When I woke up on Wednesday, I was ready to go home and celebrate Thanksgiving with my family in Pittsburgh. My laundry was in the dryer at the laundromat downstairs and I was getting ready to pack my bags to go home. Tuesday was my last day at work, but I was somewhat optimistic that I was going to find a new job pretty quickly. I just got off the phone with a recruiter when I noticed people on the street pointing up at my roof. The fire alarm went off and smoke started coming through my walls. In a instant, my life was turned upside down.
There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing your home being swallowed by smoke and flames. The fire started in the building next to mine, engulfing the top floor. I clung to the hope that it would stay isolated there, but the flames don’t care about what you want. In the longest 30 minutes of my life, I watched the smoke creep into my apartment. A crowd gathered…an audience to my misery. Any hope that my belongings would be salvaged was gone when the firefighters broke my windows and started spraying water directly into my bedroom. I stayed for a little bit longer, but there was no point. At that moment, I had no control over what was happening. You just let go and move on.
I came back four hours later and the fire was still burning. I sat in a Red Cross van with my neighbors, despondent. They had vaguely familiar faces, but it wasn’t until then that we actually got to know each other. We bonded in our misery. They had lost everything too. With each update from the fire chief, any hope that we had of getting anything back slowly crept away. The buildings were in imminent danger of collapse and they would be raised immediately. Nothing more could be done.
So, what do you do when everything you have is taken away in an instant? Nobody wants to think about it, because it’s such a horrible dilemma to consider. Bad things happen all the time, but life goes on regardless. Watch the local news and you’ll see things like this happening every day. I guess all you can do is realize that life happens whether you want it to or not and you can only control so much.
Life is tough right now. I don’t have a job, my possessions are gone, and I don’t know where I’m going to live. Despite all of that, I can at least see a silver lining in all of this. My family and my friends have been incredible in the past couple days. I’m absolutely floored by all the love I’ve received from the people in my life. I know some genuinely amazing people and they’re carrying me through this rough time. I can’t say enough how much it means to me to have this support.
I can also use this as an opportunity to change the direction of my life. I wasn’t happy at work and New York has been kicking my ass for the past five years. I literally have nothing holding me back from leaving town and building something new somewhere else. Having my apartment burn down was just an ungentle nudge towards confronting that problem head on.
So, the TL:DR version of my story is this. Sometimes bad things happen and you can’t do anything about it. Don’t get too attached to your possessions, because they can be gone in a moments notice. Cherish your friends and family, because they’ll get you through moments like this. And get renter’s insurance, because bad stuff can happen to you too.