In April of 2020, I was nearing the end of my photojournalism internship in northern New York with the Watertown Daily Times. I was living my dream, doing what I loved and thriving. I did not think that exactly a year later that I would be doing gig work and in survival mode. 

This wasn't a part of the plan.

Last March, the coronavirus pandemic swept across the nation and changed everything. Millions of citizens became infected and thousands perished, just as Spring was around the corner.

I was set to take the next step in my photojournalism career to an internship lined up for the second half of 2020. However, due to the economic fallout of pandemic, my internship was canceled. I began to accept the reality that I was most likely going to have to return to my home in Dallas, Texas.

The feeling of going back to live with my parents as a 24-year-old with a college degree did not sit well with me. While it is a situation not too unfamiliar for millennials and Gen-Z throughout the rest of the nation, I wanted more control of my life. Up until the point that I had to move back, I was under the illusion that I had that control.

Slowly, the pandemic experience has forced me to be more mindful about what I can control and more thankful for what I do have in my life. "Health is wealth," my mother says.

Upon moving back to Texas, I knew I would still need a source of income to pay bills, take care of myself, and my dog, Beasley. I didn't know how long I would be back home and was wary to commit to a job that I knew I wouldn't enjoy, so I chose to start doing deliveries with DoorDash. After a couple of months, I made the move to Uber Eats. The pay was better and the flexibility of the schedule was within my control.

I began delivering with DoorDash in September of 2020. As a requirement at the end of every delivery, I would take a photo of the bag of food for each customer before confirming that their order was right outside of their door, waiting for them.

I began to think about what other interesting aspects of this experience I could capture.

Photography has always given me a sense of control, especially during tumultuous times in my life. 

I can capture a thing that I see or try to encapsulate a feeling I have, and reflect on it.

This process helps me make sense of my experience and the world around me.

As the Fall of 2020 dragged on and the presidential election approached, I found myself picking up my camera less and less. My creative energy and sense of self began to deteriorate. I soon became overwhelmed with other tasks just to keep my well-being in tact.

During the day, I worked on job applications and went on long walks with my dog to clear my head. At night, I hustled for a consistent pay check by doing deliveries. Before too long, I needed to start talking to a therapist again to vent my frustrations about my current situation. "How much longer?" I would ask.

In addition to therapy, I relied on weekly FaceTime calls with close friends to keep my spirits up and to vent my frustrations about life. 

"I'm not alone," I had to keep telling myself, "we're all going through this together."

However, the reassurance I received was fleeting. A sharp feeling of isolation quickly took over some nights, since I had not been building any new friendships and the cycle of my temporary solution began to feel like an exercise in futility.

As the holidays approached, I chose to give myself more time off to continue to make improvements to my daily life. I ran more, I read more, I wrote more. It helped me remain patient and persistent. 

"This is temporary," I told myself, "I've made it this far, I can keep going."

As the new year began, I found myself in the same situation. While the Biden administration began to make announcements about a major COVID-19 vaccine rollout, I knew it would still be a while until things changed. Hiring freezes remained in place across the journalism industry and numbers of cases continued to fluctuate throughout the early months of 2021.

However, I felt change on the horizon, and this has given me a renewed sense of hope that I have already gotten through the worst of this experience. I started to pick up my camera more and to document my experience.

As 2021 has rolled on, I've made a continuous effort to remain positive. Throughout this process I've realized the things I was missing earlier in life and am considering what it would be like to stay in Texas, or at least closer to home in some capacity. I want to be closer to my friends and family while also pursuing my career.

While I am still sending out applications to re-enter the journalism industry and considering becoming a freelance photographer, I am in the process for finding a different temporary job that will give my life more structure and provide a little more freedom for me to begin returning to life as it was before 2020.

The first step of returning to normalcy is to get vaccinated. I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, April 13, 2021, shortly after my 25th birthday. I received the second dose on Saturday, May 8, 2021. Years ago, I definitely could not have predicted that I would be in the position that I currently am in now as my early 20s come to a close.

However, this experience has taught me a lot about myself, the world and about life. It's not over yet and there's still a long road that many of us have to walk before things return to "normal", but I know that throughout this experience I have and will continue to make the most out of it and come out a better and stronger human being than I was before.

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