Hurricane Sandy Gave Me A Gift

When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast in October of 2012, I was granted a gift—the gift of a bonus week off of work. Believe me when I say the destruction in the Brooklyn area was intense. There are still, one and half years later, areas that have yet to be restored or rebuilt—and honestly, at this point, they probably never will be.

Because I was a teacher at the time, the schools were used for emergency shelters and consequently, shut down to students and teachers. The transportation system was a mess—tunnels were filled with water, and electrical outages ensured longer-than-usual commutes.

Day Two

I couldn’t have reported to work if I had wanted to. I, like many others, sat glued to the news coverage, completely awestruck by the footage of destruction and chaos that was continuously broadcast across my screen. On day two, I took out my journal and wrote about the sadness I had witnessed. I wrote about how crazy it was that a hurricane had come up the east coast and still had such force and brutality when it hit New York. My journal provided a place where I could try and make sense of the all the senselessness.

Day Three

On day three, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be returning back to work anytime soon. I also realized, despite the intense sadness around me, how happy I was to get a reprieve from the school system and all its foolishness. That was when the seed was planted in my mind that perhaps it was time for me to switch gears, and find a way out of my 15 year career as a teacher.

I let this idea sit for a couple of hours. Then, I pulled out my journal, and I wrote about it. I wrote about how unhappy I was with public education, the lack of freedom in the classroom, and the demise of the entire system. I wrote about how I felt like a robot—a robot who was just going through the motions of being a teacher. I wrote about how much I loved the students, when I could just shut the door and teach, but that unfortunately, that is sometimes the last thing seen as important in today’s educational system. I wrote about how every time I had to walk into that school building, I felt like I was a losing a little piece of my soul, being tested to the extreme and how I felt completely unappreciated.

But the most important thing that appeared on that page from day three was this: I deserve to be happy again.

As I read that statement, it lodged itself in my heart, and tears spilled down my cheeks. Before I knew what had happened, I was sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, sobbing, at the table. How had I not realized before now just how unhappy I was in my career? Did it take the destruction of a hurricane and a forced week off of work for me to realize that I deserved better and that life was too short to continue living it in such an unhappy state? 

Day Four

On day four, I picked up a new journal and divided the first two pages right down the middle. On the left, I wrote “My Super Skills” and on the right I wrote “How to Make Money From Them.” I ended up, after 30 minutes of deep reflection, with something that looked like this:

My Super Skills: How to Make Money From Them

  • ability to break things down and explain in detail: coaching
  • non-fiction writing: blogging, articles
  • writing for others: copywriting, ghost blogging
  • curriculum design: workbooks, online courses, info products
  • speaking; sharing my stories: public speaking

And as I sat there, staring at what my journal had revealed, that seed I had planted on day three began to sprout. With each tendril that grew in my fertile mind, I felt hope and passion and a renewed sense of purpose. Because those feelings were ones that I hadn’t felt in such a long time, more tears flowed. At first they were tears of joy, and a few minutes later, tears of relief. For, it was on day four, that I realized I wasn’t trapped: I could reinvent my life and my career and happiness so that I could begin living again.

Speaking It Aloud

I remember my husband returning home that evening, and as we sat down at the dinner table, I said to him, “Honey, I need to get out of teaching. I want to start a business.”

He certainly was caught off guard at first, but as he forked a piece of steamed broccoli he said, “What is your business idea?” I whipped out my journal and began reading him my list. As he chewed, and listened attentively, and saw the hope and passion come alive in me once again, he said, “How are you going to do that?”

It was in this moment that I knew I had his support. I explained how I wanted to find a business coach and figure out how to make this journal page of ideas come alive and generate an income. I also told him that I couldn’t continue teaching, not in the capacity of public education, and that this year would be my final year. I began speaking as if I had already completed the task!  

The Following Days

The next few days were a flurry of excitement. I think I filled two journals with ideas of how I could build a business and help others do the same, so they too could have the life they wanted. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And my writing was written in such a way that I had already succeeded in business.

I also started speaking with people about business coaches. I decide on the name for my company (The Writing Whisperer) and bought the domain. (I still can’t believe that name wasn’t taken!). List after list after list was created in my journal —every time I had an idea, I wrote it down, expanded on it, and brainstormed more topics around it.

A week later, when it was time for me to return back to work—something amazing happened. I did so with a smile. You see, I had hope again. And I knew, at a gut level, that the 2012-2013 school year would be my last one as a teacher. I played the scene of me walking out of that building for the last time everyday in my mind.

When fear tried to inch its way in, and whisper at me, telling me that I wouldn’t be able to complete my new mission, do you know what I did? I took out that journal page which illustrated how I could create a business using what I already knew. I read those words, I deserve to be happy again, over and over and over, letting the tears flow freely each time I needed a reminder. I moved through the fear—by taking small steps each day to reach my goal.

I am proud to say that on June 26, 2013, I walked out of that building for the last time. I stood tall and proud and ready to take on small business ownership full-time. The only time I “look back” is when flipping through my journals, so I can continue to uncover the many ideas I want to fully develop in the next phase of business.

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