I love a new year – it always seems full of potential and the idea that anything can happen! However, the first days of 2018 are feeling slightly less stand out than I expected. It is not because they hold less excitement – quite the opposite, actually. The thing is, I spent the last few months of 2017 committed to seeing each morning as brand new, a fresh start. It was the only way that I knew how to find hope in the aftermath of the storms that had altered my life immeasurably. As a result, the feeling that usually comes for me on January 1st had already become my daily ritual.

On September 6th, I sat in my closet on St. John while the strongest Atlantic based hurricane in history raged around me and shifted absolutely everything in a way that one cannot really imagine until it happens. Just a few weeks later my year and a half relationship ended in a deafening silence and all I could think was, “Well, when your whole life gets completely upended at once you are left with nothing but possibility.” I knew that I had to choose a perspective that would not leave me paralyzed. I could not focus on what I had lost or I would never get out of bed again. I had to focus on what I did have and all the potential that lay before me.

To be clear, it wasn’t like I flipped a happy switch and life just turned into glitter and rainbows. It was a process to be sure. Prior to my evacuation to the states, I spent every hour of daylight (and plenty of 4am lantern sessions) just “doing” – bailing water, cleaning up debris, drying, scrubbing, salvaging – so when I got to Virginia I had an overwhelming need to keep moving. I would tie up my sneakers and head out the door, sometimes for hours at a time. I would run and walk and run and walk and walk and walk and walk. For the first half I would usually stop and cry every 20 or 30 strides. By the second half the fresh air, sunshine, and endorphins would settle in and I would be singing at the top of my lungs to whatever anthem song was blasting on my Ipod. I am convinced that my parents’ neighbors were probably concerned that a crazy person had moved onto the block. With time, there was more singing and less crying.

I started a fresh journal and titled it “New Beginnings.” I sat down and tried to remember what my purpose had been before the storm. I was determined that I would not lose that; I would not allow Irma to strip that from me. I wanted to remain thankful. I wanted to carry on seeing beauty. I wanted to keep seeking out light. I wanted to continue sharing my music, and with it a message of hope, joy, love and kindness. I still had life and I did not want to take a moment of it for granted.

Days after the first hurricane hit, I woke up with a strong knowing that I would eventually head stateside and fundraise. I couldn’t help but feel that the music I had been writing for the last several years was uniquely suited to shed light on the island in her time of sincerest need. At first it seemed too overwhelming to plan much on my own so I just started accepting the various invitations that came my way to perform for relief concerts. With each event came a bit more strength, a bit more resolve, and eventually confidence, clarity, and a vision of my own. Then, one day I realized that I had stopped crying and started getting really excited about all that I might be able to accomplish.

I now feel eager to plan a month or two ahead and I am looking forward to the coming days with great anticipation. I did not make any resolutions this year, but I guess in hindsight my hope is to keep living every day like it is January 1st and to strive to encourage others to do the same.


Photo credit: Performance photo by Shane Meade. 
All other photographs are property of Erin Hart.