May 16, 2018

Natural Disaster: Accidental Minimalist

A Minimalist’s journey amidst burnout and natural disaster.

Professionally smashed and suffering from burnout, in 2017, I resigned from a successful career in finance. I altered the trajectory of my entire life, moving to a remote Caribbean island in my mid-thirties.

My goal was to live a simple life; I needed to breathe.

Everyone (including myself) was blindsided by my seemingly sudden about-face. At 36 I was the first female and youngest executive at my firm. I had recently won a coveted international award in my field. From the outside looking in, albeit a few trials and tribulations over the years, I seemed to really have it all.

But something was missing. Maybe nothing was missing. Maybe there was too much.

In a slightly off base effort to simplify, I packed up my life into a 20ft container and shipped my belongings to the island of Anguilla. Note to self: 30 pairs of designer heels are not needed nor will ever be worn on a Caribbean island! My minimalist ideals were focused on my professional life and not my belongings, but that would change.

Out of Anyone’s Hands... A Natural Disaster

In 2017, the Caribbean suffered a historically devastating hurricane season which still affects Puerto Rico today. In the fateful early hours of September 6th, Anguilla was directly hit by Hurricane Irma—a category five storm with up to 208mph winds that we steadily endured for 12 hours. We lived directly on the coast, the roof was ripped from our home and our businesses sustained significant damage. An entire island was left to repair the emotional and physical damage that remained in the wake of Irma’s travels.

After a natural disaster, one must adapt to a simple existence, living with less than the basics. Without electricity until the day after Thanksgiving, with a generator providing six hours of power for every 24 hours, water being pulled from a cistern to bathe, limited food (beans are a main staple), and long gas lines—everyone is in survival mode. The entire island was living every aspect of life as a minimalist.

In the end, the island’s economy had suffered immensely, so after eight months post-Irma I returned to the United States feeling defeated. However, this time I packed two suitcases containing only the necessities and moved into a sparsely furnished flat—continuing my minimalist lifestyle, optimistic of my next adventure.

We as a society put so much meaning into “things.” As for my minimalist story, I survived a traumatic event with my life intact surrounded by those I love. One must realize things can be destroyed, but things are not alive. Things do not love nor feel pain.

Never put too much love into something that can’t love you back (including something that helps you carry buckets of water from the cisterns in order to bathe).

Published by Michaux M. Brooks in Lifestyle

Photography by NASA

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