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Struggling to keep moving on as everything around me is shutting down
Waking up to multiple notifications on my phone saying that the government of Ontario has declared a state of emergency shouldn’t have been a surprise. But little did I know it was going to have an impact on my life in the next eight hours.
Living in residence during my first year of university brought forth a wealth of new beginnings and experiences. The abrupt and sudden end made the experiences I had feel like they weren’t enough, and that I should have done more if I knew my semester would be cut short.
I expected to move out by April 25. By then I would have said my final goodbyes to the friends I’ve made along the way, many of whom I consider family. On April 25, I would have been prepared — financially, emotionally and mentally — to move out with the expected procedures and proper protocols. Being kicked out amidst a pandemic, however, is something I couldn’t have predicted.
The magnitude of the situation didn’t hit all at once. After Ryerson decided to switch all classes online, some people saw no point in staying in residence. One by one, they all went home. The moving out process for them would have been much calmer, knowing that they were doing it at their own pace.
I was worried after hearing classes were cancelled. But since Windsor, my home, is four hours away, I told myself that I was going to stay. With this much sudden free time, I figured it meant I could see my friends and boyfriend more often — but this was not the case.
As more cases of COVID-19 began to appear too close for comfort, I saw people begin panic buying and practising social distancing. I thought maybe I could just avoid going to crowded places such as the Student Learning Centre or the library, and not completely distance myself from my friends.
I have always been a homebody. I spent ample time decorating my dorm room and making it my sanctuary. I had never been more comfortable in a personal space than I was in my room in residence. Social distancing wasn’t so bad, and at this time the dining hall was only doing takeouts, so students were finally allowed to take food back to their dorm rooms. The workers treated us kindly. This system was entirely new — students were familiar with it, but staff took the time to carefully explain the situation and relieved the worry among all of us.
A person can only take so much “personal time” until they start to think about things they normally wouldn’t think about. I knew that we were advised to practise “social distancing” but I couldn’t help but overthink and assume that maybe my friends and I aren’t keeping in touch as we should, that I would lose my job and that we would soon be kicked out.
My job at the Andy Kufluk Equipment Distribution Centre was deemed non-essential. Students would have no need to rent out tech equipment since their projects would be conducted online instead.
The university was very accommodating and has paid for all of my cancelled shifts, and will continue to do so until the end of the winter semester. This alleviated some of the stress I had regarding my finances, since sudden unemployment would change my financial plans drastically. I’m upset that I wasn’t able to properly say goodbye to coworkers I was very close with as I knew I wouldn’t see them again after they graduate.
I have never cried more in my entire life than during the month of March. Many of my close friends had left residence already. I would soon be following suit, after we received notice that the province was in a state of emergency. All residents that were not international students were required to leave. We were given six days to vacate.
As soon as I got the message, I called my parents and cried. I had no idea what to do — I felt like I was on the brink of having a panic attack. But I also knew that there was no time to break down. I had to focus on coming up with a new plan.
Should I request an extended stay? Should I leave Toronto for a month, then come back when I get a job and rent my own place? Should I stay in Windsor for the majority of the summer, earn money and then find a place? Of course, if I did that, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my loved ones in Toronto for a while. And how can I get a job if everyone is getting laid off?
So many thoughts and worries ran through my mind and I had no answers while every possibility of my future was up in the air.
I found hope in a brief email that was sent to undergraduate journalism students by one of my instructors, which urged us to reach out and ask for help should we find ourselves in need of emergency funding. So that’s exactly what I did.
I stayed in touch with Lisa Taylor, the undergraduate program director of journalism, telling her about my situation. It wasn’t about wanting to stay in the city so that I could see my friends and significant other whenever I please. I can’t go home to either of my parents for reasons that are out of my control. There’s no space for me there.
I soon applied for Ryerson School of Journalism’s SOS Fund and was guaranteed enough money to pay rent for a month. By then, I expect to be employed and able to stand on my own.
Right now, my online classes are not my top priority — finding a home is. I could never replace the home that I found in residence, but I hope to feel safe and secure in one soon. However, I am still staying on top of the work I need to complete for school until the end of the semester. While professors have been kind enough to give students a week to ease the transition from in-person lectures to online classes, I wish that residence students were given more time to accommodate the process of moving out.
Although everything is still unclear, at this point I know that I’m going to be fine. Things will eventually go back to normal and recovery will take place as everything goes.