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Matt Petrucha waters the plants on the deck outside of his apartment.
Moving out on his own during a pandemic has been a learning experience for Matt Petrucha.
After living with his parents his whole life, several months ago Matt was ready to take a big step toward independence by getting his own apartment. Working with staff from The Resource Center through his self-directed plan, Matt began searching for an apartment. He looked at places in Mayville, Westfield, Jamestown, and Lakewood, but decided that moving to the southern end of the county would take him too far from his parents, who live on Plank Road in Mayville.
He finally settled on an upstairs apartment in the rear of the Lakeview Hotel in Mayville, and he moved into his new place May 16. Before moving, Matt enjoyed picking out his own furnishings, and he discovered he enjoyed shopping via the internet.
Matt’s mom, Tawney, and his TRC Life Coach, Tabatha Stenstrom, said there was an immediate, positive change in Matt’s personality once he moved.
“You smile a million times more now,” said Tabatha. “When I first started working with you, the only time I saw you smile was when we talked about finding your own place.”
“Once you moved out, you smiled more. Your demeanor was different. You get over things quicker,” Tawney said.
Tawney is proud of her son for taking steps toward independence, and she’s doing her best to be supportive without overstepping her bounds. “The hard part for mom right now is coming in here and not trying to clean up,” she said while gazing around a cluttered apartment, a living condition typical of many 20-somethings.
Having lived his first 24 years in his parents’ rural home (“I grew up in a house in an area where there weren’t many people at all.”), Matt was looking forward to life in a more-populous community, meeting new people and having friends over to his apartment. The pandemic and its emphasis on social distancing altered those plans, so Matt has been spending a lot of time by himself reading, watching videos and movies, and playing video games. Living close to the lake, he also enjoys going for walks on the paved pathway near the shoreline.
After accomplishing his primary goal of getting his own place, Matt is now looking to secure a job. Through The Resource Center’s Employment Services Program, he was able to try out a variety of occupations. The work experience he enjoyed most was stocking shelves, so he’s hoping to land a job now that more area businesses have reopened. He likely will make a good worker – TRC employment staff didn’t have Matt go through all of the typical pre-vocational training steps because they felt he was ready for the working world.
But Matt made it clear he hopes stocking shelves turns out to be temporary. His career goal? “I want to be in the movie business in Hollywood,” said Matt, who aspires to be a screenwriter. Tabatha and other TRC staff are trying to assist with both his short- and long-term employment goals by looking for local businesses who need someone to help with stock, and trying to connect with Western New York filmmakers. This is important because, as Matt explained it, “Staff at The Resource Center kept telling me almost every day to get my foot in the door” of the movie industry.
Another of Matt’s short-term goals is to obtain his driver’s license. In addition to greatly enhancing his independence, the ability to drive will help Matt achieve another of his life plans – taking the famous Route 66 from its origin in Chicago to its end point in Los Angeles. It’s a trip Matt’s been mulling over for years. He plans to make a lot of pit stops along the way to visit local attractions, and he proudly pulls out a notebook with about a dozen pages describing some of the spots he wants to visit. They’re all in Illinois, which helps explain why Matt expects the trip to take five months – he obviously expects to make a lot of stops along the way.
His dream car for this journey? A Ford Mustang. And Matt wants this to be a one-way trip – he intends to make the drive when he’s ready to move to California and start his career in the film industry.
While Matt is happy to be living on his own, things haven’t always gone as expected. For starters, while he initially thought living in a more suburban setting was what he wanted, he’s discovered summers near the lake can be noisy and that he misses the country life. As a result, he’s looking into moving once his one-year lease ends, and an option he’s considering is living in a trailer on his parents’ property – that way he can be close to his folks but still have his own space.
The realization that city life may not be for him right now, and the constraints on socialization because of the pandemic, have made Matt’s first foray at independence less wonderful than he had expected. Tabatha told him this was just a part of life, and Matt acknowledged that some aspects of living on his own – such as learning to cook and being responsible for paying his bills – are good skills to learn.
“It might not be all butterflies and rainbows,” Tabatha said. “It’s a learning experience.”
And Matt seems to be taking everything in stride.
“I really do try my best to see the good side of things.”