The early to mid-2010s were a period of immense growth for me - I graduated high school in 2011. While attending university, I started my family, then in my grad year I jumped completely into "adulting". 2015 was spent finding an apartment, finding work to keep said apartment, paying bills, maintaining my car, raising my young daughter, and helping my husband adapt to a new city. I won't lie, it was quite the struggle - often my husband and I would find ourselves eating less to ensure our daughter ate, stretching every dollar as far as we could, taking jobs that we hated to keep steady income, and settling for less than desirable housing as we dreamed of a better life. 2015's struggle ended in some great life lessons that I look back fondly on. It built us.
2016 rolled around and we had to move out of the first apartment we rented as it changed owners. Our new place was within our budget and suited our needs much more. We went closer to downtown where there were several parks, the street was quieter, and the building was maintained better than where we first lived. Our apartment unit had big, gorgeous windows that let in a lot of natural light, the walls were painted beautifully and welcoming; we also personalized it by putting up some decorations. We had working appliances, our heat never went out, and there was no mold or rodents. Our daughter thrived in this new environment, and my husband and I finally felt at ease for the first time in a while. I found a job that I thoroughly enjoyed at the beginning of the year so we were able to eat better than before, then I was accepted into a casual position at my dream job. I put in an application for a more permanent position at this job and knew I had a fair chance at it. Everything was going great!
In October 2016, we went to my parents' house for Canadian Thanksgiving. There was a weather warning in effect; we knew that we'd be getting a hurricane, but figured we'd be okay. After having dinner we headed back for home at around 6pm. We drove down our street and saw lots of displaced branches, water running down the gutters and yard ornaments moved around by the wind; typical hurricane occurrences. However, we were suddenly met with a "do not enter" sign on the road before coming to the final dip in the road near our home (it was located at the bottom of a hill). Confused, we left the car on a side street, thinking maybe there was a downed tree. We walked over the hill and it was much worse- the entire low-lying area was completely flooded. Our home was flooded. Our apartment was on the 2nd floor and it was submerged. We stood and watched on as crews on rescue boats helped our neighbours out of their homes. Our world silently crashed around us. We had no choice but to go back to my parents' house to wait until the water subsided so we could see what survived.
We slept there overnight on air mattresses - the three of us snuggled in together; we tried to frame it as a fun sleepover for our daughter so as not to alarm her, while we held on to our grief until we were out of her presence. The next day we went back and were greeted by our landlord's sombre look, and an "I'm so sorry".
We asked the extent of the damage; he told us all was lost. We went up the stairs into our unit. The water marks were almost the same height as me.
Surprisingly, what bothered me the most of all of the things that were destroyed were not our TV that we spent evenings in front of, our beds that we slept warmly in at night, or our kitchen table and cookware that we ate beautiful meals from, but my daughter's toys. Her electronic toys that taught her to sing, her blocks that taught her motor skills, and her stuffed animals that she snuggled with and that became almost like other family members to us. They were completely covered in mud, oil and God knows what else. So ended our life as we knew it, and so began our clean-out and start over process.
My husband and I cried a lot as we stuffed memories, documents and our old life into garbage containers. We complained "I wanna die" as we realized we had close to nothing. We felt misunderstood as neighbours bragged about the new car and hotel stay they were getting, and as onlookers drove by as we pulled our lives out of the shattered doors, and felt abandoned as we felt like we only had each other in the immediate days afterwards. We were able to salvage some clothes, some cookware and most of our important documents, but the apartment overall was a loss. As an additional challenge that I didn't ask for, my final test of my dream job took place within the week of the flood, so I went from pulling my soggy, lifeless belongings out of our unit to my testing location with muddy shoes and wet, oily jeans. No doubt I looked like a wreck. So how did we survive all of this? Through a combination of pure luck, dissociation, faking it till we made it, community support, and most of all, love. We changed our attitudes after the initial shock and feelings of "we are done for". Our daughter was our driving factor to pull ourselves together and push on. We were fortunate to have tenant insurance so we were able to buy new items and replace our documents. Our faith community stepped up and cooked us food, offered to cover our rent and prayed for us. Our friends and relatives sent us money, secondhand furniture and encouragement.
After staying with my parents for three months, we got into a new apartment not far from our old building. It wasn't as nice, but it was a good stepping stone back to independence, and was still conveniently located near everything we needed. In March 2017 I got the news that I was accepted to my dream job fulltime, and from there we purchased two cars, found out I was pregnant, and bought a house in November 2017. We went from rock bottom to nearly touching the sky in just a year. It was absolutely incredible how our life together changed. Briefly, what principles pulled us through this time? 1. Determination 2. Tying a knot at the end of our rope, and holding on.
3. Our faith, knowing bigger plans were in store for us
4. Stubbornness; we came too far to only come this far.
5. Being a pillar of strength for each other, and our daughter 6. Letting go of our physical possessions and holding tight to our memories
7. Allowing ourselves to grieve separately, I mean, taking turns being strong.
8. Letting this part of our lives take its course.
To anyone going through a rough time in their lives, I would say "Hold on." Life has a way of testing you. Find your anchor that you can keep a hold of as you pass through the storm, until you get to the other side. I promise that the other side will start with a single ray peeking through the clouds. Do not lose sight of it; the clouds will part and the beauty of life will return again. You are stronger than you could imagine; you are not defined by your current situation and you will get better soon.