COVID-19

Three Victorians on their pandemic year

The pandemic's effects have been felt in every facet of society. We speak to three people about how they've managed this year

COVID-19

Three Victorians on their pandemic year

The pandemic's effects have been felt in every facet of society. We speak to three people about how they've managed this year

Kat Mitchell / Submitted
COVID-19

Three Victorians on their pandemic year

The pandemic's effects have been felt in every facet of society. We speak to three people about how they've managed this year

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Three Victorians on their pandemic year
Kat Mitchell / Submitted

One year in, the pandemic has upended life for billions of people around the world in such a variety of ways that to try to capture it would be futile. So instead, we’ve gone small: we spoke to three people—a student, a fulltime mom, and a business owner—to understand how their lives have changed this year. 

What follows is an edited transcript of their conversations with Jackie Lamport and Emily Vance, producers of the Capital Daily podcast. You can listen to the full episode here or below.

How has the pandemic changed your life? Send us a voice recording at jackie@capitaldaily.ca if you want to be featured in an upcoming bonus episode. 

Lilly Jones—Fourth-year political science major at UVic

Photo: Lilly Jones / Submitted

Jackie: You have completed three years of school before the pandemic. How has your last year been? 

Lilly: Yeah, my previous three years have been drastically different to the last year. I think the biggest change has been, I mean one, the social aspect of going into classes and sitting with people that you know and being able to have conversations about the subject matter that you're learning with, but then also just like the learning framework as a whole.

It's so hard to build connections with teachers. I'm supposed to be asking professors for a lot of recommendations and I'm either going to be asking teachers who haven't seen me for two years or teachers who have seen me on a screen and that kind of bridges a whole other set of issues outside of the classroom for students moving on to postgraduate degrees. 

Jackie: So, you're still not in class but you're in housing. What's it like with other students? And how's that like with social interaction? I mean, university is such a social time. 

Lilly: Yeah. It's limited. I think it's interesting because I think prior to the pandemic, I had my group of friends, but I would say a large portion of my social interaction came from people who I wouldn't really classify as friends. They're not people that I would hang out with outside of class, but they were a huge part of my social life because I did see them, you know, three, four times a week. We'd sit next to each other in class. We'd talk about things that mattered. And that was a huge part of my social life that has just been taken away. 

Jackie: You said you have a co-op as well. Is that all virtual?

Lilly: Yeah, I actually work for Royal Jubilee hospital. I work in the equity office, and so I've been at home pretty much this whole time. We pop into the office, like if we absolutely have to, but I would say I've been in like a handful of times and I started in December.

Jackie: Wow. So you're working and going to school, all virtually, and living alone. That's gotta be an interesting experience. 

Lilly: Yeah—in hindsight, maybe not the best decision. It's been very bizarre, especially because I had to quarantine for two weeks coming back into the country. I feel like I'm coming back to university again for the first time and learning how to be an adult again.

Jackie: This is a bit of a bummer question, but does it feel like you kind of lost a really vital year in your life? 

Lilly: Yeah, it does. Especially because I'm graduating and everything and I'm not going to have a graduation ceremony. I'm a first generation college student, so that would have been a very important thing for both my parents to enjoy.

Jackie: What are you thinking about going forward? You're looking at your next steps and I think you mentioned that you were going to go to another program.

Lilly: Yeah, I got accepted into the human rights law program at the University of Edinburgh, so I'm kind of toying with the idea of either deferring for a year or going in September. So yeah, it's kind of like, do I want to go through the stress of finding a post-graduate job or kind of just want to push all for now?

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Jackie: It's I guess, it's difficult to navigate. Especially right now where jobs don't seem as accessible as they were before. 

Lilly: It is a point of anxiety in my life. 

Jackie: Is that something that most of the students in your year are talking about and worried about?

Lilly: Yeah, for sure. I think it's an ongoing joke that political science undergrads are unemployable, like just to begin with, and then you throw in a pandemic and it's like, “oh, well, okay. This is a nice way to spice things up.” 

Kat Mitchell—Mother of four children

Photo: Kat Mitchell / Submitted

Jackie: Tell me about what your life was like before the pandemic. 

Kat: Yes, “the before times.” This time, last year, just before lockdown, I was about 12ish weeks pregnant with my fourth child. My oldest was in kindergarten and it was just the beginning of spring break. I have my two middle kids who at the time were three and a half and one and a half, and I was pregnant. Our daily life was pretty busy, as you can imagine.

There's lots of wonderful community events. Every day we were at a kinder jam or the YMCA. We’re enthusiastic members there. They would go to play care and I could do my spin class or a bar class. Out and about a lot, I was a stay at home mom who did not stay home super frequently. My kids are like border collies. I’ve got to run them or they're going to chew my furniture. 

Jackie: How did things change then for you? Once, everything started closing down?

Kat: Very dramatically. We started spring break and it basically just didn't end. 

Jackie: We're still in it. 

Kat: Yeah. We're still in that spring break. We had actually planned to go away. My parents live in Delta, so our plan was to go spend a week in Vancouver and go do Science World. So we abruptly had to cancel our trip. That was when it really felt real for me. Then all of our stuff closed down. We couldn't go to tumble bums. All the kinder gyms were closed down. The Y adjusted where there wasn't childcare, and once the childminding minding is closed, it sort of eliminates that as an option for me. My kids are great at a lot of things. Spin class is not one of them. 

So there was eight weeks at the beginning where. We didn't see anyone. We didn't even see my husband's parents who are very involved in our childcare. Fortunately my husband works for the department of national defense as a civilian, his work actually shut down. So he was home, which made it easier for me to go to my medical appointments. Like I said, I was, uh, I guess about three months pregnant when everything shut down. But he couldn't come to our anatomy scan for the ultrasound. 

Jackie: What was it like giving birth in a hospital right now? 

Kat: Our daughter, Emily was born July 29th in 2020, so right in the middle of it all, and it was, it was intense. It was weird because even our midwives were wearing masks.

But yeah, it was, everything had an extra step to it. Everything required, extra sanitizing, it was harder to get things, you know, there was an extra step in between getting water and things like that. They didn't have straws and it was just, it was interesting. We couldn't reuse cups because they don't want you taking a cup you just drank out of and refilling it. So that was, that was weird. 

Jackie: How's it been for the older kids? 

Kat: My second oldest, James, he's now four and a half, and I would say he notices it the most. He has commented that he wishes we could have play dates. He talks about after COVID, he talks about his birthday party this year. It's in August so he's jumping the gun a little bit. Last year we had to have it outdoors, which I mean it's August, so it was fine. We could only have his cousins and his siblings, which, I mean, he has a lot of siblings, so that's kinda nice. But he talks about who's going to come to his birthday party this year, and he misses play dates. He stopped liking soccer when it went back to where the kids couldn't interact with each other. They had to stay in their little square. So I think he's the most impacted. Fortunately he does have his siblings to play with, so when he's alone, he's kinda happy to be alone. 

My oldest who is in grade one now at Happy Valley Elementary, he is really fine with it. None of them express any fear. I mean, my two and a half year old she's not really super aware of it, but the boys definitely. They don't talk about being scared of catching the virus or us catching the virus. And we've really tried to frame it as, it's our responsibility to make sure that we do what we can to make our community safe. So he has no issues wearing his mask to go into a store or anything. He has no issues with the protocols at school. We've had to tell him to chill on the hand-washing a little bit while we're at home. We're like, no, no, it's fine. It's just us. 

It's probably a lot harder on me than it is on the kids. They're really resilient, especially because they're so young. They're really malleable at that age. It almost feels like it's always been that way for them at that age. Bridget, who is a two and a half, she doesn't really have memories before. She was only 18 months when everything kind of locked down. So it is weird to think that for her, this is her default. She doesn't remember going to kinder gyms all the time where the boys can remember that. 

And I mean, Emmy has no clue. I mean, most of the adults she sees wear masks. I assume it'll make her really good at reading facial expressions. She'll be like that guy from Lie To Me where she's like able to, she’s a human lie detector, because she can read my current expressions. So it's like, you know, hopefully her superhero origin story. 

Nobody will be able to lie to the entire generation.

Jackie: What's your life been like as an adult? 

Kat: My dream job is staying at home with my kids. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to like a small litter of children and I wanted to stay home full-time and fortunately my husband was very much on board with that; it's something we planned out. 

I do think I have a really good situation. I have a husband who was at home almost full-time with me who is my best friend. We get along very well, which you find out for sure if that's happening, when you're in lockdown with three small kids and your pregnant wife. We're like, oh, we can, we can probably last through anything now. 

I just have to kind of suck it up and be the grownup. I don't want to be the grownup—I want to cry and eat candy for several days. So I think that it's been, it's definitely been the hardest year of my parenting and my adult life, I would say. I will be glad when the pandemic is over.

Rob Harris—Owner of Seaberry Garden and Flower

Photo: Rob Harris / Submitted

Emily: One year into the pandemic. How has your day-to-day changed? 

Rob: We're so much busier and we don't quite understand why we're so much busier other than maybe more gardeners, or people growing food, people not being able to travel. So they're, you know, spending time in their yard, improving their outside spaces.

And people are indoors in their home, new home offices, and they want to add a bit of greenery on the inside. So I guess in a nutshell would explain why we're busier. We're just, we're just thankful that our customers are understanding, because we can only hold so many people in each location and we can only have so many staff on.

Emily: When did things start to change? When did you start to notice that it was getting busier and busier? 

Rob: Oh, right away in March. We started getting busier and even this March we’re twice as busy as we were last March. We can't explain it, but it is what it is.

We're just trying to keep up with demand, which is difficult because so many of our suppliers are having the same issue, keeping up with demand because all the garden centres seem to be busy. Outdoor stuff is just flying off the shelf and people are asking for things so much earlier. Seeds have been so popular. 

Emily: What about you personally? What's changed in your life over the past year? 

Rob: No holidays, working full-time. Seven days a week. Just nonstop. There's always something for me to do. You try to take a part of a day off, but you get a phone call; there's a delivery.

So that's been challenging, but you know what? I'm not complaining at all. I'm just happy to be working, happy to have staff on.

Emily: It sounds like there have been some silver linings for sure for you. 

Rob: Oh, for sure. Yeah. It's I think the whole industry, it's been a silver lining for the whole garden industry. There's a lot of growers who have come back from years of debt, me included.

Emily: What was the moment when you knew things were going to change from here on out?

Rob: My partner was in China and eight flights were canceled. So it was a bit of a struggle for him to get out of China, just as the airlines were starting to shut down. 

We maybe hit a bit of a panic button and we canceled some orders. And in hindsight, oh man, we shouldn't have done that because we needed that product. But we didn't know, like the government really, provincial or federal, nobody was telling us anything.

And then finally the BC government came and said that we were an essential service. So, you know, we just started putting up barriers, you know, washing our hands, sort of putting things in place for people.

Emily: What are you looking forward to? 

Rob: I think, you know, we hope that the busy-ness continues that's for sure. I mean, it's been a blessing. So for the most part, just back to normal regular routines.

And if we have to have barriers up and have customers stand six feet apart still for, for a while yet that's okay.

A holiday—a holiday would be nice. 

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