Hurricane Irma has officially left Florida and now it’s time to assess and rebuild.
Jonathon and I were very lucky: We live in an apartment so we already figured it wouldn’t be too bad, but we had no damage and nothing to worry about. Also, our family in Fort Myers fared really well. They didn’t have power for a bit, but other than that didn’t experience any property damage.
We know we’re lucky. We know that other people fared far worse.
And me being me, I wish I could help everyone and fix it all with a wand. But I can’t. We can’t. It’s going to take time to truly figure out how bad Irma was and how to fix it all.
In that vein, Jonathon and I realized that we learned a few things throughout this horrid experience. I wanted to share them here.
1. It doesn’t hurt to plan, but it could hurt not to.
So, it’s a big joke in Florida that everyone has “Hurricane Parties” and people don’t really plan for storms once they’ve been through them a few times.
I grew up in Florida, I get it. I know that after a while of listening to meteorologists hype up situations, it gets old.
That said, we should all still be planning. What’s the worst that could happen? The storm goes by, you have a few extra gallons of water and some boards to use for the next time a big storm comes along.
NBD. Better safe than sorry.
Prepare. Then have your hurricane party.
2. People can be kind in tough situations, you just have to see it.
When Hubs and I went out to get portable cell chargers the day before the storm, we couldn’t find any. We went to two stores, called several more, and couldn’t find them anywhere.
Then, we went to 5 Below, a store where everything is below $5 dollars (I mean…it’s in the name). They didn’t have any either, so we decided to do some quick shopping for our upcoming camping trip. When we were checking out, we were talking about how we couldn’t find one. The cashier heard us and pulled out one that she had hidden in the back. And she didn’t let us pay.
And it was the sweetest thing.
So there was a lot going on – stress, nervousness, preparation – but still, this sweet cashier found a moment to do something really, really nice for us.
It was a nice thing to see. (And if you’re wondering, today I am buying that girl a few cupcakes from Whole Foods and dropping them off to say thank-you.)
3. People can also be shitty in tough situations, you just have to call them out on it.
A few days before the storm hit, I was at Publix watching two women fight over peanut butter. And it pissed me off, because I was like, “What the actual fuck? After the storm people are going to come together and be all ‘we are one’ but right now you are acting like children?”
And they were.
I was annoyed as hell and made my annoyance known when I decided to give my peanut butter to one of them just to stop her bitching (no, I wasn’t being kind or selfless, I was honestly annoyed AF and just wanted them to quit arguing).
It was a bad moment. But I’m glad I said something because of a hurricane, or any stressful community event really, is no time to be an asshole.
And people will be assholes – so those of us that are not assholes need to make sure they don’t get away with it.
4. The best choice is always to be as kind as possible, no matter what is happening with you.
Speaking of those women in Publix…don’t be them. Don’t be that person that gets all stressed out during (yes) a stressful time AND takes it out on her fellow humans.
Get stressed. It’s fine. We were all worried. Prepare – absolutely. Then find healthy ways to deal with your stress like hanging out with your family, reading, working out (indoors) or even just sipping a cup of tea alone on your couch.
Don’t let crappy situations make you a crappy person. Not just during a hurricane — ever.
5. Don’t underestimate the emotional toll it will take.
This is something I didn’t really anticipate. Having grown up in Florida and having family that has spent the past almost 30 years in Florida, I didn’t think this hurricane would be any different than the ones we’d be through – other than more intense physically.
It turns out when a hurricane is really bad, it’s not just the physical toll it takes, it’s also a big emotional toll. It’s REALLY scary going through a storm with such high winds, wondering if the windows are going to break through at any moment or if a tree is going to land on your house.
Don’t underestimate that stress. Take care of yourself before and after the storm. You won’t be able to attend to other people’s needs unless you make sure you’re doing okay.
6. Now’s a good time to reassess your attachments.
I’m not a consumer. I’m not a materialistic person. You guys know this about me.
That’s why, during the storm, I was even more disheartened to see people not leaving their homes for fear of losing their stuff. Or people complaining on social media about their valuable possessions.
You know what’s valuable? Your life.
You know what can be replaced? Your shit.
Although I know how it is devasting for people and families to lose their things, it would be even more devasting for people and families to lose their, well, people.
Now might be a good time to adjust what you think of as “important” and reassess your material attachments.
Do you need all the shit you have? I’m guessing not.
7. We have a lot more work to do.
It’s nice that so many different organizations across the spectrum are helping hurricane victims. From phone companies suspending data charges to credit card companies allowing skipped monthly payments to general community organizations getting donations together for people.
That’s awesome and I’m happy to see it all.
But we have a lot more work to do as a community… and as a species.
We should be this kind to people all the time. Not just in a natural emergency.
And we should go even further after storms.
We shouldn’t just be donating on a broad scale, we should be helping friends and neighbors.
Big companies shouldn’t be just cutting or excusing credit card payments or other payments for a month, they should be doing it for months, because that’s how long it takes to rebuild.
So yeah, we’re doing okay as a human race after this storm. But it’s not enough.
I am glad the storm experience of Irma is over. I know the entire experience of Irma is not.
And I know there will be more storms. And more lessons to be learned.