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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A winter survival kit

Monday, January 28, 2013

It appears like everybody is affected by some degree. It mostly occurs during the long space between fall and spring, seeming to be extremely prevalent in the months of January and February.

What am I speaking of? It is called the winter blues, synonymous with the winter doldrums and a plethora of other depressing phrases: it is the feeling of no-energy, depression, despair, and hopelessness that seems to strike with each cloudy, wintery day. There is even SAD: (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which are these symptoms taken to taken to the extreme. Of course, it seems a tad natural to feel this way during this latter part of winter. For in these final stages, there seems to be nothing to look forward to (the holidays have come and gone) and the wonderment of the snow and cold weather vanishes. Not only that, but the rain comes and melts away the snow, leaving a few dirty mounds, brown grass, and lots of ice. Clouds seem darker and more overcast.

During this time, it seems as if we have all become autotrophs: dependent on the sun for our energy and well-being. But with the sun, and the warmth and strength it brings, hardly available, the whole world seems bleak; literally and figuratively speaking.

I read that the levels of hopelessness during the winter depend on the geographic location. Well, welcome to Iowa: land of the high winds, snow flurries, and freezing rain. And since this is my fourth year living in the Hawkeye State, I have felt the dreariness of winter more than once. Hence, I have compiled a list, a guide, to surviving the dreaded winter blues.

* Get plenty of sleep. Because it reboots us for the next day, it is a little-known fact that sleep may indeed be man's best friend.

* Stay active and busy. Whether it's exercising or taking eighteen credits at school, being busy doing SOMETHING = more energy. Now, more than ever, would be the best time to start those procrastinated resolutions....

* Get your sunshine. Even though the sun doesn't come out quite as often, (and shines less brightly when it does) it doesn't mean it's not there. Going outside more is a great place to start. And if it's too cold, open the blinds.

* Embrace winter. Winter is a beautiful time of year. Especially when you're talking about the sunrises and the hoar-frost that comes with a good storm, it is particularly scenic. When the snow settles, I know for a fact that I will be out there: erecting snow forts, building snowmen, and participating in snowball fights...when I'm not at work applying the second rule that is.

* Stay healthy. If there is anything worse than being stuck inside because it is too cold to go out, it's staying inside because you have the flu.

* Count your blessings. Realizing what you have always puts things on the bright side. When you see the lake freeze over or hear the wind howl, knowing that you have a warm place to go to puts a little optimism into the mixture.

* And lastly, which should be applied whether it is during the winter or not, is this: laugh more, frown less, and smile often. It combats depression, relieves pain, stress, and makes your day a little easier. It is, if you haven't noticed, something we all need.

he books were heavy in my hands as I left the Iowa Central building that stands contiguous with the High School. It was a Friday and I sighed a little wearily as I realized that heavy books just means a heavy load, which only means another busy semester.

Yet, despite the somewhat dreary realization of more school, the awareness that school means studying and being busy, I know that I'm continuing down the path of learning, ultimately enabling me to further define myself as a person.

Education.

To those who appreciate it, education is a beautiful thing... beautiful, but also important as well. Since the Academy of Athens, schools have always been the symbol for education. But, as always, it starts in the homes. And, like everything, it should.

One of the most important things I was taught by my parents was the desire to learn. Teachers have since molded that desire, nurtured it and strengthened it, but ultimately just giving me a taste of what is really out there. It is needless to say that my teachers did a pretty good job of it. For they, along with my parents, truly gave me a quality education. And again it is needless to say that they continue to do so.

It must be said that it is not the memorizing of a few dates or reciting a few key terms that defines a quality education. It is thinking critically, thinking from multiple perspectives, and finding wisdom in folly that defines it. Having a quality education is having the knowledge that you don't know everything, yet knowing you know something. It is a realization that you are never too old or smart to learn something from someone else. A quality education, like many things, is a lifelong process. And by this, a quality education doesn't come free, but it is so much worth the effort.

In America, it seems like the want and need for an education is slowly diminishing. It is becoming more of a hassle to give everybody an education, let alone a quality one. For that reason, college is becoming more and more expensive. Technology has made things easier, faster, and cheaper, but the crucial aspect of human interaction is slowly being lost.

So, I am here to say that education IS important. Like that reliable mechanical pencil-sharpener, it sharpens the mind and opens the way. And I am glad for it.

As I leave the school, heading on the road west, I reflect on the journey that led me here: a college student with one semester under my belt and about to embark on another. Sometime in the future, I will engage in the best educational experience of my life. I will leave the classroom and go on a church mission, continuing my opportunity to learn and to grow. I will not be studying thermodynamics or quantum physics, but will be learning how to serve others before myself. It just goes to show that quality education just does not exist within the walls of a building; which makes it all the more meaningful.

* Jacob Olson is an Iowa Central Community College student from Storm Lake. He contributes a weekly column for the Pilot-Tribune