Hurricane Katrina came ashore as I lay in my sister’s bed sleeping. I dreamt of flying through the air without a care in the world. I awoke in the dark and nothing seemed real. I flipped the lights switch on and off, but the lights didn’t react. The room was empty, and I ran into the living room. My mom, dad, and older sister surrounded a radio and heard news of the destruction and torment brewing back at home. Although I was awake, I felt a wave of dismay and shock filled the room, as if I was dreaming.
Everything I knew was now uncertain. My home, school, neighborhood, and city drowned under the flooding waters at the close of the summer that year. My friends were tossed across the country like Pickup Sticks. Returning to my home anytime soon was an unattainable dream. I had lost everything—including my identity.
I believe that your identity, the essence of you, can be lost by uncontrollable actions. I no longer recognized the person I saw in the mirror. Instead of a happy person, I saw tears form small rivers down my face. I saw my spirit suppressed by the overpowering weights of anger, frustration, and sadness. My fraudulent smile covered my face to comfort my parents. I no longer enjoyed school, my friends were gone, and I no longer had power over my life. The pain that accompanied that storm hid my individuality. I didn’t know who Rosalyn was anymore, and took on the name: Refugee.
I yearned for one thing: my identity. I had to gain control over something in my life. I couldn’t control my environment; Katrina showed me that. I couldn’t control where I lived; my parents controlled this. I couldn’t control my identity and I began to feel lost.
I had to grow up fast. I was once sheltered from the suffering in the world, but now I was surrounded by pain. My eyes were opened and I no longer a naive child. My parents had to decide the next step, but without warning, I had to start making decisions for myself. First on my agenda was to get enrolled into school again. At the age of 14, I made the decision to leave the now overcrowded Baton Rouge and move to Atlanta to live with my sister.
My perspective changed after that summer. I was not just a girl transitioning into high school, I also entered adulthood. Even though I was young, I understood that the world was bigger than me. I had to start doing things for myself. I no longer could rely on my parents to tell me to do homework, tell me to do my chores, or give me an allowance. My parents had bigger obstacles to manage, so I was now accountable for myself. I lost so much that summer, but I gained a sense of responsibility.
This I believe: after traumatic events, you gain a better understanding of what defines you. Struggles help to build individuality and your identity.
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