Complied by Dauna Ditson

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The Pioneer caught up with recent valley graduates to ask how they’re coping with COVID-19, what it means for their sense of freedom and how their plans for the future may have changed as a result.

Katie Watt, our former intern, has found plenty to enjoy as her university classes shifted online and as she moved home to Fairmont.

Paiten White and Ryan McIntosh (pictured) feel crowded in their Kelowna apartment but their career plans (cinematography for Ryan) and (culinary arts for Paiten) remain solid.

All three are optimistic about their post-COVID-19 futures.

Katie Watt

I understand that I am incredibly fortunate to be able to say this, but in many ways this pandemic has changed my life for the better. My life is going at a much slower pace than it was a couple of months ago when I was in university. Yes, I still have online classes that I am occasionally stressed about, but I think being in the midst of a global pandemic has really put a lot of things into context for me. I see life differently when I know that my health, and the health of those around me, could potentially deteriorate very quickly. I guess what I’m trying to say is that being constantly reminded that I have an expiration date has made me savour life much more.

I guess it’s pretty fair to assume that COVID-19 has limited my freedom. After all, I’m barely allowed to leave my house, and I can’t see my friends; I’m completely dependent on the government for income, and I’m back living with my mother. Yet, ironically, I feel more free than I have in months. While I was attending university, I was independent but I didn’t feel free. There was a lot more I could do, but very little of it, I felt, actually added meaning to my life because I knew that I was attending university largely because I felt I should have been, and not because I actually wanted to be. Now, however, with so much time on my hands, I feel like I am doing the things I really want to be doing. Well, most of the time, at least. This whole situation has made me more focused on needs than wants, and it has made me feel closer with the community. Sure, having to stay in doesn’t give me the freedom to go out and do as I please, but it does give me freedom from sickness. In a situation like this, I think that’s what is most important.

I’ve moved back to Fairmont from Victoria, where I was attending university, to live with my mother. My brother, who was in his first year of military training at a forces base in Quebec, has also moved back. Despite everything that’s going on, we aren’t unhappy. In fact, I haven’t seen my mother this content in years, and I can’t remember the last time my brother and I had this good of a relationship.

When I returned to the valley from university, I had four online final exams to do. Thankfully, I now only have two left. Very little of my time has been devoted to studying for them as all of them are open book, and I also can’t find the motivation to do any more than the bare minimum required to pass. Aside from school work, I don’t usually do anything remarkable. I’ve definitely had a lot more time to draw and exercise. I’ve found it challenging, sometimes, to make use of my time in what feels like a fulfilling way. For example, it’s much more fulfilling to spend my time reading than it is to watch a man on YouTube cover 2000’s rock on a flute he carved out of a melon (, yet the flute man wins every time.

Maintaining relationships has been one of the biggest challenges for me. I’m honestly pretty bad at maintaining relationships over phone and text even when there isn’t a global pandemic, so this is something I’ve been trying to work on. Sometimes I’ll FaceTime with friends, but most of the time I’ll just end up having conversations with friends over text that are drawn out over several days. Another thing I’ve been doing to stay social has been perusing apps like Tinder and Bumble. I’m not looking to get a relationship out of it, but I think it’s fun to talk to strangers online in order to get a glimpse at what their experience of this situation is like. Plus, some of the COVID-19 pick up lines have been pretty funny (ie: “If coronavirus doesn’t take you out, can I?”).

I’m very thankful, however, to be living with people at the moment. I’m actually very happy with having only my mother and brother to socialize with. My relationship with my brother has gotten a lot better. My mom and I have always been close, and it’s nice to be living with her again because she’s the only person I feel that it’s okay for me to terrorize. That feeling is mutual, however. For example, when my mother stole my food the other day, I dumped half a bottle of red food colouring in her coffee to get back at her. Really, it has been a great time.

As for my relationships with friends, a lot of them, I’m finding, are hard to maintain. With a lot of my friendships, we would mostly communicate in person. Now that isn’t an option, it has definitely been difficult to adapt to a more digital relationship, but we’re finding new ways to make things work. I think all of us are operating under the knowledge that these social distancing protocols are temporary, so I’m confident that my relationships with people will remain strong until there comes a time when we can resume regular interaction.

The current situation has made me much more aware of what my values are, and I think that will certainly influence any future decisions I make. This pandemic has fortified my, and many others’, belief that what was considered ‘normal’ before the current situation unfolded was not working. In the future, I think I will do as much as I can – which is more than I would have done before – to make the world a better place by integrating some of the lessons I have learned from this crisis.

Paiten White and Ryan McIntosh

It is a very odd time for both of us as we expected to be thrown into the world, get jobs and start building careers. Now we wait for the crisis to die down and for things to go back to normal. We can’t be nearly as independent at this point in time and bring in enough income for ourselves. We are lucky to have the support of our parents in this time, however some are not so lucky. We can’t imagine what less fortunate young adults are going through at this point in time. We feel stuck right now, just waiting for information regarding COVID-19 to be released. We feel trapped in our home just waiting to proceed with our lives.

Both of us had plans regarding work and income post graduation, however with the current circumstances our plans have become a bit skewed. With no places open to rent camera gear, Ryan is unable to do any sort of filming. He is currently exploring other options for work until the pandemic blows over. Ryan was supposed to graduate on March 21, 2020 but due to the changes COVID-19 has brought upon our lives, his graduation has been postponed until later this summer. Paiten is studying her culinary arts course online.

Currently we live together in an apartment. Although not too bad, it feels a bit cramped when you’re spending all your time inside. The rent is reasonable and we are fortunate to have support from our families to help pay.

Both of us have been keeping in contact with our families through the internet, FaceTime and texting. Both relationships with the people we’re living with and the relationships with the people we’re away from are being strengthened due to these circumstances. We look forward to when we can share time together with our loved ones face to face.

We are both doing fine. We are trying to keep busy and be productive during the day. Of course everyone’s mental health is wearing down during these times but we try to stay positive. Paiten has been spending most of her time tending to her little garden on the balcony as well as doing some arts and crafts to keep herself busy. She’s also been practicing her culinary-arts schooling at home by cooking and baking. Ryan has been working on his final school project and fine tuning it. In our spare time we’ve been trying to go for walks and soak up the sun and making the most of our time.

For us, not much has changed. We still intend to work as soon as we can and we look forward to it. The future is still the same for both of us, and this minor setback shouldn’t change anything in the long run. In fact, once production starts up again for video there should be lots of work popping up everywhere. Same goes for the food industry. Once this blows over, things will go back to normal but we’ll be a little stronger.