Hurricanes and New Beginnings
Vince Taormina discusses the nerves around starting his own law firm.
My only experience with hurricanes was through the television, watching as those daring/stupid (I never could decide which it was, maybe both) newscasters stood amidst half-bent palm trees, swelling storm surges, and wind zipping at speeds faster than most cars on the Audubon, all while piercing rain pelted their parkas like BB-Gun pellets. But never, not in a million years, did I expect to live through two hurricanes in Worcester, Massachusetts, of all places.
It was August 2011. I spent the summer before my Freshman year at Holy Cross attending graduation parties, traveling back and forth from our family lake house in Kentucky, and working for a small firework stand in Troy, Missouri, called “Flaming Balls Fireworks.” Seeing as hurricanes usually didn’t strike Missouri, or Massachusetts for that matter, I did not expect that my first day 1,174 miles away from my home would involve a mandatory “shelter in place” for Hurricane Irene.
The outer fringe of Irene barreled into Worcester around two o’clock in the afternoon, just as my parents and I stood in the parking lot of Holy Cross saying our goodbyes. It started pouring right as we got to their car. Thinking we were smart, we opened the trunk of our rented 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan to keep us dry. That didn’t work. The rain fell sideways from the wind. I could barely differentiate my parents’ tears from the rain. Both streamed down their faces.
It was a hurried goodbye, one cut short by a hurricane. We hugged, they told me they were proud of me, and that was it. There was no time for parental advice, no time for me to express the anxiety I felt starting college so far away, and no time for dawdling. They had to catch the last flight out for St. Louis, and I had to bunker down in my dorm.
The sloppy abruptness of that moment was the perfect metaphor for this new chapter in my life. The anxiousness and the uncertainty would have to wait, so too would the homesickness and the grief. The hurricane did not care about our emotions; it was going to strike no matter what. The only thing that we could do was act now and think later, to endure the storm without hesitation.
Life is full of changes. Some of those changes are of our own making, others are not. And with each change, purposeful or otherwise, comes fear—fear of unknowing, fear of failure, fear of newness. Our fear of change is a natural consequence of our humanity. When a baby emerges from her mother’s womb, she breathes air for the first time and instantly begins to cry. Her first taste of air is a frightening experience. What is this stuff entering her lungs? The only way that she knows how to cope with this change is to cry, to express her fear of the new through tears.
Even as we grow older, new experiences cause the butterflies in our stomachs to flutter. The anxiety associated with change affects our bodies’ chemistry and triggers our flight-or-fight response because we are unsure of the consequences of that change. Something as simple as a first kiss can cause a stomachache. What if I’m a bad kisser? What if she doesn’t like me after? What if my breath smells bad? What if…? What if…? What if…?
That “what if?” terrifies us. It nags at us, makes us second-guess ourselves. It is the opposite of the surety and consistency that we as humans expect in our everyday lives. Like a hurricane, change is a disrupting force. It upends our expectancies and challenges our existing patterns of behavior, tossing us about in a tempest of uncertainty and “what if’s.” The gale-force winds of change leaves us with two options: (1) Bunker down in acceptance and see where the change takes us; or (2) Run from it and find comfort in the familiar.
Change—even change by our own making—challenges our preconceived notions of who we are and why we do the things that we do. Change torments and pricks and pokes at the foundation of our lives. And yet, when we choose to endure the hurricane of change instead of running from it, we can come out stronger on the other side; we can begin to see the aftermath of its destruction and chart a new course, a new beginning for our life.
I am going through a radical change in my life. Starting my own law firm—The Taormina Firm—is both exciting and terrifying. What if I’m no good? What if I can’t get clients? What if I fail? What if…? What if…? What if…?
But instead of succumbing to the “what if’s,” instead of letting this hurricane of change dictate my way of thinking or behaving, I am choosing to channel the uncertainty and anxiety of starting my own business in order to come out a stronger person on the other side. I will not let this change control me; I will not allow it to foster fear or make me second-guess my decision. Instead, I will embrace the change, use it to my advantage, harness its unpredictability to better serve my clients and my community.
I am deliberately deciding to view this change as a new beginning in my life. There will be time for stress and doubt. There will be time for fear and discouragement. But now is not that time. Now is the time for action.
I have lived through two literal hurricanes—Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy. Now, a third hurricane is brewing. Landfall is in sight. Will I run? No. I will brave the storm. I will guard myself against the thrashing. And though I may come out the other side battered and bruised like those daring/stupid newscasters, when the storm clouds scatter and winds die down, I know that I will have made the right choice in accepting the change and welcoming this new beginning.