By Breegan Petruska
From the first days we enter preschool, all throughout our K-12 years, and into college, we are asked repeatedly, “What are your plans? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
For me, like any other young kid, I had big dreams like being a singer or an actress. As I grew, my next dream usually came from whatever TV show I was watching at the time. I wanted to become a cosmetologist, a detective like Olivia Benson, or a paramedic like the ones on “Chicago Fire.”
It wasn’t until early high school that I found my niche in photography. I purchased my first camera, a little Fujifilm, and spent lots of time taking blurry, underexposed photos at volleyball games. In my junior year of high school, I started taking classes at the Kent Career Tech Center studying graphic design and photography. I started taking photos everywhere – at events, of my friends, at basketball games, and for my high school yearbook.
Being the planner I am, I knew graduating high school what I wanted to do with the next four years going into college.
I enrolled at Grand Rapids Community College to get my basic, general education credits. After two years at GRCC, I’d transfer to Grand Valley State University. After my first year of college, I was going to move out, and then continue to live near whatever university I was attending. After all of that was said and done, I would graduate with some sort of broadcasting or public speaking degree and do photography and graphic design on the side.
All of these plans looked like sunshine and roses – and then the pandemic hit.
I was fortunate enough to spend most of my freshman year of college in person. I got to eat lunch with friends at the Raider Grille and study in the little cubbies on the second floor of Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall. My best friend, Holly, and I were making plans to move into an apartment together before school the next fall. At that moment, my plans were coming together seamlessly.
Then, life went from 100 to zero in a matter of days. Life went from making good money, working every free night I had, to not working at all. I was a full-time, in-person student interacting with friends and faculty on campus, and then all of a sudden I found myself stuck behind a computer screen, taking my classes alone. When we went into quarantine, I felt so lost not knowing what was going to be next for me.
The first few weeks of quarantine weren’t so bad. At the time, I was living at home with my family. The only time we left the house was to go on little adventures to get drive-thru food for dinner or go to the grocery store. At night, my neighbor and I would walk the track, watching the sunset while talking about how school was going or if we were talking to anyone new online. We were looking forward to life going back to normal, but unlike we imagined, it didn’t.
As our case numbers kept rising and quarantine was extended, it became more and more difficult to navigate the waters of life at that time. A lot of questions came to mind. When is this all going to end? Will I have a way to make money to afford school in the fall? When will Holly and I move out of our parents’ houses?
When you plan and plan and constantly look forward towards your future just to have that all come to halt is terrifying, so I had to let those plans go. Instead of letting the anxiety get to me, I chose to go with the flow.
The stay-at-home order was finally lifted, and what happened next was super unexpected. The wonderful lady who took my senior photos, Deb Kalsbeek, knew I had an interest in photography. She reached out to me and asked me to assist on a few weddings she had coming up.
When dreaming of my four-year plan, I never took into account what incredible opportunities could come up along the way, but of course, I said yes.
Although COVID-19 has brought on so many hurdles, I’ve still worked so hard to get where I’m going. I moved out, kept taking classes at GRCC, but COVID-19 and its strain has not slowed down.
When restaurants briefly closed again, my mental health dwindled. Not being able to make money, pulling from my savings to pay bills, and not knowing what is going to happen next is the most uneasy feeling. Being the extroverted person I am, sitting at home doing nothing but online school and worrying about the future was really hard for me. Life still feels like this constant circle that doesn’t go where I want it to.
As hard as it is, I’ve learned that it is okay to not plan out everything. It’s okay to take a step back and reevaluate. Life is unpredictable. We can’t do everything we want. Sometimes we have to pick and choose, taking one step at a time, instead of diving headfirst into our future. Since I graduated, all I’ve wanted to do is run to the next thing in life – to follow my plans. But I will wait. I will wait for this pandemic to run its course. I will wait for the next opportunity to come, and I will be ready when it’s time to start running toward my future again.