packages and they were super cute and they had notes in them. And then you would join like Google Meet and then you would do like all the beading sessions together.
I do that. But I University of Guelph and I'm doing an event next month if you want to come to it its completely free
I might have to sign up, I'm God awful at it. I like to try. I don't know if it's in here, but I made my boyfriend one for it was like a little beaded heart keychain thing for our anniversary.
Oh, you should come. It's totally free.
Oh, yay. So I'll move on to the next question. I got really sidetracked there. Did you experience or did your experience of online learning change over time?
Yes, I'd say so. And I think it was more of a personal change, but identifying with what I was struggling with. So things like being at home, at my mom's house and understanding my environment helped me adapt to online learning. So by 2021, after that horrendous year, I moved into a seven person student house, which people think is absolutely insane. But you have to keep in mind I never lived in residence or like never lived with anyone else. And then the pandemic hit so that I kind of consider it as my residence experience. I was surrounded by other students just as dedicated as me. But having that social space helped me actually thrive. So, that's kind of how I was able to adapt to online school better. And I will forever cherish those memories, even if it ended in the tough way. That was a big help also once I was in fourth year. So in the history program third year was like any other. But fourth year, all of your classes are seminars, so you can kind of do the work yourself. You come to class and it's just discussion and it's about 20 people and it's significantly easier to do that on Zoom than to have a lecture. So I would say like that's where I was able to adapt really well was just like the smaller sizes of classes and like better community support at home.
Do you feel like the profs changed as well in any way, like towards your kind of outlook towards online learning?
You said that you've heard the professors were kind of mean. Most of my profs were extremely sympathetic. One of the professors, in particular, really stuck out to me. I had him as like an in-person prof twice. And then the pandemic hit, and I had him as an on-line prof when I was like, peak sick and his class was the one I had to drop. And I was so devastated by because I didn't want to let him down. When I emailed him explaining the situation, he was like- I had actually fainted on one of his zoom calls and I emailed him explaining situation. He was like, Claire, I completely understand like I kind of expected it, it's okay, you can take the class again, it's no trouble. I could really cheer up thinking about it. It was Matthew Hayday. He's the chair of the department now. I had my favourite prof for two in-person classes before the pandemic hit, and then I didn't have her for a while until winter 2022, so a year ago this semester. And that was online. And she was just at home in a whole different province. And she was so understanding about everything and just as energetic as she was in person, which I didn't expect because a lot of profs felt so defeated. So you could see that they were like trying so hard to keep us inspired. It must've been mentally really hard to open up a computer to a black screen. And if it wasn’t a black screen, it was just like someone looking absolutely miserable. Yeah. So I would say a lot of them are pretty understanding about things like late, penalties were like waived. Like if you email them with an issue, they were almost immediately like, that's fair. Like, take your time. So yeah, no profs were really great about it, I'd say.
What were the most challenging aspects of the pandemic for you?
Being alone, like most people. I would say either being alone or at school, like online. Even then, the issue was that I was by myself. Yeah, I lived alone for four months and I didn't interact with anyone. So I think the, the biggest challenge was just understanding that I was the only person that had the power to change what was going on in my life and my perspective. That was like the hardest lesson for me to learn. And the only reason why I genuinely the only reason why I got better was because one day I just got up and told myself I will. So I think like mentally that was the challenge. It was not physical, even though like if my body changed significantly over the pandemic and, you know, my relationships with my family changed, it was 100% the relationship with myself that made the pandemic a challenge. But also, like I really do feel like a Phoenix from the Ashes after that.
Were there any aspects of the pandemic that were good for you?
There are a ton of good aspects, and I think a lot of people forget that. So, I mentioned at the very beginning, my best friend who I got separated from, it kind of forced me to think about how to preserve my relationships with my friends. So I gained better online communication skills for sure. I definitely became a little bit more assertive in the things that I need. So that's definitely a good one. Being able, being able to just connect with people. When you're separated like this, the connection that you gain with people is so strong. I think a lot of people overlook that part. I became like best friends with my friend from work, and because, I had a little friend crush on her- I had a little friend crush on her and second year and then the pandemic hit and we worked together. So I was the only person she saw. And then we became like- she's my sister now. Dude, like I love her to death. So yeah, I would say like I gained a lot of skills. It sounds tacky, but I'm significantly more confident than I was because I know that it's been worse. Like every time I'm kind of in a rut. I'm like, No, because I've been through it worse than this so I’m fine. I think that a change of mindset would be the biggest thing I gained. Financially, I actually have a lot of opportunities because I'm privileged enough to have that. So, I was able to have the nannying job. I was able to like work as well and like build community connections with Metis Nation of Ontario which is really amazing. So that was a really good opportunity for myself and I'm extremely privileged to be able to have that. And yeah, I just got to know myself better I’d say.
And what was your experience with the Omnicron outbreak in December/January 2021, 2022? I don't even remember that.
Yeah, I think that was like around this time last year. That was like Christmas, January last year.
So I lived in a big student house with a lot of people and all of us had our own individual friends and we were each in different programs. So it was extremely difficult, like trying to factor in who we did and did not see. Like because you can't keep track of all that. One of my housemates was like engineer, and they're extremely tight knit community. My other housemate, she works at McCabe's. So, every time I, if they were going out, I got this like pit in my stomach. I got scared constantly. I still wear my mask to this day. Because you kind of get that like it's never going away on your head. And then I actually did get it in March last year, and it sucked so hard. I isolated in my mom’s house cause I lived in a 7 person house an I didn't want to have to text every time I had to go to the bathroom. And my mom was like gone all day at work. So it was awesome. And it wasn't like, bad, but it created this like pit of fear. Like, oh, like this is just going to keep repeating itself. Hmm. Yeah. So I try to stay positive. I think I did.
You're like my brother. My brother got COVID and ever since he started wearing his mask and he’s like, I'm not going through that again. I'm not getting sick again.
Dude it sucks. I got it again in November, too. It was such a surprise. It was like a long weekend sniffles.
I have friends who've had it five times
Whenever I get sick because I'm Indigenous, we get like the PCR tests, like we can go and do those. And so every time I'm sick I go and get a PCR test done because I don't trust the rapid tests and I've never had it. But there's people who've had it five times like, oh my God, like, are you not like scared or you not going to alter something with yourself?
It’s scary. Like I found out that I got it because my housemate came home from work and texted at like three in the morning, like, Hey, I just tested positive for COVID and I was like, Fuck. And I happened to see it when I got up to pee in the middle of the night. So I took a COVID test and it was such a faint line and it was in the dark. So I was like my partner’s house. I didn’t want to scare them. So I just like had to go back to bed, like knowing, like, wait for my partner to wake up and be like, Hey, I got COVID. And they didn't get it at all until the day my isolation was finished, my partner got it.
I'm just convinced I'm COVID proof at this point because I've been around so many people that have had it, like my brothers had it, my boyfriend's entire family had it. He got COVID and he went to Dubai and got stuck in Dubai for like two weeks. So, the vaccine works, that's all I’ll say.
Yeah it does really work. Both times I got COVID, it had been exactly three months almost to the day since I had gotten the vaccination. Interesting.
I was 16 when I got mine. Do you know, Annishwabe health, like the Indigenous center in downtown Toronto, um, it's really helpful. They do a lot of Indigenous outreach stuff and because the Indigenous group was the priority for getting the vaccine, I was able to get mine before the majority of everyone else under 18.
How did COVID impact your friends and family?
Oh, my gosh, a lot of ways I think, yeah. My brother is also a nurse and my mom is a nurse. So my brother at the time was living in Toronto as - he did geriatric wound care. So he fixed old people's cuts and-
Did he work in a nursing home during that time?
No, he worked in Sunnybrook, And the pandemic had hit and he got COVID. Like it was that weird time where it's like he didn't get tested for COVID because he couldn’t, but lhe got COVID. He got COVID like March or April 2020, the first group. And my brother at the time was like, really, really thin. And so I thought he was going to die. It was really scary. But he was okay. He had just finished getting his nursing license and just entering the industry where he felt: Oh, this is actually the worst choice I could have made career wise. A lot of people would argue the opposite because we're so in need of nurses. But the treatment my family has received over the pandemic is absolutely disgusting. Like, my mom would come home from a 12 hour shift that actually would turn into like a 13 or 14 hour shift. And my mom's in obstetrics, so she's labor delivery. So, she was pretty okay. She had to interact with babies, so she was kind of separated from it. But it was just such shortages and it was so exhausting. And my mom turned 50 over the pandemic and I was just watching it impact her. And I remember seeing her as like a young nurse in her thirties, like, so eager and excited and then now seeing how her career has ended, it's been really hard to watch. So that was a big one. My grandma had a really hard time with it because she loved- I lived with my grandma. She loved going to this pilates club, like a legion for the lunches, like the Evergreen Community Center. You know, Linda was kind of the popular girl there, and then she got ripped away from it away from it and she was stuck in a house with her shitty 19 year old granddaughter. And like my mom, who was away half the time, something grandma became like, really stir crazy. She was so scared to go anywhere, She was so desperate. Any time she would secretly go to the grocery store just to say hello to people when, it was so lockdowned, which I just felt so bad for her because, like, there was nothing I could do. Yeah. And like, she's a grandma. So all she did was watch TV and like, it was horrendous watching TV at the time. Everything. Every time you change your channel, it was something about COVID. It was a new update. So I could watch the fear, lrowing within her. So that was a big one. My stepdad is a hospital maintenance worker and he built all the emergency like portables and extensions and stuff like that and like, yeah, it was really labor heavy. So that would be like the immediate family. I can't really speak for my extended family. I'm not really close to them. And then my good friend, so my best friend is an only child, which like, being an only child during a pandemic you don't really think about. But like, it sucks. It sucks because her parents were like, a little helicoptery and she found herself just, stuck on a farm, like with her dad being, like, hey!. At least I had my brother that I could, call and chat with, even though he was in Toronto. But Ally didn't really have that. She just had close friends, so that was a big one. My best friend ripped away for me for two years. That was like a big- I have a friend. So there were three of us in the group and the other girl, she lived across the street from me, so we would go for walks, but she worked in a nursing home, so like I wasn't allowed to see her either, even though she lived across the street from me. So it was kind of this like, weird, like she was upset at Karissa for living in a city far away and, like, not being able to see us. But then I was across the street and I was like, You're being stupid because I live across the street and I can't see you. So it's almost like we started to like, blame one another for how it was affecting our friendship, even though there was nothing we could do. A lot of my outskirt friends were really upset that they could not go out anymore and like, go to the bars and go party because we had all just turned 19 and yeah, so.
I couldn't imagine what if I turned 19 this summer and we got lockdowned again, I think I would just like, curl up in a ball and die.
Dude I was so mad, my birthday's the last week of December, and so I watched every single person turn 19 and get to go out and then the pandemic hit right when I turned 19. I was so mad, I was like fuck you guys, you know, even though I don't even like drinking. I hated it. I don't know why I was so upset about it.
It’s just like the novelty of like, oh, I can go into dispensary now. I can go into the LCBO and I can pick things up, and they're not going to come and yell at me now like I, I think I generally think of I turned 19 and that happened. I would just want to die.
I remember I remember too like on my 19th birthday, I didn't get carded. Both times I tried to get some, I did not get carded! Which was so funny.
Like anything. My. My really good friend. I don't want to say she developed a codependency, but when she tried to move back to the city, she got this fear inside of her. She had a really hard time away from her dad over the pandemic because they are so close. And then she had to leave for school and it was really, really hard on her. And then my partner, I know that they developed a lot of anxiety over the pandemic, which was really hard, but they were able to like kind of see concurrently and, like I say, discover their gender identity because they don't really have one.
Yeah, are they non-binary?
Yeah, they're like gender fluid, non-binary.
But they were forced t understand themselves. So that was a really good, I'm sure like a lot of people you talk to were able to like have a queer experience. I actually came out before the pandemic because I was like may as well.
You are too?
Yeah, like I'm bisexual. I have a boyfriend, obviously, but like, it was just over that time, I was just. I don't know. You start with your own thoughts and you're realizing that like, Hey, that's cool.
Yeah, like I knew I was for a really long time, but it was just like, Now I'm locked with you, so I have to tell you.
I like, I feel like my parents know, like my parents are very open that I don't think they care. I just haven't gotten around to, like, telling them. I'm like, if I bring home a girlfriend one day, then I'll tell you.
But that's what I did. That's what I did. Like my my brother is gay and he came out when I was like 13. So I was like, Well, now we can't both be gay, you know? I was like, way to steal my thunder, dude. So I was like, You know, I'll just do it. Like, as soon as I start dating someone or talk to someone, like that's when they can know, because it doesn't matter until then anyways. So, I told them a month before my partner and I, like, made things official.
I just had the time to think and I'm like, I always knew I wasn't straight, but I just didn't put a label on it.
And when you're bisexual, you don't realize that like, it's extremely harder. Its so much,harder.
Because I don't know I feel like-
I kind of am like, I'm two spirit, but I am bisexual, you know?
At the time, I was dating a guy and I'm currently dating a guy. I was interested in both, but I ended up with guys, so I never got the opportunity to kind of put a label on it and like. I guess I put myself into a category and then the pandemic kind of gave me the opportunity and I downloaded tik tok. Worst mistake of my life.
I had it before the pandemic, thank God, I thought I knew what I was getting into.
Oh god, TikTok was like the worst mistake of my life.
I hate it. It's stuck with me.
It's like, I don't know. I keep it downloaded, though. I have to stop.
You know, my screen time is probably 4 hours. I hate it, though.
I just I found that everybody over the pandemic got very like- the whole chronically online thing that came out of the wood work. And it was like, Oh my God, what are you talking about? And I just feel like a lot of people got really comfortable behind a screen and like, they can't talk. It's you go on a date with someone and it's like they're all talk behind the screen on Snapchat or iMessage, whatever, and then you meet them in person and they're like the most socially awkward people ever because everybody- I've always been like, very extroverted. I felt like I was more awkward online, so it gave me kind of an opportunity to balance out both. I feel like I'm so much better over the phone now because before it was like, uhhhh, like I'm just scrambling for words and now I have to do like my zoom calls for my classes and like work and whatever.
Your brain was still developing heavily. Like obviously it still is now and mine is too, but you were like 16, right?
I was 15 when it started.
Even worse! Yeah, like when I was 15, I didn't know how to order something or call my doctor! And then you're expected to do everything online. I feel bad for you. I don't know if you know this, but I want to be a high school guidance counselor. I don't know if mentioned that yet, so, like, every time I talk to people is like in your age bracket. And I just, like, that's. I get angry, dude. Like, I care about teenagers so hard and like, I just get so mad.
The big thing, it was like I feel like university students were the ones that were most looked at during the pandemic, but then high schoolers really got, like, fucked over and now you've got a whole wave of kids coming into university who don't know how to write essays, cheated their way through high school, like haven't written exams, haven't been socialized. And that's so evident when you especially living in residence, the people- you can tell who like is socialized and who isn't it. And people are like animals. And that's like the best way I can describe it is the pandemic has turned a bunch of people into absolute animals. Especially with having the double cohort this year too.
I don’t know what that is what is that?
So basically, when the pandemic hit, a lot of people deferred their university acceptances because they knew what it would be like. And they accepted a lot of people. The residence situation right now is wild.
I've heard like the stuff that people like mentioned online but like I don't interact with lower year students ever, so I don't really know actually the ground experience of it all. But I've heard that like they find all the singles and doubles and stuff like that, right?
Yeah. So I don't know if you've ever been in a South Room, but they're, they're tiny.
They're fucking I hate them. They're, the worst res. Sorry buddy!
Absolutely brutal like they're shoving people in basically closets - they've got three people in a south double and you've got basically like a bed's worth of space in the middle of the room and it's tiny and it's cramped. There's way too many people here.
How many people do you live with?
I'm in a single. Luckily.
I think I would actually drop out; I would defer year. That's what was considering this year, because they announced that like you might not get residence and then you might get stuck in one of these modified rooms because I know in Mills, they turned the common rooms into like rooms which I don't think you should be allowed to do that.
Honestly I dont think That's really fair, especially considering they have, like, appliances and shit in them, Right?
Yeah, I'm not sure about the Mills common rooms, but the lounges on the floors got turned in quads. Like they're just kind of shoving kids in and not really caring, but, these rooms aren't designed to hold more than, like, their capacity. And so you're shoving kids in and you've got this tiny space filled with strangers. And there's way too many kids here this year.
I can't imagine. I'm so sorry. Yeah. My partner is a year younger than me, so my partner got kicked out of residence when the pandemic hit, and was like: What are you supposed to do? Like, I think they were like, they have like a day or two to just, like, pack up to leave Johnson and go back home. And I really do think of all the university students like the 2001 babies, the people that were first here in 2019. Like I feel- they never got a single like hint of what university could have been like. I just feel so bad for my partner for that reason, especially because, like their first year friends are still, their friends now, which is awesome and I love it. But like, I met all my close friends the second year because it was in-person, with all my seminars and stuff like that and yeah, no, the res experience must have been horrendous. Sorry that I lived at home.
A lot of students- and especially like the 02s coming in who were going in when everything was in lockdown, like my cousin who's at McGill, she wasn't even able to get Rez because they weren't like allowing students to live on campus at the time. They were all doing their Zoom meetings and she was living at home, but she wasn't able to make friends in her first year because I think like residence is one of the biggest kind of like factors of making friends in your first year. Like, obviously you can make them elsewhere now, but like I, I feel like all of my friends have been made in residence. I'm bad. I don't really go to class that often unless I have to. In my seminars, I'm going and I'm like half there, like, half asleep. But the people who are coming in and they're not able to live in residence and like your classes are online, like you're not able to make friends. And that's really hard because university is hard and like you need to have friends in order to survive. I think if I didn't have the friend group that I have right now, I honestly think my mental health would have just declined. I think I would have dropped out by now.
Slay friend group.
You go through friends so much throughout university. Everyone I was friends with first sure, and I’m only friends with a couple of them now but like I promise it gets easier to make friends as you go on.
Yeah, I know your class sizes get smaller, like the further you go on, which is probably helpful.
General community stuff that you do like, like for example, there's a lot of queer events in Guelph and so, like, they're all super friendly. I meet new people every single week, so it's a lot of things like that. Yeah, just to put yourself in the situation, to be able to do that and you just have to go I guess, which sucks. Sorry.
And then for my last and final question for this interview, looking back, how did the pandemic change your life?
Not one part of my life is the same. Like, I look different, I talk different, I act different. I live- I moved one, two, one, two, three, four times over four times. Like every corner of my life has been changed. So overall, I love who I turned out to be. I guess I love the person that I was. I've always had an enormous amount of self love, luckily. And so now I just I feel like a grown woman. I miss the pandemic. I feel like I entered it as a teenager and I had my adult puberty over the pandemic. Which like, you’ll get it, like no one told me about it. But every single person I talk to you that's older than me and knows exactly what I'm talking about. But when you turn 20, there's like for some reason your body changes. So I feel like I've completely grown up over the pandemic, and I'm more sure of who I am because I know how quickly things can be ripped away. I would say that would be the biggest change. Also, my career changed a lot. I started out in retail. I still am in retail like only like 5 hours a week. Like, not really, but I was able to take advantage of all these extra resources that were being provided for us, especially as a Metis student. So now I obviously volunteer with MNO, I’m trying to get an internship with them, and I realized that do want to work with teenagers. Before the pandemic, I kept my options open. But now that I've experienced the whole thing, I was able to take time and seek inside and understand my passions and what I truly value. Mm hmm. Which is why, I know I want to be a guidance counselor. I'm so excited and I'm entering my big deal job. So, yeah, I think my values and my outlook on life has completely changed. I think that's the biggest differences. Was that a good answer?
That was an amazing answer.