I am now about to leave the heartland of the country, St. Paul Minnesota. I first came here a little over three years to start my undergraduate career at Macalester College. When applying to colleges my father had jokingly told me I had to stay on the east side of the Mississippi and so, being a restless young teenager, I had ended up right on the Mississippi.
But being as restless and eager to experience the world as I was, this small liberal arts college in Minnesota felt too small and insular for me. It felt like it didn’t quite have the myriad of cultures and people that the big cities of the east coast had and it also didn’t quite have the natural beauty of a rural campus. And I found myself frustrated with an environmental studies program that strongly emphasized policy and politics when I really wanted to be doing science. And so by my sophomore year I was applying to transfer and ended up at Cornell in Ithaca, NY.
But now, as most of my freshman class is in their final year I find myself back at Macalester, visiting old friends and old professors. There is something to be said for the bonds created during the first years of college, when all of you have recently left home and are trying to figure out your separate identities. It has been wonderful to feel welcomed back by old friends. The people at Macalester are truly wonderful people; independent, critical thinkers, and loyal and dynamic friends. It’s also amazing to see how our interests have grown and changed but many of us are thinking about similar transitional things now. Many of us are asking ourselves what is our purpose in this world? What do we want to do once we graduate? It is comforting to know that we are all asking these similar questions now and that most of us don’t yet have the answers.
I spent my first night here with my freshman year roommate! It is crazy to think that already almost 4 years has passed since those first days in college. We went out to a delicious hole in the wall Turkish restaurant, the Black Sea, that she has discovered sometime in the year and a half that I have been gone. I then went to Carleton college where I visited a friend I have known for eleven years! She is a friend I have known since middle school and who I have, if anything, grown closer with over the years. Having friends who have known you for so long is truly a gift. There is a certain trust and stability in such friendships. We have seen each other grow and change and have known each other through both good and bad times. And you are just so comfortable around each other! It is a similar bond to that of family, but it takes a bit more effort to maintain since, unlike family, we have no reason to cross paths if we don’t want to. Instead we have chosen to make each other part of our extended family. The four days I spent at Carleton with her was probably the longest chunk of time I have spent with her since we were in middle school together! And it was quite wonderful. I did art with her as she worked on her final senior project in ceramics. And it’s funny, many of our afternoons together in middle school were also spent doing art together in my mom’s studio!
Upon returning to Macalester I stayed with the crowd that had lived in the coop my sophomore year. This was truly wonderful as well. I felt so welcomed by these people who gave me big hugs and said “welcome home!” when I walked in the door. Sometimes I wonder if I had ended up living in that coop my sophomore year would that have changed my decision to transfer. And then what a different trajectory my life would have right now… I do think Macalester has some wonderful people, but the place itself as a kind of surburbia that still does not appeal to me.
From this home base at my friends house I have eaten almost every meal with an old friend, I have done my best to show my gratitude for their hospitality by baking pumpkin pie and bread for everyone, and I have just had a jolly good time 🙂 Thursday night two of my friends and I went out swing dancing- why did I never discover swing dancing in the twin cities before?! It was such a good time. No bar scene, or pressure to be good. Just pure, fun, funky, goofy swing dancing. And I don’t even know how to swing dance but it was SO much fun. Only one of us actually knew how to swing, so she taught the other two of us the basic steps and then we just went for it! It is amazing how much fun dance can be when you are able to just let go and have a good time. We danced with each other, we asked guys to dance, and we got asked to dance. Sometimes I felt like I had no idea what I was doing and sometimes I got compliments for my dancing, but it was always a fun, friendly atmosphere.
It was also great to have lunch with my old advisor. Having an adult during those first years of college who took the time to get to know me as not just a student but as a person was truly a blessing. He guided me and listened to me as I made the tough decision to transfer, and we have been in touch just a few times a year since, but that has been enough so that I felt able to e mail him and plan a lunch date during this visit. And we just caught up on everything from school to family and home life, to plans for the future and it was so nice! I am very glad I still have that relationship as I have found it difficult to build a relationship with professors at Cornell.
Having only turned 21 after leaving Macalester, we have gone out to the Tap, a little bar nearby bar, to experience some of the over 21 scene. I have also climbed a campus building while here, an old tradition that involved an easy scaling of the building. From the top the campus looks quiet and peaceful at 1 am in the morning and you can see the sky dotted with stars. It was a full moon night, the perfect night for such an adventure with old friends. They also, conveniently, always leave a door open on the roof from which to enter the building; A smart decision on the colleges part as I think it would be much more likely for students to hurt themselves trying to climb down. So an old friend and I tromped around the inside of the building a bit, finding a nice lounge to sit and talk. At this hour it is hard to find many indoor spaces to hang out, and the outside air is getting cold enough in Minnesota that you would rather be inside, so this was a good option. Eventually we headed back to my friend’s house, ate some pumpkin bread and parted ways. It was a good evening.
Friday night I got to see someone who took my permaculture and green Building course with me this past summer; Kaitlyn! Her and her mom drove into the twin cities for a day on the town and we all went out to dinner at a cute diner in Minneapolis. This was Great as I had wondered if I would ever see Kaitlyn again, and hearing what my fellow alumni from Living Routes are doing is always inspiring and motivating.
The weekend came and Saturday was a beautiful relaxed day. A few friends and I took a nice walk in the Louise Butler Wilder Flower Gardens, a nice pocket of wilderness in the cities. Then the evening was spent brewing some beer, talking and just hanging out. Sunday I made vegetarian chili and another pumpkin pie for a potluck in the evening that we hosted. The potluck was lots of fun and gave me an opportunity to see some faces I hadn’t yet seen, including some mac grads that had welcomed me to the campus and shown me the ropes as a freshman. The potluck soon turned into a jamming session later in the evening and someone even had a violin that I could play so I was very happy!
Now I am sitting in the Humphrey terminal of Minneapolis/St. Paul airport waiting for my flight that will take me to my next stop: Seattle, Washington. It is a bit bittersweet as I am very excited for my next stop but also sad to be leaving friends again. My visit to Minnesota was a great success. Although keeping in touch is always hard and can take away from present experiences, these friends here will always have a place in my heart I will welcome them with open arms wherever we again cross paths. And having revitalized these connections I feel confident that many of us will again cross paths.