Where Do I Go from Here? This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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Frightened. Frustrated. Helpless. Confused. Lost. Uncertain. These emotions flooded my whole mind and body during the beginning weeks of my seventh grade year. On August 29, 2005, a hurricane evacuation forced me to completely leave my comfort zone, both mentally and physically. I left behind my comfortable home, my school, and my whole outlook on life. When we drove six hours from my town in the suburbs of New Orleans, I never imagined that I would be gone for almost a month and the city that I saw out my car window would never look the same way again. A few days after settling in our hotel room, we saw something on the television that confirmed that this trip would be extended for quite a while: the levees had broken and half the city was completely underwater. I was stuck in this unfamiliar town with 2 pairs of clothes, and no way to get in touch with the rest of my family and friends because of the overload circuits. For a twelve year old girl who was used to her comfortable, easy lifestyle, this was quite the wake up call. I did not know what to do with myself to keep my mind off the devastation. We tried to go shop around the local mall or visit the bookstore, but everywhere I went I was reminded of the fact that I was unable to live the life I had always known. The people of the town held toy drives to give to the children of the evacuated families, and they offered us clothes and free meals. Despite these acts of kindness, I could not help feeling that I was some sort of charity case. One man even offered for my family to stay in his home. Back in New Orleans, I was not used to being looked upon as struggling and needy. I had always been given everything I had every wanted or needed, and now I felt as if I had completely been forced beyond my emotional comfort zone in a feeling of insecurity and helplessness. About ten days later, my adaptive abilities were again pushed to the limit. In order for my dad’s company to try to begin work again in a new location, we had to leave our hotel and transfer to a miniscule town in Mississippi near my dad’s temporary office. I have heard of small towns before, but nothing could prepare me for about 10 square miles of area consisting of small homes, a laundromat, and a gas station convenience store. There was no place for us to stay except for a rundown apartment in the rear of an abandoned church. When I saw this town, I promised to never complain to my mom again that there was nothing to do back home. In this town, I was devoid of the luxuries of technology and convenience. Cable television was nonexistent except for one fuzzy channel that occasionally worked; internet access was unheard of and getting a signal to make a phone call was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Back home, I never realized how fortunate I was to have access to communication and entertainment. Every day I felt so inferior and uncomfortable. My family was distraught with uncertainty and difficulty, not to mention concentrated on caring for my baby brother who was only about a month old. My days were just a gray haze that suffocated my usually sunny attitude and fiery excitement. Looking back on that chaotic time in my life, I realize how different of an individual I have become because of it. Obviously, I have learned to appreciate the moments I have with my loved ones and the blessings that I have been fortunate enough to receive. I now cherish every millisecond of my life because I lived through the fact that my world can turn upside down at any moment. More importantly, I have become an emotionally stronger young woman because of my encounter with major adversity. When I am confronted with obstacles in my daily life, I just remember the situations I have persevered through and then the obstacle does not seem so insurmountable. When my grandpa passed away two years later, I strongly believe that I was able to make it through the grieving and the pain because of my experience in dealing with the same feelings of helplessness and uncertainty during the period after Hurricane Katrina. Along with my strength, I believe that I developed a greater respect for those who are struggling and needy within my community today. I experienced those same feelings of inferiority and insecurity that batter a person’s spirits when they are affected by an unfortunate situation. Now I commit myself to volunteering, not just to help a person’s physical needs but their emotional ones as well. When I cook for homeless shelters or participate in activities with mentally disabled children, I attempt to connect with the people on a personal level in order to let them know that their insecurities are normal. I want to make them feel supported and respected because I have felt a similar sense of inferiority when my life was turned upside down. I now understand that everything in life does happen for a reason whether I may immediately understand the reason or not. According the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger.” The Katrina evacuation hurled me out of my emotional and physical comfort zone, but in the end, my life progressed toward a restoration of normalcy. My experience rattled me a little, but it did not kill me, and because of my struggles, I have grown into an exceptionally strong and determined young woman, ready to now willingly step outside of her comfort zone into a new chapter of her life.





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