When I began my journey with LVC one of the things I was most worried about was the Midwest Winter. The Wintery Weather came up at one of our monthly spirituality meetings in the fall through one of our discussion questions “In the book about your life, which chapter are you headed to next?” At the time, I had answered “Surviving the Midwest Winter: literally and metaphorically.” As we creep our way through March, I feel that that is the chapter I’m currently in- and hopefully ending soon. No amount of warnings, even from my Minnesota-bred dad, prepared me for how cold Nebraska really is in the winter. Even the locals have said that this winter has been harsher, colder, and more snowy than most years. We’ve had a handful of days when the school I’m at has closed due to snow and/or ice. The temperatures have consistently been in the teens or single digits with a wind chill that makes it feel below 0- a bit different than the mild Baltimore winters I grew up with. Getting through this winter in the literal/physical sense has meant layers outside, blankets inside, and finding indoor activities to keep ourselves out of the chill.
When I thought about the title to my chapter in the more metaphorical sense, I was anticipating some of the emotional difficulties that accompany the Winter season. November and the holidays are still a little sad as I continue to miss my mom- Christmas was always one of her favorite times. Not having tangible access to sunshine and warmth makes me feel antsy at times. As I’ve dealt with chilly days and early darkness, I’ve sometimes wondered why I decided to move to the Midwest. Not only is the winter weather brutal, but I’m far away from my family and my girlfriend.
When I do get stuck thinking about the gloominess of the season, I try to remember that Spring is right around the corner- at least calendar wise and hopefully the weather will get the hint and catch up. Now that the initial excitement over the newness of the year has longed passed, and despite difficulties I expected from the winter, I feel confident about where I’m at spiritually, mentally, and socially.
During a QueerFaith small group session at Urban Abbey, I was asked how I felt I’ve grown in my faith in the last six months. I think I’ve grown in a way that my faith has become less self centered. For a while my faith was directed inward and for myself, but I think in some ways I needed that as I figured out myself and my identity and became comfortable with myself. Now as I’ve been immersed in living out my faith focused on social justice, I’ve found that I have a more tangible understanding of my call of pursuing a life directed towards social justice and helping people.
I’m thankful for how my relationships with my housemates have blossomed over the last few months. We continue to share about our days- the good and bad- and support each other however we can. One day I was talking to Taylor about how good I feel about where I am in this moment of my life. I told her how I’ve felt loved and appreciated by her and our other friends and how much I’m enjoying my placement despite some stressful days. We talked about spiritual practices and intentionality such as how I’ve been working on mindfulness through yoga and music. At the end of our conversation, Taylor noted “you’re on a polka dot”. She described how moments in our lives are like polka dots- as opposed to a more linear structure. She feels that when we’re in a good place- happy or positive- we’re on a polka dot, and when we’re in a more negative or sad place, we’re off the polka dot. Sometimes we’re on a polka dot for a while before hopping to blank space. Sometimes our polka dots are kinda small and other times they’re pretty big. Sometimes we spend a lot of time in blank space and we miss our polka dots. Throughout life there will always be fluctuation between being on a polka dot and being in blank space, but that’s okay. We can’t be happy and positive all the time, but we can also keep in mind that when we’re feeling empty and living in that blank space, we’ll always be able to find a polka dot again.
Even though I feared the winter before it arrived, I’ve spent a lot of this season on a polka dot. Whenever I was bummed about or annoyed with the weather, I tried to remember how much I enjoy my placement, this community, and how supportive and loving my housemates are. Whenever I felt restless about being closer to the end of the year than the beginning, I remind myself that regardless of where I am after this year of service, I’ll be able to take everything I’ve learned with me- even how to survive Winter in the Midwest.