One of my most memorable moments freshman year was landing in Minnesota for winter term. From the plane window at dusk, Minneapolis and the surrounding metropolitan area looked like a land from a fairy book, with frosted roofs and a ribboning highway surrounded by whiteness. I had never been around a lot of snow before and I was completely astonished that this could be real, and be real for a sustained amount of time. (I also remember getting off the bus on campus and making a probably-verbal mental note that I had never been colder. That was true, too). I was looking forward to a lot of seasonal things this term, some of which you can read on the sidebar I wrote about a week and a half ago before I was truly aware of the situation: for most of the term so far, it’s basically been in the thirties and forties. People have been playing Frisbee, running, and complaining about appropriate outerwear (many of our wardrobes go from sweatshirts to sleeping-bag coats). There’s frost in the morning, but you can actually see it receding as the day goes on by examining shadows closely.
Some of my friends who are also going abroad in the spring agree that the past few days have been much like living in an alternate world in which we actually are at Carleton for the third term of this year. This may not be the worst thing, as we kind of feel like we’re getting the best of both options. In fact, this whole winter-but-not-really thing might actually work out pretty well, at least for now: It’s easier to adjust to an earlier schedule when there’s not negative weather outside, and helping friends move into new rooms is much simpler when there’s not a lot of ice on the ground. Besides, this shouldn’t be forever, especially as it’s supposed to be in the teens later this week--best to enjoy this post-adolescent spell while possible and enjoy the snow when it comes.
I think because I really like rules and talking about “best possible” things, it’s sometimes difficult to conceptualize the value of change or divergence from plans. But upon reflection, some great things, and some great things at Carleton, have happened when life didn’t unfold precisely as I had expected. I put down on my housing form freshman year that I didn’t care how many roommates I had, but I definitely didn’t anticipate living in a triple; I spent a lot of the summer before that year worrying about the dynamic between the three of us, but we got along really well and I can’t imagine if it had been any other way. I’ve applied to be an RA twice and I’ve been doubly rejected; the pretty fantastic alternative route has been living with my friends, blogging, and working for the Learning and Teaching Center. (And last year, I was able to frequently bother my freshman neighbors about their love lives, something which probably would have been different had I been there in an official capacity).
And I had an idea for a group Halloween costume this year, but everyone I knew was busy or wasn’t really into it. I was a little down and wasn’t looking forward to the evening of the costume contest; however, that night also happened to be the birthday of my good friend (and freshman year roommate). Ordering some soup to have with her free birthday sandwich at Hogan Brothers’ downtown, I realized there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
So: my many alternative universe selves are probably having a pretty good time, but so is whoever I happen to be inhabiting right now. I’m starting to see that with every thing that doesn’t happen (no matter how awesome), there’s a little more time and energy to do something else amazing. Of course, there are some things that happen that are really bad and definitely merit time coping or mourning or adjusting. But certainly for the small (and sometimes big) things I expect or imagine or anticipate that aren’t the way I think they will be, in their wake I’ve started to try to see a new kind of space. I kind of keep realizing life, especially Carleton, is actually awash with all sorts of opportunities.
A lot of people in college are extremely passionate and busy. One of the things that I definitely had to learn was to have a little extra time on hand. This actually reminds me of one of the poems the rabbi at Carleton likes to read around the Jewish new year which is about keeping some change in your pocket, because you never know when you’re going to need it. At Carleton, I would say I’m starting to adopt a similar philosophy about maintaining balance in my schedule (I say this as I’m trying to engineer classes so I’m not overloading, and have three meetings today—it’s definitely easier said than done!)
Because it’s tough to say exactly when you’ll find a new friend or club or class. I love having the time to get lost in the Arb, accidentally stay up really late, rewrite an essay, have an impromptu dance party. It’s a balance, to be sure; planned events and activities are also a huge source of joy. But you never know when your friend will have a victory plan for stealing Schiller, or you’ll get really into that assignment that you only planned on working on for an hour, or there will be free food at any given event. You never know when it will snow, actually. And you never know when someone might fall asleep on your couch. For these things, you must be ready.
(Note: we know this person and it was all in good fun. Note to Res Life: this is not a real candle).