I was in the most glorious orchestra rehearsal when the news struck. It was the fourth last practice before our annual end-of-year concert and it seemed that everything was finally coming together. I aced the presto sixteen note runs in Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture for the first time; our conductor told us to savour the experience of the run through, as we may never have such a fantastic performance again; we all had the widest grins on our face. Then it broke. It was my standpartner who got the notification on her phone: “TDSB schools to close for two weeks after March Break due to COVID-19 pandemic”. She whispered the news to me, and it wound its way through the orchestra. We packed up. We said goodbye. We went home. We did all that thinking we’d be back in the music room in three weeks — picking up where we left off. How naive of us to think that the pandemic would follow our schedule. That rehearsal was the last time to played together. I think of that memory each time I pick up my violin to practice. I practice my solo pieces. I practice my scales. But I can’t bring myself to play that Fantasy Overture. It’s too painful, only hearing a solitary violin in my ears, instead of the warmth of a 40-piece orchestra beside me. But the sheet music is still there, tucked in a folder labelled high school music, waiting to be pulled out again when we get to come back together to give that performance we worked so hard for. 

– Joshua Chong, Senior Arts and Culture Editor 

I remember March 11th, 2020 like it was yesterday. Given the elasticity of time over this past year, it might as well have been. It was a Thursday, and I woke up with a cotton-stuffed head, mild chills, and an unavoidable dizziness whenever I sat down for too long. I comforted myself by thinking it was probably a season flu, and then made the smart decision to attend what would be my final in-person activity: Archaeology class at 11 AM. This is where I first heard the word “zoom” used in a professional context, as my professor considered a pre-emptive transition to online classes.

All my plans for the rest of the day were effectively cancelled, My friend advised me to err on the side of caution when we sat together at Strachan for lunch. When he learned I was feeling sick, he moved to the seat diagonally across from me, and then suggested I get tested. It’s nice to have smart friends. I spent the rest of my afternoon waiting on the phone with Toronto Public Health, hoping I hadn’t accidently caused an outbreak in the college. After two and a half hours listening to the same cheerful ringtone on loop, I got two minutes to talk with an attendant. I described my symptoms, and she replied in the most blasé fashion, “You don’t have COVID.” No test required, no further action needed on my part. It struck me what an efficient system this was. 

Although relieved, I spent the rest of the day sequestered in my room, on the off-chance that my seasonal flu wasn’t just a flu. My friends and I opted to order takeout rather than risk going to Strachan. They still assumed I might be infected, so one of them brought the Popeye’s box to my door. I wasn’t traditionally a fan of this fast-food establishment, but I couldn’t complain about comfort food at that moment – steaming cuts of chicken, grease dripping off with every bite, as I took the time to catch up on my Watch Later catalogue on YouTube, and then later my assigned class readings. As I prepared to vacate my dorm within the next two days, and my symptoms thankfully subsided, I wondered when I would next set foot in Strachan, or see his patinated bust in the Quad again. That basically set the tone for my forthcoming twelve months.

– Vikram Nijhawan, Arts and Culture Staff Writer

It was the evening of March the 24th as I went over the huge pile of books and notes next to my desk to complete my last review for my History Mock the next day as I heard my phone buzz a bit more than usual. Committed to complete my work, I ignored all distractions and went back to work when I heard my mom calling me to the living room. “Pakistan imposes a countrywide lockdown due to a surge of a new virus: COVID-19” read the headline of our local TV channel.

Shocked and confused, I picked up my phone to go over the recent updates. My school had emailed me that they will be postponing all exams until further notice. As a senior in high school, I was glad to not having to study for my mocks, but losing the last opportunity to say goodbye to 4 years of high school memories, friends and teachers was something I did not want to let go of. Many claimed that the lockdown was temporary, and we will be brought back to school soon, however, that did not happen. A week past and the situation became worse to a point that our farewell event and our postponed exams were declared canceled. Restaurants, shops, and parks all closed as the world in a matter of 2 weeks was completely shut down.

I did not have much experience in coping with a situation like this, since I did not know about Zoom or online learning, which when I transitioned to University became a huge concern for me. Different time zones and lack of interaction and socializing affected my performance and did not bring out the best of me, but it made me learn about how uncertain things can become in a matter of weeks. We should expect the unexpected. Looking back, I would tell the pre-pandemic Arham to take care of his mental health, take the most out of opportunities in such difficult times and adapt. Being versatile and acting according to situations is something not needed just in a pandemic but in life as well. We have the capacity to go through such difficult situations, we only need to find what best works for us and adapt.

– Arham Malik, Treasurer 

I was studying in my favourite cafe when the news broke. Group chats were firing up my phone, I took a sip of my coffee and tried to make sense of it all. I was informed that my debate meeting was cancelled that same night, and the next day, my cafe was closed. Shortly after, the university sends multiple emails updating on its closure and plans to move classes online. A week passed and most of my exams were cancelled, alongside my social plans and other curricular commitments. I struggled with severe anxiety trying to regain normalcy amidst the chaos. 

Today, my biggest flex is that I never caught the deadly virus. I did my part in following social distancing and lockdown protocols. I became a mother to two wonderful cats, found wonderful remote part time jobs to support myself and will be graduating from zoom university this spring. I have even received my first dose of the vaccine and am currently volunteering to support elders at a covid-19 vaccine clinic. However, this did not come easy to me at first.

If I could, I would definitely go back in time to tell myself to stop resisting change. I wish I did not try so hard to regain that elusive “sense of normal”. I remember refusing to attend online classes because it was not the same as in-person ones. I remember checking the news incessantly to find out when things will open again. I remember refusing to participate in social media pandemic activities like tik tok dance challenges and baking banana bread. I felt like my life was being robbed from my hands. I was holding on so tightly to what I had pre-pandemic, I lost sight of what truly mattered: I was healthy, had a roof over my head, was well-fed and loved by so many while thousands across the world were suffering. I would have told myself to embrace the change and take it as an opportunity to grow. 

– Deborah Wong, Senior Features Editor

Heading into March of 2020, my knowledge of COVID-19 was based on what I gleaned from whispers and speculations by friends, relatives, professors and people around campus. The words “pandemic” and “quarantine” started to appear everywhere, but I assured myself there was no way they would find any greater significance in my life. I even remember reading the headline on my phone about Canada’s first COVID-19 case and dismissing the notification, refusing to acknowledge this truth. I held on stubbornly to some bizarre hope that the virus would be contained before it could reach me or anyone I know and love.

Yet, on the day before UofT had officially announced the closure of its campuses, I felt the need to skip my lecture and hang out with a couple of friends from high school. I don’t quite remember what we did or what was said. I don’t believe I learned about the lockdown until after I got home that night. But, I remember walking around the Eaton Centre, enjoying myself during what would be the last time my friends and I would be together for a very long time. In retrospect, though I’d never recommend missing lectures near the end of the term, I’m glad I gave in to the impulse to skip class that day. And I’m glad I was able to spend one last “normal” day with my friends before the pandemic was no longer just a word thrown around in conversations, but an imposing, inevitable reality. 

More than a year later, I find it difficult to articulate the impact of COVID-19 on my life, especially because it brought multiple new experiences, both positive and negative. I would tell my pre-pandemic self to try things outside my comfort zone, spend more time with family, and to embrace every challenge in life instead of fearing the consequences. I’d also tell myself to purchase a journal or a video camera; our stories are absolutely worth recording! 

– Sai Rathakrishna, Co-Editor-in-Chief

It is often said that when something is too close, it becomes impossible to see it. The pursuit of goals, ambitions, and aspirations too often suffer from such blindness. 2020 was the year where everything came into perspective. As the enormity of life diminished, a newer focus and perspective was found.

The beginning of the pandemic represented an instantaneous disconnect from society, and by extension, from its norms and ceaseless repetitions. It took away everything that was and always had been granted, and it forced reflection, and most importantly, introspection, into the ways of life, which we blindly led.

As the large faded away, the small poignantly blazed into focus. 2020 was the only year where I remembered the first descent of the cold, soft, glisteningly pure white snow over the dark horizon, along with the sense of celebratory elation, which is the eternal companion of that time of year. It was the first time that I noticed the sweetness of breakfast muffins, the ethereal warmth of steaming tea, and the petrichor of rainy walks. I noticed the brush of the cold night air traversing through open windows, which brought with it a potent sense of nowness, which had erupted so prominently into our lives. Lives, which used to be bound in concerns so far, wide, and large, were, in a way, freed; freed from those concerns and those constraints; free to take flight and finally place the ‘now’ on the throne of our consciousness.

The pandemic brought a time where ‘2020’ or ‘2021’ mattered less, and Monday and Tuesday mattered more; where the days mattered less, and the hours mattered more; where the hours mattered less, and the moments mattered more. The year where I truly treasured the rustle of new textbook pages, and the beauty of highlighted text; where I cherished the sound of pen on paper, and the ideas to which it could give voice. The pandemic brought a time where I could truly appreciate the knowledge I had the privilege to encounter every single day.

2020 was the year, where I stopped to think. The year which turned us all from automatons to thinking, feeling, cognisant human beings. And through the loss, and through the fear, the resilient voice of optimism reminds that this was the greatest gift of the pandemic. The timeless, invaluable gift of perspective, for which I will remain eternally grateful.

–  Shruti Nistandra, Trinity News Associate Editor

            It still feels surreal to me how quickly everything changed when the pandemic reached Canada. At the time, I was in the middle of the most difficult term I’ve had at university (special shoutout to Advanced Classical Mechanics for having the hardest problem sets I have ever seen). I remember I was sitting in an early morning lecture when the news broke that UofT was shutting down to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Everyone’s phones started buzzing at once, as texts and emails began pouring in. Even our lecturer paused to see what was happening. I felt excited at the prospect of spending a few weeks at home and having some assignments cancelled, but a tad bit disappointed I’d miss the end of some of my favourite courses. Little did I know I would not only miss the rest of the school year, but also the summer, the next year, the graduation of most of my friends and many other important events. Little did I know we were about to experience the largest communal tragedy of this generation. If the pandemic has taught me one thing, it is the importance of having a larger perspective. School and work are not the be all and end all; the good times you spend with your family and friends are what matters most. If I can take one thing away from this horrible year, I hope I can learn to focus on the bigger picture and stop obsessing over the small unimportant parts of life.

– Ryan Ripsman, Staff Science Writer

The moment that my life would unalterably change for the future I am still not able to foresee, was a regular March Thursday. The provincials for fencing were being held at the National Exhibition that very weekend, my stats and performance had improved over the past two years enough for me to have a shot at the podium, this was the last year that I was able to compete in both the Junior and Senior age groups, and my mom was coming down from Oakville to watch me fence for the weekend. In addition, I finally felt like I had a grip on all my courses and was ready to plow into exam season. All in all, I was flying high. There were rumours of some “COVID” going around, but they had been swirling since January and nothing had happened yet – so we were definitely going to be fine. I showed up to fencing practice that evening when the news had already broken – provincials were canceled and it looked like university would follow suit. I remember that moment feeling like I stepped into a room of funhouse mirrors. I immediately called my roommate and mom (yes, in that order) in the cramped halls outside of the fencing salle and informed them of the ludicrous news. Not bothering to get my fencing bag from storage since I wouldn’t need to bring it into competition, I quickly got my things and left. The next 18 hours my roommate and I spent hunched over our laptops and refreshing updates about university closure. Finally getting the news about class cancellation the following morning, I frantically packed up my textbooks and made an escape to my parents’ suburban home. Little did I know, it would be another month before I saw my room and got all my remaining things and four months until I was able to retrieve my abandoned fencing bag. When I will get to set foot in the fencing salle and stab my beloved friends, remains to be seen.

Without a doubt, the past year has been a transition for all of us. From getting used to online classes, to realizing the incompetence of government agencies, to grieving the lives of millions of our fellow humans whose absence opened up a bottomless chasm that will be felt by the ones left behind for generations to come. What I wish I could say to the over-achieving and driven Mila Yarovaya of March 2020, and anyone who will benefit from this advice for that matter, is that this is not normal. The sooner that you can accept this, the sooner you can shed the expectations of what you are supposed to do and how you are supposed to behave. This is a once in a lifetime pandemic. No one knows how to function in it. And that’s the point. We as the youth and flowers of the nation, are already forced to re-examine ourselves and find a place within the unpredictable stream of our world, and doing so during a worldwide cataclysm is a task fit to rival the most hardy and well adjusted of us. So relax. Take a deep breath, and take it easy. You are not obligated to thrive during this time of uncertainty and trauma. Take the small wins as they come, and let go of the concept of normalcy. All will be well – incalculably but certainly. 

To be frank, I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when I first heard the news. All I remember was an overwhelming need to go home, and lucky for me I could. My family lives in Toronto, a straightforward TTC ride away. I remember the novelty of my newfound independence as I traipsed through my childhood home, and my parents were so excited to have me around – my brother not so much. There were a lot of hugs, and laughs, and late-night conversations in those first few days, because we told ourselves this was going to be over soon. But that clearly did not happen, and the novelty of what I had hoped would be a temporary stay turned into a permanent one.

I think I can best characterize this pandemic through this interaction I had with my family last week. My mother reminded my father taxes we’re due soon to which he replied,

“I’ve been meaning to do that,” to which I then responded, dumbfounded – 

“but we just did our taxes.”

So to my pre-pandemic self, yes, the days are going to blend together, some days you’re going to have great conversations with great people, some days you’ll learn really interesting new things, some days you’ll tell yourself to start a workout challenge and learn Italian, and then you won’t. And that’s okay. You’re allowed to pause, even if the only reason you’re pausing is because the world forced you to. You don’t have to come to some greater sense of reality, or morality, or rejuvenated sense of purpose, sometimes it’s enough to just exist in this liminal space the pandemic has created for us.

– Rachel Chen Senior News Editor (former)

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