Survivors Rebuild Stronger: A Message to Hurricane Victims
I wasn’t sure whether to write this blog or not. It’s not always comfortable when I get very personal. But, my “why” is to share my story and help others realize that they too can overcome what life (or a hurricane) throws at them. There isn’t a “hierarchy” on human suffering – if you are going through, or have gone through, something painful, difficult, sad, tough, or hurtful, it hurts. I don’t share my story so people will think “Gee, I don’t have it as bad as she did so what right do I have to complain.” I share my story so everyone will know, if I overcame what I went through – you can overcome what you are facing.
The aftermath of either Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma is everywhere it seems. The cleanup has begun and the donations are rolling in, but the reality is just beginning to set in for so many. I see pictures on the news and social media of thousands of homes destroyed in these two storms. Many people have lost nearly everything – their memories, their belongings, their possessions, and their “safe place.”
I know the feeling.
Seventeen years ago, I walked out of my abusive childhood home carrying a few bags stuffed with some clothes and not much else. At 19, I didn’t have a job, a car or even a high school diploma. I left behind 19 years, my lifetime’s worth, of memories, picture albums, scrapbooks, keepsakes, stuffed animals, and favorite childhood toys.
I left behind racks of my favorites CDs, favorite books, and special mementos of my deceased great grandparents. I left behind three musical instruments I loved to play. I left behind several pet horses, most of which I raised from birth, and only one of which I was able to later repossess. I left behind relationships with the father who sexually abused me and forced me to play the role of his wife, the mother who blamed me for it, and the little brother who had to deal with our parents after I left.
And, I couldn’t take with me one very special german shepherd/husky mix named Solomon who used to sleep in bed with me. I was later told my dad shot my one-blue-one-brown eyed friend after I left. I don’t know if that’s true, but I still have nightmares about it.
I left behind me. That is, my identity, up until that point was based on the things I had and what I did.
I know, losing your home, your possessions, maybe your pets, and your “safe place” feels like the end of your world. Maybe you are living in a shelter, staying in a hotel, or borrowing a bed from family until you can get back to your home. The loss is overwhelming, but there is hope ahead. You aren’t defined by what you have, don’t have, or what you have gone through.
Because survivors rebuild. And, they rebuild stronger. Life is too precious to spend it looking back. Don’t miss the opportunities of today because you are focused on the adversity of the past.
Resilience is about rising again. It’s about thriving in spite of adversity. It doesn’t matter what the world (or the hurricane, fire, or thief) takes away – what matters is what you have inside you. Joy comes from within and isn’t dependent on where you sleep tonight, what you have in your pocket, or whether you have the shoebox of keepsakes from grandma. Our sense of self doesn’t have to be centered on external things, possessions, or where we live. What matters is the memories you have made, the loved ones you have around you, the possibilities of the future, and the life you will rebuild – stronger. It doesn’t matter what happens to you. What matters is who you become because of it.
Choose joy. Celebrate possible. Live life #BeyondBoundAndBroken.
Like many, I faced adversity in life. Raised on an isolated farm in Alabama, I was sexually abused by my father from age 12 – 19. Desperate to escape, I left home at 19 without a job, a car, or even a high school diploma. Watch a 3 minute clip of me speaking on my story here: http://bit.ly/RiasStory3min
Mark Twain said, “The two greatest days in your life are the day you are born and the day you discover why.” On August 14, 2013, I found my “why” and shared my story publicly for the first time. Learn more about my story at: RiaStory.com
It’s not what happens to you. It’s who you become because of it.
Now a full time motivational leadership speaker and author of 9 books, I co-founded Top Story Leadership with my husband Mack Story. Learn more about Mack and his unique Blue-Collar Leadership resources at BlueCollarLeadership.com