Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on Monday, August 29, 2005. My family and I watched the news from my aunt’s house. The screen showed the streets I know so well submerged in water. People waded through feet and feet of what was supposedly the principal substance of life, but had instead been used to destroy. Houses that I had passed just days before were completely and utterly flooded. The one thing that absorbed my thoughts was the possibility of my house being lost just like the others. Before the flood I hadn’t once stopped to think about something- one major occurrence- that could change my entire life forever.
In the days before the hurricane, when we knew it was coming, I left school just like any other day. Unaware of the significance, I did not make an effort to say goodbye to all of my friends. When I packed to evacuate, I filled one small bag with two pairs of shorts and two t-shirts- just enough for the next few days. I placed my bag in the car, and my family and I drove down our small street, turned the corner, and left. My family was incredibly lucky, for later we discovered that our house received little damage in comparison to the others. But in leaving the house, I unknowingly left behind my former life.
But in leaving behind my former life, I began a new one. My family discovered it would be impossible to live in New Orleans immediately after the hurricane. The schools were closed, and the city was in ruins. So, we drove from Louisiana to California, enrolled in schools, and for the next few months we lived with my grandparents in San Diego.
Those four months living in San Diego were very tough. I was so upset about everything that had happened I almost lost myself and my strength in the process. I did not even know where many of my friends were. Some of them had not even left the city to evacuate, and I knew that people had lost everything. I missed the city and my “perfect life” too much to care about anything or anyone else. I never realized how much I had, and how many opportunities had come my way.
But with help from my family I realized something. I could either use my time being cooped up and sad, or I could start anew. From then on I made an effort to make my experience at school there a memorable one. I wanted to have fun and just start to be myself again. I sat with different groups at lunch and during classes. I invited people to hang out and to go to movies. I started to feel comfortable and at home, and made some really great friends along the way. The friends I had met there are some of my closest, best friends to this day.
I had always heard my mom say, “Appreciate what you have.” I never really paid attention to that phrase. I never felt like I needed to. I had my next few years planned out. I knew which high school I was going to, which teams I would be on. I never questioned even one thing about my future.
I believe that you should seize every single opportunity with both hands, that you should be thankful for everything you have and everything that you are. I believe that the even the worst circumstances can lead to open doors. And through these open doors you will unconsciously become more accepting of others, and you will truly and genuinely discover who you are and who you can become.
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