Twenty Two

I might as well come right out and say it… today is my birthday.

Slogging through six inches of snow was not how I imagined spending my first day of being twenty-two.  But this is Minnesota, and Minnesota does what it wants.

On this day last year, I was in Oxford, England.  How many people can say they spent their twenty-first birthday in Oxford?  (British people aside, that is.)  It was one of the best days I’ve ever had.  I splurged on shopping, toured some of the colleges, and had my first drink at the Eagle and Child pub.  It was quite the adventure, and you can hear all about it (and see pictures!) on my old study abroad blog.

My twenty-second birthday is definitely not as epic, but still has been incredibly special.  My mom came to visit yesterday.  We drove up the road to Alexandria and went antique shopping, wandered around town, and had a special dinner at an expensive restaurant.  We sat eating for several hours, enjoying each other’s company and opening cards and gifts.  The day ended relaxing in her hotel, where we did some online shopping.

I spent the night in the hotel and had the joy of commuting to campus in five inches of snow.  The local school district cancelled everything today, but the University never closes.  I keep telling myself that God just wanted to drop LOTS of natural confetti to celebrate my special day… it’s a nice thought, but not super effective.

Outside of the normal Monday routine, do I have anything special birthday plans?  Not really.  All my normal Monday night events were cancelled due to the ghastly weather.  So it looks like I’ll be staying in and watching movies with the roommates.  It’ll be nice.  I’ll wear comfy clothes, eating goodies, and avoiding homework because…

I’ll also be rocking out to the following song in my head, even though I absolutely loathe it.  But it’s my birthday.  I’m twenty-two.  I’m going to break all my rules.  (Then go back to loathing it tomorrow.)

A note on blizzards

The tiny town on the middle of the prairie where I attend school has been struck by a blizzard.  And, like any respectable college student, I compare my suffering to Disney movies.  Specifically, I compare my suffering with Disney movies that deal with snow, ice, and all the magical goodness that Minnesota winters bring.  Yes, I’m talking about Frozen.

(Spoilers ahead.)

You know the scene, near the end, where Elsa’s emotions spiral so out of control that Arendelle is lost amid a massive swirling cloud?  Desperate to melt her frozen heart, our spunky protagonist and the tender-hearted mountain man brave the elements, struggling toward each other through the terrifying cold and whipping snow.  Valiantly they push through the storm, determined against all odds to find each other before it’s too late…

That’s how I felt walking to class today.

My face was numb after about thirty seconds and the wind nearly pushed me to the ground several times.  Yet still I struggled, putting one foot after another, determined against all odds to reach my destination.

The only difference between my day and Frozen is there was no Kristoff waiting for me on the other side of the blizzard. No.  No lovable mountain man to melt the despair I felt at the prospect of risking my life for the sake of my education.  In his place was class, professors, and homework.

I wish my life were a Disney movie.

Freeze

Minnesota has frozen.  It’s like the new Disney movie only with no castles, no talking snowmen, and at the end of the day, no amount of love makes the weather get better.  The cold is here, and it’s here to stay.

Yesterday was the first time the temperature was above zero in a week.  The ground is covered in a foot of snow.  When the wind blows, the snow scatters across the road, making driving a near impossibility.  This coming Monday, the governor of the state shut down all the schools because the high for the Twin Cities area is -13 F.  Average temperatures in Western Minnesota (where I go to college) are for around -20 F.  Add in windchill and it’s significantly lower.

Why am I talking about the weather?  Well, that’s what Minnesotans do.  We talk (or, rather, complain) about the weather.  Lately, courtesy of global warming, it’s always doing something strange.  We get fifty degrees in May followed by nineties in September.  We get the longest spring in history, with gorgeous weather starting in March, and the next year winter lasts nearly five months.  You can never seem to win.

When I was in Ireland, during the drive from Dublin to Cork, the tour guide was talking about the weather.  Apparently, obsession with discussing the external conditions is a worldwide thing.  Anyways, he said that he was once in Canada during the winter.  He walked off the airplane and absolutely could not believe how cold it was.  Ungodly, he called it.  He listed off some of the basic conditions he experienced there, then asked us, “How do people survive?”  The others on the bus (a few fellow American students living in Rome, a couple from somewhere in England, and an Australian) shuddered in terror.  I just shrugged because the horrors he described were what I’ve lived through for the past twenty-one winters.

This morning, I was on my way into the local gym and I passed the manager.  She was bundled up like a marshmallow and I could only recognize her through a small slit for her eyes.  The rest of her face was covered in a low hat and tightly wound scarf.  Last night was particularly windy, so she was shoveling away the snow drift that had made its home in front of the doorway.  It looked like she was working hard–she didn’t even need to go inside where the weights and running machines were to get her daily exercise.  As I plodded through the drift to the door, she looked at me and, through all her layers, I could see the exasperation on her face as she asked me a very important question:

“Why do we live here?”

In the moment that followed I had a mental flashback to living in London, where the weather is in the fifties and the only impediment is the occasional rain shower.

I then replied, “I ask myself that every day.”

Once inside, after tugging off my own layers, tying up my gym shoes, and settling my Kindle on the elliptical, I pondered the manager’s question.  And, despite the terrifying cold, the ghastly amounts of snow, treacherous driving conditions, and layers upon layers of dangerous ice everywhere, I knew exactly why we live here.

It’s home.  Deep down, we take pride in living in ungodly conditions.  You could almost say that we love it.  (But, if you ask, we’ll never actually admit it.)