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Stewart Colin John (CJ) Harford – Gisborne

“Living with my friends was a good thing about Level 4, but there were things that were not very good, so I had to get out of there. But that was okay, I have always been unsettled, always ready to move, it’s just what I was used to.

There were times during Lockdown when I was scared out of my mind, but I tried to be positive. Knowing I had this home to go to made me feel safe. Strong.

At the start of it all, I was pretty confused, then it just got really, really boring. I passed the time playing games like Warframe, Grand Theft Auto V, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Mass Effect: Andromeda, TERA and my favourite, Minecraft.

I didn’t have any space, no privacy, but it was semi-stable so that was a good thing. I was also lucky to have my partner, Tristan, who lives in Canada. We kept in touch and that helped a lot. We really care about each other and he’s been with me all the way.

Throughout my life, I’ve lived in more than 30 places and you’d think that all the bad situations I have been in would make me a bad person, but it hasn’t. I still try to be a caring person and try to make people laugh.

When I got told that I had my own flat with a new flatmate, Alan, it was amazing! I could have my own place, my own things. I could finally settle.

I can flip, I can have a bit of a breakdown, but I tend to turn on myself. I wanted more stability to prevent that from happening and now I have that.

Before Lockdown I was already doing lots of new things. I was getting budget advice, whizzing through my literacy course, and going to polytechnic to learn about life skills and horticulture.

It was good to get back to all that again and after Lockdown finished, I also got to go back to yoga on Fridays. I love it, it’s so relaxing I just about fall asleep.

And I have a job! Every Friday I help set up and pack down the yoga room so that is two hours of work every week.

Now I have my own money it makes a huge difference. We are going to plant trees tomorrow and I was able to go and buy some gumboots. Brand new! I could get my own television, my own cell phone, and my own PlayStation.

I just used to sit in my room, not eating, so I was really skinny. My aim to get fatter is coming true!

Now I feel so free, I feel like I finally have a chance to trust my support people, to talk about the things that have happened to me. Having people in my life today that I know are going to be there tomorrow is awesome.

Doing the right thing during Lockdown, even when things were very bad, reminded me of how capable I am, how tough I can be.

It was worth it to get where I am now and this year, I actually get to have a birthday party. I have never had many, I didn’t even get a 21st, so it is going to be amazing to have a special celebration.

For our after-Lockdown superhero party, I wanted to dress up as Sans, from the game Undertale, because of his superpowers of positivity and resilience.

He might look weak but, like me, he’s actually very, very strong. And he always tries to do the right thing.” – 17 September 2020

  • This article appeared in Life in a Pandemic, a book about disabled and autistic people in Covid-19 Lockdown, 2020. © Life Unlimited Charitable Trust (now knowns as Your Way | Kia Roha).

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