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Lessons from the vortex

| Monday, January 20, 2014

Much like the rest of my fellow Midwesterners who were ravaged by the Polar Vortex a couple of weeks ago, I spent a large part of my last week home being, well, at home. My entire city was under a State of Emergency, my little sister had school canceled for the entire week (extending her high school break to the length of my college break) and my mother had stockpiled enough food Sunday evening to last a thousand winters. The only time I was actually motivated enough to venture out to my front porch to get the newspaper involved me opening the door, feeling the negative 30-degree wind freeze my nose hairs and promptly concluding “oh, heck no” while closing the door, all within a five-second timespan.
Interestingly enough, this historical weather event provided a lot of “me” time and revealed to me a couple of important things from the mundane to the Intro-to-Philosophy level. Without further adieu, I present my “Lessons from the Vortex.”
Lesson No. 1: Do not trust Pinterest. With a family full of “I’m going to lose so much weight this year” resolutions, my school-less sister and I took it upon ourselves to prepare a wide assortment of healthy dessert options to keep our family healthy in this frozen abyss. Naturally, any 15-year-old high school girl’s first instinct when it comes to concocting a tantalizingly Instagram-able treat is to consult Pinterest. I consulted my sisters’ newly gifted iPad mini, scrolling through what seemed to be (as my lack of patience led to me to conclude) an infinite supply of healthy, organic, low-cal, high-protein and good-for-you recipes that looked too good to be true. After we sorted through the recipes and eliminated those with obscure ingredients (I still don’t know what xanthan gum is or why anyone would have quinoa flour handy), we decided to prepare a strawberry, peanut butter, oatmeal and flax-seed smoothie, as well as cookies in which the only ingredients were bananas and flourless oatmeal muffins. Each day brought a new recipe, a new flavor, but the same reaction from everyone upon consumption, “Well, at least you tried.” The moral of the story here? Healthy desserts are a myth. Don’t let Pinterest (or your 15-year-old sister) deceive you into thinking otherwise.
Lesson No. 2: Too much TV can actually reduce your mind to mush. When I wasn’t failing miserably at cooking with my sister during this snowpocalypse, I was watching TV with my brother or playing the Dawnguard and Dragonborn expansion packs of one of my favorite video games, Skyrim. After finishing 20 hours of gameplay, Seasons Four, Five and Six of “Breaking Bad” and Seasons Four and Five of “Scrubs,” I was slowly losing my ability to think and communicate coherently. It also didn’t help that I got really into the whole Doge meme for the past couple of months, which has also hindered my ability to form grammatically correct sentences. When my mom would yell down the stairs that dinner was ready, my responses were audible grunts, and dinnertime conversation would frequently include me putting my head on the table and mumbling “many bright, much confuse” or some other Doge-worthy variants of this line. Point is, all those years of my mom telling me video games were going to “rot my brain” weren’t so out there after all.
Lesson No. 3: Family, family, family. As if being home from break wasn’t enough to remind me how much I love my family, being forced by the City of Fort Wayne and the National Weather Service not to leave our house for three days reinforced how much they mean to me. Whether it was my sister’s and my culinary adventures, my brother and me plowing through season upon season of Netflix, shoveling our car out of 14 inches of snow with my dad or conversations with my parents about what the heck I’m going to do with my life, I was consistently amazed by how different my life would be without them. At the end of the day, these are the people who have always been there for me and, God willing, will be with me for a long while. Sometimes it’s the little things like windchills in the negative 40s and snow accumulations of greater than one foot that make you appreciate those that matter the most.
I guess some of the most important lessons in life are the ones we learn while away from school. Granted, these lessons may not have been the same as, say, my Orgo II class (even though both experiences ravaged me in similar ways), but they were still just as important. Here’s to another break, more time with family and maybe a little warmer weather.

Michael Fliotsos is a sophomore science-business major living in Duncan Hall.  He can be reached at [email protected]
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