But I found out that life is not always about safety or predictability. As an immigrant (yes, I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I will tell you all about that chapter in my life later), I was used to starting over. So in a way, I was somewhat prepared for the complete and utter loss that Hurricane Katrina brought upon me and my family and the rest of us who call New Orleans "home." When I tell you we were left with nothing, I am not exaggerating. We evacuated just 30 miles from New Orleans to the country (a little house in the middle of nowhere that my father in law had the foresight to buy as his little "getaway" from the city). My entire family -- mother, blind father, brother, two sisters, their spouses, my two babies (then 4 months and 18 months), my sister's inlaws, and 17 cats and dogs -- all evacuated to a 3 bedroom cottage in Nowhere, USA, just outside of New Orleans. We rode out Katrina and lost all power and connection to the outside world. We heard through a crank up radio that the levees had breached and New Orleans was underwater. Little did I know that out of all of us, my house was right where the levees broke and I had lost everything. We had an overnight bag with a couple of changes of underwear and socks and that was our entire inventory. I remember being in Austin, TX in the weeks after the storm where one of my husband's friends was kind enough to offer us his guest room and going into a Gap and looking around like a dazed homeless person. When the sweet, bubbly, teenage clerk came up to me to ask if there was anything she could find for me, I broke down crying. I mean, where do you start? "I need everything," I told her, sobbing. I have no clothes, no shoes (except for these old tennis shoes), no nothing!!!!
But we had our health, and our jobs (at least, we hoped we still did), and a bank account (albeit in a back submerged in 10 ft of mucky water, and each other. And that was more than 99% of most people in this world.
So we started over. From scratch. And we commuted every day with 2 small kids in the back of my station wagon from the little country house to my office in downtown New Orleans for 1 1/2 hours each way. It was miserable. The months after Katrina. Going back and forth to a city that looked like the napon bomb had exploded. Not knowing where to start, how to rebuild, where to begin.
But we did. One step at a time. Baby steps at times. And slowly, the fear started leaving me and it was replaced by a strength and determination that I didn't know I had. And I worked the long hours, and then some more at home in the evenings, so that we could rebuild and I could put my husband through accounting school (he had lost his job and it was difficult to be employed unless you were a professional) and keep the family going. I worked very hard at giving my children the stability they needed in a world that wasn't stable anymore. And throughout all those years that it took to come back home (three and a half before we rebuilt and moved back here), I realized that it was during my most desperate moments -- during those times when I felt so alone and so miserable and so scared and lost -- there was a net holding me, holding us. It may not always have been so obvious (trust me), but we made it through safely.
So it is now, as I take a step into the unknown, leaping from the stability and certainty and safety of my legal profession (which made me so stressed and tired and worn out for so long) into the uncertainty and insecurity of something that I absolutely adore (which is to fill my life with beauty and bring that beauty to others), that I must remind myself that the net is all around me, even at the times when financially, it seems like I made a huge, huge mistake for me and my family. But I'm leaping and I'm leaping because in this life, nothing is certain and you may wake up one day and find yourself with nothing but the clothes on your back. But a net is always there, waiting to catch you so long as you are not afraid to free fall for a while.
This is my net. My new shop in beautiful, rebuilt New Orleans.