by Virginia Ling
Toronto, ON

It was late April and it had been a month since COVID took over 2020 and (most of) humanity was put into lockdown. I was back home in Toronto after my short stint of an exchange in the UK and it was hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, I was sipping Earl Gray and dreaming about the Queen’s fluffy corgis.

It was also hard to believe that in a couple weeks I was going to be graduating. 
Sure it’d be on Zoom and I’d be in my pyjamas receiving my diploma from the mailman, but congratulations were in order, I think.

Despite the pandemic raging outside, life felt pretty ordinary.

I was sprawled on my bed, my laptop balancing precariously on my stomach as I checked my email for refunds for my cancelled trip to Poland.

There was nothing. Figures.

But there was something else – a bright and bold email from my employer asking for a call.

I froze.

I was supposed to start my full-time marketing job in a month, but if COVID taught us anything it was that “supposed to” meant almost nothing.

No matter how excited I was for this job, I knew millions were already laid off and it was possible that my number had finally come up.

I glanced at the email again and a wave of dread washed over me.

A small part of me desperately hoped that my employer was calling to reassure me that everything was okay - my job offer was still in place and guess what this whole call was actually just a prank and we’d laugh it off and I’d continue my day with my job offer intact.

None of that happened.

My job offer was rescinded and even though it was nobody’s fault, all I could feel was frustration.
Years of schooling and painful recruiting all added up to a ten minute call where I had to pretend like the news didn’t bother me. Months of planning and excitement for the future just so I could pretend to my ex-employer that I was confident that I’d be fine.

I told myself that I shouldn’t be upset. It was bound to happen, wasn’t it?
People more experienced than me were getting laid off, why would I be any different?

But I was still devastated.

I knew compared to many others who lost their jobs, I was still lucky. I didn’t have bills to pay or 2.4 children and a dog to feed. I was grateful for my privilege.

But it was hard to feel grateful.

I didn’t think I’d cry over a job I never had, but I did.

For a while, I didn’t want to tell people.

Even though none of it was my fault, I was still embarrassed. When I got the job, I told a lot of people how happy I was and the prospect of telling others that it was all gone made me ashamed.

I was the only one out of all my friends without a job and there was a small piece of pride within me was terrified of being pitied.

Eventually, it got to the point where keeping it a secret started to hurt. Friends would tell me how lucky I was to still have my job and I just couldn’t keep up the charade.

So, I told them the truth.

I wasn’t sure what I expected, but their response made me forget why I was even reluctant to tell them in the first place.

However. There was this voice whispering in my ear. A smooth, sinister voice that that compared to them, I still didn’t have a job. 

And I felt insecure.

I was not the type to romanticize work, but once everyone had a job, I felt like I needed one too to feel complete. Every time someone talked about being busy at work, I yearned to feel busy too.  I didn’t want to be left behind.

Not having a job made me feel like one of those kids left out in the playground because they weren’t wearing Aeropostale or didn’t have a cool phone with a sliding keyboard to text with.

It was frustrating.

And it was lonely.  

I had no motivation to look for a new job. I was tired and apathetic - I didn’t feel like myself at all. 

I gave myself a hard time for that. 

I constantly thought about how motivated and busy I was back in University. I didn’t understand how I could go from constantly running around campus and waking up at 5am to study for a quiz, to never moving from the couch and using as few brain cells as humanly possible.

I thought about everyone else waking up before noon to actually contribute to society and I felt guilty.

Fortunately, I wasn’t alone.

After a lot of convincing from friends (like a lot - the shortness of this paragraph understates just how much convincing it took), I somehow gathered the nerve to make a change.

I chugged coffee every morning, pumped out personalized cover letters like a machine, and showered the networks of the world with my LinkedIn requests.

For the first time in a while, I felt a sense of optimism.

Then I remembered how difficult the job hunt was.

And boy, was it difficult.

There were days when my hand physically could not write another cover letter. There were days when I couldn’t even be bothered to read the job description, so I’d just throw my resume in there regardless and tell myself I was being productive.

If I were lucky, I’d get a generic rejection email. But for the most part, I was completely ghosted.

It was hard to stay optimistic. I would think about all the unemployed individuals with much more experience than me competing for the same entry-level jobs.

I questioned if there was a point to any of this recruiting.

After a long, long, long time. I had to accept that there were going to be hard days.

Sometimes it was hard to be hopeful, but no matter how delusional I felt I was being, I had to believe that getting a job in this mid-pandemic economy was still possible. 

I had to keep trying.

I tried.

I failed.

And I tried some more.

I had writtten so many cover letters, and even most of them didn’t result in anything, I could feel myself improving. The cover letters I could write now were lightyears ahead of the ones I wrote at the beginning of the summer. 

There was progress. 


To the Class of 2020, the world sure is challenging us isn’t it.

A lot of things didn’t pan out the way we had hoped. And it’s going to sound cliche, but we can’t give up. 

If there is one takeaway from this, it’s that people are here to help. Friends, acquaintances, family members - It can be awkward to reach out sometimes, but the payoff makes it worth it. Just having someone look over your resume, offer career advice, or prep for interviews can make a huge difference. I used to hate asking people for help, and sometimes it’s still awkward, but I can confidently say that it’s helped me a lot. 

You’re not alone.A

We’re the Class of 2020 and we’ll get through this.


Virginia is a Business and Psychology student at Western University in London, ON, the former serial killer capital of the world. Before the pandemic, she was on exchange in the UK, indulging in her passion for tea. Now she sits at home “studying,” sharing unfunny content with friends, and dreaming of one day taking long walks on the beach. When answering questions about what she does with her time, her responses are most commonly met with the thought-provoking question, “why” - a mystery that has yet to be solved.

Social Distanziner - Toronto, ON