Most of my previous fears about Hurricane Irma have settled. Life is slowly returning back to normal. And while my past experience with Hurricane Charley was a great indication of what would happen this time, I also correctly predicted that this experience would change me.
We Were Ready
I was deeply scared. I cried. I waffled about what to do. I talked to all of my friends. I called my parents and tried to tell them not to worry. I walked around my neighborhood and talked to all of my neighbors. I made plans to evacuate and then I stayed. I boarded up windows and the glass doors of my house and put sandbags in front of the doors. I cried some more. I tucked away all of my lawn furniture and stored the trash cans and recycle bins in the shed. I filled up every bottle in my house with filtered water. I kissed and hugged my pets and partner. Then, I took some melatonin and went to bed. (It should be noted that I did none of this alone—my handsome boyfriend, Quinten, was by my side and doing many of the things, with the exception of crying. Oh, he cries sometimes, just not this time.) We were ready.
We Were Okay
In the morning, when I woke up, we were without power. The house was hot (it is Florida!) but intact. I surveyed the house and yard, and the only “damage” was that some of my bushes and small trees were knocked over or flattened, and our fence on one side was tipped over. And the road to our house was a little flooded (which happens every summer). It was all okay.
I had backup plans at work: I had written out everything that needed to be done in case I lost power and I had some amazing coworkers ready to fill the gaps (we had releases for 2 of the products I work on this week!). We had food and water and everything we needed at home. The toilets were flushing. Our phones worked and our portable chargers were fully charged and ready. Everything was okay.
Everything seemed to slow down to the pace of molasses. When it’s muggy and hot, and you’re powerless, there’s not a lot to do. Our pets lounged in the house with us while we napped and waited for news that we could leave our neighborhood. We texted and called friends and family. We thanked our lucky stars. We scanned Facebook and FEMA websites for updates and information. Was everyone okay? What to do with the debris? Is it okay to drive around yet? Who still has power? And while everyone was grumpy about the heat, everyone was okay.
We Were Patient
While we waited for our power to be restored, we hung out at Community Cafe, showered at our friends’ place, and we recharged our phones wherever we could. We spent another day working from a cafe near our house, doubling up extension cords so we could hang out in the corner and work uninterrupted. We waited patiently because we knew it would be okay.
And last night at around 7 o’clock, after three sweaty and sleepless nights, the air conditioner suddenly kicked on. Our power was restored! Quinten and I laughed and danced. He grabbed his cat and sang to him. We invited our still-powerless friends over for a cold drink, and we celebrated. Everything is okay!
The problem for me today is that it doesn’t feel okay.
My feelings of pending doom haven’t disappeared with the storm. And I realized that it’s because the storm isn’t over.
Climate Change is Real
I’m afraid for our future. Living in the U.S. for the last 20 years has taught me that opinions are gold and they don’t have to be correct.
Here in the land of the free, it’s common to hear people emphatically state “well, you’re entitled to your opinion.” But I disagree. Opinions aren’t an entitlement. Opinions are a privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility. The responsibility to seek the truth, to verify, to research, to tread carefully, to honor the value of facts.
Climate change is not a matter of opinion.
Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.
This isn’t news. So why is this leaving me unsettled now? I’ve made modest attempts to educate, recycle, reuse, and change my consumption habits, but things have felt futile the last few years. It shocks me how many Americans throw dead batteries in trash cans and refuse to recycle because they think someone is profiting off their trash. I’m disgusted how many people here are happy to use paper plates so they don’t have to wash dishes. I’m baffled at how little fuel economy means to the people who surround me when they purchase a car. This world looks so fucked to me when I look at the American consumer way of life. And yet, I too am a self-absorbed human; as long as I’m safe in my little bubble of ignorance, I’ll happily continue living my life unaffected.
But I’m not safe in my little bubble anymore. So what now?