When I was looking at colleges, I placed a very particular (almost unreasonable) emphasis on the weather. I wasn’t looking for anything perfect; rather I wanted something different. The weather in Los Angeles always seemed too sunny and perfect—in fact the weather in California is so perfect that we have a perpetual problem with droughts. I was tired of this, and so I applied to schools like Bowdoin where I believed I could experience the seasons of which I was deprived.
Bowdoin didn’t disappoint. I remember looking around in the fall and snapchatting how the leaves were various shades of red, orange and yellow. It was the wonderful, picturesque image that I expected. I didn’t have any of this growing up; the trees at home were boring. One minute they’re green, and then the next day “Bam!” The trees are dead, and now it’s cold. Yay!
Maybe that’s why I was so enchanted by the idea of fall and winter—I’ve never lived in an environment like this before. Fall at Bowdoin was incredible—and I believed that winter would be the same. Winter conjured up the idyllic images from the Christmas movies that I watched growing up. When the first snowflakes fell, I was thrilled.
“Aww! It’s baby’s first snow!” I remember my roommate saying, as I looked around the Quad trying to take pictures of all the the snow. I remember saying, “I need to take a picture of all this before it’s gone!” I was wrong. Within a week, a snowstorm brought in a few more inches of soft snow. I didn’t realize that it would stick around until April.
Winter was not as pleasant as I naively thought. The beautiful white snow that I was so excited about turned into this nasty mess. It always seemed to be dark, and I couldn’t go outside like I used to at home. Going to class became an adventure! It was either take the long way through the muddy paths that Bowdoin cleared, trudge through the deep snow or (my personal favorite!) slip and crawl my way across the sheets of ice that facilities and the town of Brunswick never seemed to clear. Awesome choices, right?!
But this wasn’t the main thing that bothered me. It was the fact that the weather actually had an impact on my mood. Before I came to Bowdoin, I didn’t even know what Seasonal Affective Disorder was. But after experiencing my first winter here, I realized that it was very real—winter just drains you. It worsens the stress of schoolwork and becomes downright depressing. I spent my days doing homework and excessively napping—staying inside because the weather was nasty outside. After a while I felt like I just couldn’t breathe—both literally and figuratively. The weather made my asthma act up and made everything worse. I felt miserable.
At this point I just wanted winter to end. I wanted to see the sun and hang out on the Quad again. I wanted to cut across the Quad. I wanted to use the diagonal path between the Chapel and Gibson again. Unfortunately, winter lasts for a while—especially at Bowdoin where it can snow up until April.
Yet, despite all the difficulties, I see this entire experience as a cathartic one. Winter and fall weren’t necessarily horrible—they also had their positives. And although I hated some aspects of it, I learned how to adapt to a harsh environment. Bowdoin’s environment made it much easier to adapt to any potential problems I might encounter. If I had issues, I could just use one of the many resources on campus. Surviving winter also felt like a group effort—it brought me closer to people. It allowed me to forge new relationships with the people with whom I was stuck inside. I’m now more confident that I can actually be “at home at all lands”—I might not be a true “Mainer,” but I survived didn’t I?
Depriving myself of warmth and sunshine also allowed me to better appreciate the “perfect weather” I took for granted. I’m not as intense as those people who pull out their shorts and Birkenstocks in sunny 39-degree weather, but I try to study outside whenever it gets to 50.
Spring is here. And I’m hopeful—but I honestly think I’ll still find a way to complain about it too, especially since I’m the type of person who sits in the quad for five minutes and comes home with 30 bug bites.