My journey to Montana started with an airplane. More accurately, with two airplanes. It was just my dad and I on yet another one of our wonderful college visits. Almost every high school senior knows what that’s like. The packing, planning, and stress that accompanies the visits that take you one step closer to the inevitable choosing.
This trip was to Carroll College in Montana. A small liberal arts school, it was one of many that I applied to, that I thought suited me perfectly. But all I really knew was that I wanted a small school in another state, to see what it was like to live outside of California.
I am still not much of a flier. Starting as I watched the enormous green agricultural fields and the towering skyline of buildings of Sacramento grow smaller as the plane climbed into the clouds, the knots in my stomach persisted through Salt Lake City, Utah and Butte, Montana. I held onto my dad’s hand for dear life, as if that would somehow protect me. My hands clenched onto his, tightening with each bump and bounce that the plane hit.
With the final descent, I squeezed still tighter and braced for the impact that I felt was inevitable. We did not die. In fact, we landed completely safe at the tiny airport in Butte. As we stepped off the plane, we were greeted by a brisk wind and the darkening of the Montana sky, an imminent sign that the cold was welcoming us with more cold.
Butte was the complete opposite of home. Sacramento was hot and dry and didn’t get much colder than 40℉. I lived in the same house in the same city from the age of two. All my family and friends were in Sacramento. It was a large city in a large state with millions of people, and while I knew where everything important to me was, there were always new things to discover. I loved it and I didn’t know anything else.
The Butte airport itself was no larger than a Target and resembled a warehouse that would one day be converted into a Costco. It was February, snow was everywhere, and it was freezing cold. All things I had never really experienced in Sacramento. My dad planned the timing of our trip specifically so I could get an idea of what it would be like to live there.
We left the airport to walk to the rental car and we were immediately surrounded by a blanket of fluffy white snow. It was as if someone placed an enormous down blanket over the town of Butte. But more than that, there was a peaceful feeling in the air. There were no cars out, no traffic noise, no people talking around me. Everything was silent. It was as if my dad and I were the only two people in the whole town. It was eerie being so far away from the hustle and bustle that you experience everywhere in California. Montana was so far removed from everything that I knew. No family. No familiar weather. No loud noise. How was I supposed to find a new home when I recognized nothing?
The car ride from Butte to Helena enabled me to take in the beauty of Montana. As I looked out my window, everything was flat. The land looked as if it went on for miles, buried under a thick layer of freshly fallen snow. Gazing out at the scenery was indescribable. There was a tranquil atmosphere surrounding the landscape that lulled you into a sedate state of being. The feelings of contentment, peace and serenity overwhelmed you. Your thoughts drifted out of you, like a sailor to sea. It was unnerving, but also exciting.
This was not the world that I knew. Montana was quiet and scenic. California was overpopulated, loud and industrial. But it was my home. How could I move so far away from it? I was proud to be from California and I loved being a part of such a diverse and interesting state. Montana was beautiful, but so silent. How could I live in the silence?
As I sat staring out of the car window, watching the snow begin to fall, I turned my head to look at my dad. In that moment, I was so confused and unsure about my future, but I felt at peace. I didn’t know where I was going to be next year or in the next ten years, but I knew that wherever I was I would find my way. My dad always said that “life has a way of working itself out,” and I believe him. This is what I tell myself as I watch the falling snow cover my window and obscure my view of the scenic plains that stretch out into forever.
By: Darcy Christoffersen