Stormy Seas

Well.  In case you don’t have news of any kind for some strange reason, the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean are currently being ravaged by hurricanes.  Right now my home and family are pretty much in the direct path of one of the most devastating storms in history – and I’m thousands of miles away, unable to do anything.

This is not the first time I’ve had to watch and wait and pray they are okay from afar. Thirteen years ago (lucky number!) I watched helplessly from my dorm room in Georgia as Ivan skirted across Florida, as Frances crept up on it, and as Jeanne gave it a double whammy.  In fact, riding out Hurricane Frances with my family was one of the reasons I moved back to Florida.
I even made this whole story about it for my final class project before leaving the school.

 

This is, however, the first time I’ve had to watch it from afar while owning a house there. The idea of losing everything while you can’t do anything about it, is simultaneously terrifying and rallying.

I’ve always found that extreme situations kick me more into gear than anything else.  I secretly enjoy less devastating hurricanes (I stood by through Katrina in Florida, Rita, and Wilma), and I get a little excited every time I have a medivac at work.  It’s not that I enjoy seeing people get hurt.  I think it’s just that at that point I finally feel useful, like I have a purpose, something worthwhile that I can do.  Not many of my skills are directly useful in typical humanitarian ways, but organizing and logistics has always been a strong suit of mine.

In the past year, I lost my job, my dog, and my love.  Now, I sit here on the verge of possibly losing my house, and pretty much everything I own, and in the very same week get a new job offer.  But somehow, part of me is still not satisfied.

How can I even claim to be suffering when so many places have just been completely destroyed?  Many of the islands I’ve spent so many days on are practically gone.  My work has somehow always felt selfish in a way.  Cruise ships will change itineraries, go to less damaged islands, but how does that help those people who depended on their business for so long and now need it most?  I had the idea today that it would be wonderful if someone would charter a cruise ship to bring volunteers and supplies to some of the islands they are so used to visiting but that are now destroyed.  It would certainly be good PR!

At the end of the day, we have to remember that what is important is people.  Not money, not homes, not fast cars and smart phones and Apple Watches, but people (okay, and puppies).  I can’t claim that I’ve done much with my life thus far, but if I could do something good that even just one person will remember forever, I will feel better.  At this cross roads in my life, I might have that chance.  But for now, we must wait and see.

 

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The Grass is NOT Always Greener

It seems that lately I come across many people who make assumptions about me and my life without any real knowledge of the things they are assuming.  When you work with people from all over the world, this happens quite frequently.  For me, this helps put things in greater perspective.  Other people, however, seem to forget that there are two sides to every coin.  For everything there is a tradeoff.  The world has to maintain balance somehow.

Let’s take the simple example of climate where people live.  People seem to hold living in Florida against me.  This isn’t meant to be some political global warming propaganda, just simple, time-tested truth.

 

“O you’re from Florida, you can’t handle the cold.”

There are so many things wrong with this statement, or any like it.  First off, because I’m FROM Florida, doesn’t mean I have always lived there.  If you took the time to know me, instead of judging me, you would know that I lived in New England for three years where I slid down a snowy hill on a trash can lid in a pink snow suit.  But thank you for making an assumption.  Secondly, we are having this conversation in Alaska, which is reasonably cold.  Think I did alright there.  I handled Norway and the northernmost city in the world just fine too.  Thank you for asking.

Now, you joke about me not being able to handle the cold, but can you handle the heat?  Have you ever been to Florida in August?  Just because it’s nice when you’re there in December/January thinking it’s a great escape from you snowy land, try coming back in August and then we’ll talk.  We might not have to shovel our cars out of the snow to get to work, but we generally have to put a towel over our seats to not take off the skin when we sit on them.  Or how about having to take four showers a day because the minute you walk outside, you’re covered in sweat again.  Or how about being told not to even go outside because the UV index is so high.  I wonder how your snow-white skin would fare in our August sun.

And rain; don’t even get me started on rain.  “O it rains every day here, you’ll absolutely hate it.”

Again, have you ever been to Florida?  It rains every day here too.  In fact, you can almost time the rain.  The nickname “Sunshine State” is such a misnomer.  Did you know that Florida is actually the lightening capital of the world?  Then there’s the whole other issue of an entire season called HURRICANE SEASON.  So yes, we don’t lose power and miss school for blizzards, but we do lose power and miss school for hurricanes.  Have you ever been put under “24-hour” curfew for 72 hours and stuck with your entire family in a house with no TV, no internet, no phone, no lights, and, worst of all, no A/C – in 96F/34C temperatures?  Have you had to bathe in a swimming pool and boil water to brush your teeth to go to work because you had no running water when there was no power to run your electric well pump?  Long story short, it rains in Florida too.

 

 

This is just an easy example that everyone should be able to understand.  I don’t know at what point it became trendy to “one down” each other.  “O, I have it so much more difficult than you.  You don’t have to deal with A, B, & C!”  Ok, yes, maybe.  But I do have to deal with X, Y, & Z.  Everyone has something they have to deal with.  Just because it might not be the same as what you deal with, doesn’t mean it is any less difficult.

Bottom line, don’t judge people based on where they’re from – especially if it’s not even a place that you have been (tourist trap towns do NOT count!)  You know what happens when you ASS-U-ME.

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