Homework from Mother Nature: Sing in The Rain

Ohio weather: the ultimate training program for college.

For those of you hardy enough to live in this great little swing state and for those who call the infamous deviations of Mother Nature your own, I can imagine a nod of the head accompanied that somewhat quirky statement. For those who don’t? Let me explain.

The dear green hills of Ohio are Nature’s favorite venue for her apparently routine temper tantrums. The noon hour may hold nothing but a cozy 70 degrees and bunny-tail clouds floating in the sky, but a true Ohioan knows better than to leave her umbrella on the shelf. Or her snow boots. Or her lightning rod. Or her sunscreen. Or her windbreaker. In the back of one mini-van, a true Ohioan will have everything from sledding gear to a multitude of swimsuits… not matter if the forecast is 70 and sunny or the polar opposite.

Mother Nature, my friends, cannot be trusted.
And so my point is made: Inconsistency is the way of the world in my charming home state of Ohio. And so, it seems, it is the defining characteristic of my first few weeks of college.

Advice was as common as raindrops in the polarizing week before Move In Day. I say “polarizing” because inevitably everyone I knew seemed to gravitate to one of two beliefs: The terribly cliché but somehow still comforting “College will be the best four years of your life” doctrine or the self-aware “Ready, Set, NO!” mode of thought that I covered in my first article. Nevertheless, all those around me urged optimism and preparation.

Upon arrival? I felt as most Ohioans often do: No minivan, no matter how overloaded, could possibly be prepared for the typical day’s weather forecast. I forgot a thing or two, and plans were fumbled. I walked away from that last embrace like a lost puppy. Snapping out of that “Ready, Set, NO!” attitude took a healthy handful of minutes. But as the first night passed I had no complaints.

My first few days were full of happy, welcoming occasions – the picnic weather of college. I played nearly endless games of Midnight Ultimate Frisbee, made new friends and formed an alliance between two of my colleges major Halls, learned that professors could be extraordinarily friendly and maybe (just MAYBE) even human, discovered the river that meanders invitingly past our downtown alleys, found the best ice cream nook on campus, and laughed with complete strangers like it was the most natural thing in the world. During these hours, the minivan of weather supplies stayed in the garage.

Then came the tempest. Not all at once, of course, because Nature tantrums often come in spurts just long enough to soak a nice day at the beach but not long enough to merit a full day spent inside. Printers jammed, schedules overlapped, drama – the fiend of high school years – snuck its way into dorm rooms, and many a not-so-merry meltdown occurred. Every burp in the plans seemed like a sonic boom. Something had gone wrong.
As I said earlier, no minivan of preparatory thoughts and consolations was enough. The storm hit. The rain pummeled the earth. And I was stuck.

Singing. I was stuck singing! Oh, what a turn of events it was to realize that even when the college avenues had turned to a fitful rush of water and murk, there was fun to be had. Wheeling my bike into a very real rainstorm only a few days ago – I took Gene Kelly’s “Singing in the Rain” and went on the sort of ride that elevates me to remember. Rain of that variety rinses doubts down the drain of a unique awareness: that the world is very much the same as it has always been.

Admittedly, my life is more of a whirlwind than it has ever been. Plans are always being made, warped, and canceled. Homework abounds. But even though my life appears very changed, my world is the same. Puddles can still be the best entertainment of the day. Lifting music to new ears still makes me beam. My parents, siblings, and dogs still exist no matter how many paved miles rose to challenge us. Friends exist, the old and the new.

The key is to think of your “stormclouds” (anxieties of all shapes and sizes) not as inhibiting but as an enabling, character building challenge. Can you see past the greys of a drama-downpour into the world that remains unchanged below it? Can you recognize that under the stress -snow is the same lush grass that held a picnic once? Even with many years of weathering (pun heartily intended) Nature’s most unreliable, I’d forgotten to remember that a change of scene doesn’t always require a change of attitude.

When the next college storm arrives, I think I might just keep on singing.

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