The Pandemic Papers: Jasleen Toor

Jasleen Toor

This essay is part of a series of reflections by UTM visual studies students about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The essay collection will be donated to Heritage Mississauga where it will become part of the city’s official historical record of everyday life during the global health crisis. Read the full series here >

Third-year Communication, Culture, Information & Technology student Jasleen Toor writes about her experiences in the early days of the pandemic, about missing her daily school commute and the difficulties of physical distancing in a household where both parents are essential service workers.

Locked in on Pause. Quarantine sucks. I finished Netflix. I signed up for Crave, HBO and Amazon Prime Video trials. Probably texted every basketball player who participates in the text community and joined every Instagram Live. I’ve also ordered Domino’s Pizza and Moon Sushi almost every night. Pineapple pizza and spicy salmon rolls are really it. No, I will not step on the scale.

I’m the type of person who needs routine. I enjoy my hour-long commute to campus. It’s my opportunity to listen through full album releases and balance my shaking chai tea latte that I grab between bus transfers. It’s my sanity.

Not much of my habits have changed. Normally, I stay in bed watching shows but I had to reach the end of Netflix at the start of quarantine.

The house is full. My older sister is laid off. My younger sister flew home from UBC, and my 8-year-old brother thinks he’s an Airbender. “Shaking my head” emoji. This is week 3 of my quarantine. Typically, I identify as an introvert, but this whole month has made me appreciate the privilege of stepping outdoors and seeing my friends when I could. I’ll be honest—at first, I didn’t understand what was happening. As soon as the NBA suspended games, I woke up.

Life is on Pause. Living through such a critical and unsure time makes daily routine difficult. There is no looking forward to anything, I can only wait to hear for a vaccine. I’m not one to read through news. It’s too early to grasp what every person is going through.

On my drives to and from the grocery store, I get looks. Living in Oakville as an Indian is not fun. I’d love to parade the acceptance of diversity in Canada, as it really has progressed. In times of crisis, people become savages. This ‘brave new world’ resorts to old Neanderthal habits. A pandemic where we have a toilet paper shortage? Capitalism takes over as overpricing and rationing conflict.

The world isn’t resetting. It is on pause. People are quick to point fingers, and the meme about Jesus taking a vacation only to find out that a Chinese person ate a bat is the pinnacle of our culture.

Social distancing and isolation practicing can be challenging. My parents both work in “essential” operations. The jobs require both of them to leave the house and interact with clients. I’m young, I’m healthy. I’ll survive Covid-19. But if my mom catches a symptom, she’ll pass it on to a patient at her old age clinic. We are all connected so easily and yet there is so much confusion about what is and is not acceptable.

The transition into isolation is not ideal. I’m fortunate enough to have a home, rent paid and a healthy family life. I feel for the ones who struggle. As the cases of coronavirus increase, I’m sure the rate of alcoholism and suicide will also increase. My take-away from this experience is not to police my friends and neighbours. If I see you outdoors, I know you’re out there for a reason that does not warrant explanation. During crisis, all rights of privacy between people are erased. The separation between community and individuals grows.

This time of uncertainty hasn’t created an opportunity for me to slow down and relax. Being crammed in my room, the stress of tasks starts to overwhelm. Assignment, paper, quiz, repeat. There are good days and then there come the very bad days. Sometimes I just want to be able to sleep in and maybe even sleep all day. Being the one to now cook two meals a day for my brother and I is just another task I did not need. The responsibilities are not what I signed up for. It’s hard to appreciate the life we have when as soon as a vaccine is discovered, the world will once again be polluted.

Everyone is waiting for life to go on. What if this is our new normal? This could be the future. It’s a stressful time to find purpose when there is no motivation. Was the gym the only thing keeping me from eating at all hours of the day? This quarantine has made me more aware of my surroundings and more aware of my bad habits.

Life Un-Paused. The world needs a break. It needs to take care of itself and it needs love. It’s difficult to stay positive and hopeful when I’m just counting down until life can be un-paused. The biggest loss in the end is if we come out on the other side of this unchanged.