I have seen snow less than 10 times. Nine times to be exact. My first time was years ago while snowboarding at Big Bear Mountain in California. The other eight times were at Notre Dame.
Snow is still a novel idea to me. I vaguely remember what snow is like from the trip to California, but I was too young for it to make a lasting impression on me. I surmise overcoming the difficulty of the bunny slopes was more memorable than that which I was sliding upon. Consequently, snow and, by extension, harsh Midwestern weather existed as somewhat of a myth. “The Legend of Snow” was invariably the first topic of discussion when I would speak to somebody about my going to Notre Dame. I found that snow manifests in three distinct modes of conversation.
First, the rhetorical question. “Jonah, are you ready for the weather?” I respond, “Wait, I did not know it snowed in Indiana! I cannot believe I forgot to sign the snow disclaimer on the personal information section of Common App.” Of course, I am not ready for the snow; I have no experience with it. How can I be ready for that for which I cannot practice? If the questioner meant to ask whether I prepared winter clothing to combat the weather or not, I would respond yes. But he or she did not.
Second, the imperative. “Jonah, be sure to layer! Layering is key!” This is simply unnecessary advice, something of common sense that can be personally deduced. Take this rationale for instance. If one removes layers of clothes when one is in a hot environment, I wonder what one would do if he or she is in a cold environment? Remove layers of clothes, right! See how ridiculous the advice sounds now? I am slightly offended when someone tells me this because it insinuates that I would have deliberately chosen to wear a single quarter zip and obstinately deny a parka in 24-degree weather if I had not heard this wisdom.
Third, the anecdote. Often when speaking with anyone who lived in the cold before, I would hear their personal horror stories of enduring the harsh weather. The dubious walks on icy sidewalks. The frozen appendages. The arduous trudges through mounds of snow. The blizzards. The abominable snowman. When I hear these tall tales of snow, I cannot help but be reminded of the joke about how difficult it was for our parents to get to school. That joke is a slight critique of a youthful, “softer” generation who do not know the struggles of growing up in an older, “grittier” one. Moreover, personal anecdotes of the cold appear more as an inane competition of who endured a harsher circumstance than advice. Who won more fights against the abominable snowman? Who trekked a farther distance amid a blizzard? That sort of head-butting.
And so, when it first started snowing here about a week ago, my accumulated knowledge of snow was put to the test. For the first time, I had to make a genuine effort to layer jackets that I might endure the coldest weather I ever experienced. I can confirm that I was not ready for the ND cold. I can also confirm that layering is important to prevent a sweaty meltdown in DeBartolo Hall, an oven. As I mentioned before, snow is still a novel idea for me. I am no Midwestern expert. I am still adjusting, still accumulating actual knowledge of snow. But like all novel ideas, they get old. The winter wonderland of November weather will simply not be the same as the artic wasteland of January. Before I know it, the snow will no longer generate excitement or awe but rather annoyance and perhaps dread. However, this trend is nothing new to me.
I went through the novel phase of college where everything was sunshine and rainbows, a constant state of Domer Fest. Making new friends, learning new academic material and engaging in new extracurricular activities seemed like a source of hilarity and satisfaction. However, the wonderland of starting college will not be the same as the wasteland of completing it. In the short span that I have been here, I was confronted with the sobering reality that the metaphorical snow becomes harsher. Some friends that I kept months ago want nothing to do with me due to a variety of head-aching dramas. Another round of midterms has passed leaving me desperate for a mental and physical break. The activities that I attempted to engage in have turn out to be wrought with failures and shortcomings. Perhaps, I should have internalized more thoroughly the rhetorical questions, imperatives and personal anecdotes of people giving me pre-college advice, which always came after the snow talk.
My main takeaway is that the human experience like weather is transitory. As time progresses, I confirm that my pre-calculus teacher’s advice that “life is like a sin wave” holds true. In the same way all you might see is lush landscapes amid temperate temperatures, so too will you experience moments of flourishing friendships. Inevitably following these are the moments of bleakness in the climate and one’s personal life. One’s consolation ought to be in that winter will come, and winter will go. This specific reflection is an incredibly empowering mentality, one that is relevant to college students especially the ones living in the cold. It has been profoundly meaningful to me as I rationalize my experiences thus far. It offers hope for future favorable conditions to those despairing their failures. Winter is not permanent.Therefore, to my fellow Domers, I do not know how long winter will last or its potential degree of severity. In the meantime, hold fast to your winter coats, whatever it takes. Just know that the weather will become better. It must.
Jonah Tran is a first-year at Notre Dame double majoring in finance and economics and minoring in Classics. Although fully embracing the notorious title of a “Menbroza,” he prides himself on being an Educated Young Southern Gentleman. You can contact Jonah by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.