A pandemic love story

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A pandemic love story

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I was only a month into dating a British guy here in Australia on a working holiday visa when the pandemic started affecting countries outside of China. The battle that China was facing at the time seemed far, far away, as if it could never reach us all the way here in Australia. For a lot of young people like myself, we continued our daily lives, a little anxious, alert but otherwise content with our circumstances. So far, we were free. At university, a friend once proclaimed, ‘it’s okay, even if we were to get it, for young people, it’s just like the common cold, which is another form of coronavirus anyway.’ Things progressed extremely fast of course. From announcement of the first identified case in Australia, it was a matter of people frantically tuning in to the news every single day and night, talking with neighbours and phoning relatives overseas as we eagerly awaited the next steps of prime minister Scott Morrison. At first, Australia was hesitant to respond, with Morrison and health officials calmly addressing the nation on news. But surely, as the number of cases in Australia grew from 1 to 30 to 150 by March 19, the borders shut, shops closed and we became housebound. Stage 1 restrictions had begun. It’s hard to believe that since then, I’ve completed an entire semester, 9 weeks of university, online.

Just a few days before these restrictions began on March 19-20, my boyfriend and I, having only been dating 1 month, went through a rough patch causing me to break off the relationship. Then, once lockdown began, his workplace closed and he realised he had insufficient savings to last more than a month of rent and expenses in Melbourne. Being a UK citizen, he was also not entitled to the stream of government financial benefits that had recently initiated. He didn’t even have Medicare so if he were to suddenly fall ill, he wouldn't be able to afford basic medical care. After pouring his heart out to me about all this, I knew that the best thing for him was to fly back to the UK. In my mind, we were over and there was no reason for him to stay and suffer in Australia. However, stubbornly and against my advice, he insisted on staying if I gave him another chance because he wanted to resolve our issues and continue the relationship. He wanted to show me that he’s not the type of guy to leave when things get tough (bit dramatic, yes). He also knew that if he left, he wouldn’t be able to return to Australia, because of his type of visa. For him, there was literally no advantage in staying: no work, no savings, no family. All he had was me, and the prospect of our relationship. For whatever reason, he decided that that was worth fighting for, amid a global pandemic and financial hardship.

After many long conversations back and forth, he convinced me that it was indeed possible for him to stay because he was willing to do whatever it took, even borrowing money from family, an idea that normally revolts him. Meanwhile, I realised I didn't want to give up on our relationship. I wanted him beside me, especially during this uncertainty. I knew that a guy willing to stay in a country for you, is a guy you only meet once in a lifetime. So, I gave him another chance and we fought to get through.

For 2 months, this is what our lives looked like:
- Him, cooped up in his apartment with his flatmates, playing videogames, applying for jobs here and there, checking for updates and praying that the government would offer any help to temporary visa holders
- Me, cooped up in my suburban home, watching online lectures, bonding with my family, exercising, baking
- Me, buying him food and groceries when I could
- Us, Facetiming, every night, making each other laugh, planning all the things we’d do when restrictions lifted and addressing uncomfortable topics with a pandemic sense of urgency
- Us, meeting up twice a week, spending the entire day together just driving around in my car, taking away food and coffee, feeding off each other’s presence in this lonely time
- Us, without the hussle and bustle of ‘normal’ life, getting to know each other deeply and authentically. You can’t hide behind your work mask or your social mask during lockdown.

Where we are now, 4 months later. We are going strong. Our issues are past us, and he has been nothing but amazing and supportive. He managed to find work again and received a rent grant. Financially, he has survived. Restrictions in Australia have lifted, restaurants are open for dine-in, sports matches are re-opening and groups of up to 20 can now gather in a home. Things are finally looking up. He is hoping to find farm work soon, which everyone on a working holiday visa must do in order to stay a second year.

This whole experience has been surreal. This isn’t the first time the world has witnessed a pandemic but it’s certainly the first time entire countries have gone into lockdown. At the age of 22, I never thought my relationship would develop alongside a pandemic. I’m so grateful I’ve had someone to share this experience with. More importantly, I’ve learned that when an amazing thing or person comes into your life, to hold on and fight for it because at the end of the day, all we have is our health, and our love for people.
Melbourne, Australia, London, UK, love, sentimental, personal, unemployment, job, work, working holiday visa, temporary visa

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This item was submitted on June 18, 2020 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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