By Nick Bernard
Hi, I’m Nick – reporter for the Haliburton Echo and Minden Times.
That’s how almost all of my conversations have started over the past few months. That first half is easy enough to get around – it’s a standard greeting followed by my name. It’s the second half, where I say that I’m an actual reporter for a real-life newspaper, that still absolutely blows my mind every time it passes through my brain and pops out of my mouth.
See, 18 months ago, I was living in Hamilton. I’d just moved out of a rickety old house near Tim Hortons Field to a newly renovated apartment in a soon-to-be-completely-gentrified part of town. I figured at the time I’d veg out there for a year before breaking into podcasting or voice acting or something, all the while keeping my funky little radio job where I was writing ad copy for hundreds of clients.
That Monday, less than 24 hours after moving the furniture, I went to work, only to be told to turn around and go home: I’d be working from my new apartment full-time for the next few weeks while we tackled this irritating virus that shares its name with a beer brand. If all went well, I’d be back in the office by June. That was on March 20, 2020. By April 3rd, I was unemployed.
And just like that, my new apartment had transformed into one part sanctuary, one part prison – and it stayed that way for 18 months. Eighteen months of something that felt like freefall.
Chaos theory is the idea that one simple change within a context can alter the entire outcome of a certain situation, and that the various permutations in that context are predictable only to a certain point. Think of a hand throwing a fistful of coins in the air: You could predict the direction of the first few coins that start to tumble, but after that it’s up to the coins. This has been what the experience of the pandemic has felt like. The virus is the hand, and I am one of the coins.
Now, to be completely transparent with you: The idea to move up to Haliburton was not my own. My parents live up here, and I live with them now. From there, I had a vague plan for how to make money and pick my life back up from the shambling ruins they had turned into.
And along came the Haliburton County Echo and Minden Times.
I don’t know if it was fate, or just the random crashing of a million tumbling coins, but the chance to start anew – with the kind of job that fits my character better than any other – was too good to pass up.
I love Haliburton County. I may be a city person, yes, but I love Haliburton County. It’s been part of my life since I was a little kid whipping around Gull Lake in a tube behind my dad’s boat. The best summers of my life have been spent at Big Hawk Lake, where I made lifelong friendships at Camp Kawabi. I’ve even graced the Canoe FM airwaves, being the place where my eight-year cross-country radio career began.
I even owe my life to local healthcare workers, who, just this past New Years Eve, managed to catch my exploding appendix before it turned me into a firework. What a way to start 2021, hey?
The Highlands are more to me than a vacation spot away from the city, more than a place for me to park myself away from noise and congestion in weekend-sized chunks.
I feel this place in my bones, and to find myself gravitating back here is no surprise. There exists the very real sense that my work here comes from a place of unfulfillable gratitude. I’ve seen how relentlessly giving this community can be, and I love this place for it.
I also plainly see the broad challenges it faces, and the gaps that have left innocent lives hanging in the balance.
It’s my hope that my work here will put a spotlight on what’s changed, what needs to change, and the ever-careful steps we take together towards an uncertain future.
If you read my articles and actually learn something, then this will all have been worth it.
You can find me around town with my phone in my hand, probably playing Pokémon GO – Team Valor for life.
Also, if anyone has an extra spot at a D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) table, I have a half-elf wizard that hasn’t rolled any dice for a couple of years. I can bring veggie snacks and a boatload of meaningless Star Trek trivia.