I galavant in Grant Park dressed in Anna’s adventure outfit from Frozen 2, on Halloween. Camille Williams / North by Northwestern

It started last July with a trip to Dollar Tree. I am a bit of an impulse buyer, especially when everything is $1 and I have two twenties. After a couple of Frozen hand sanitizers caught my eye, I decided to grab a Frozen-themed watercolor palette, stickers and even a Chapstick.

A month later, with all my dorm items moved to a storage unit by the university, my mother was forcing me to buy a temporary set of sheets for my off-campus apartment. If I was going to have an extra pair of sheets, I wanted them to be fun. Unicorns? Mermaids? Then I saw the five-piece set of Frozen sheets with prints of Anna and Elsa embracing. I giddily added them to my shopping cart.

My roommates laughed good-naturedly at the bedspread. They didn’t know I was spending hours on the Disney side of Pinterest, determined to complete my room’s Frozen theme with white and light blue furniture and accessories.

The plot of the 2013 movie Frozen always annoyed me. Is there ever a good reason to isolate your only children from each other? In my opinion, no. I loved the music, though. I sang “Let it Go” for my mom on Mother’s Day, posted another impromptu cover of it after my Dollar Tree haul and sang karaoke to “Love Is an Open Door” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” throughout high school and college. When I saw the trailer for Frozen 2, I knew I had to see it, and the darker-than-usual movie exceeded my expectations in late 2019. The animation was breathtaking, Olaf was funnier and the mystery of Elsa’s powers kept me on the edge of my theater seat. But the sequel’s increased attention to Elsa’s search for purpose and belonging, trust issues, grief and hopelessness impacted me more and laid the foundation for my 2020 Frozen fever.

The ominous soprano “ah-ah, ah-ah” in “Into the Unknown” quickly became one of my rallying cries. During last Winter Quarter, I belted it every time I saw an open window in the sorority quad at night. The angsty lyrics, “You’re not a voice, you’re just a ringing in my ear; and if I heard you, which I don’t…” spoke to my overextended-student anxiety. Like Elsa debating whether to follow the mysterious voice and venture from her queenly duties, I was in denial about what I should do about all my commitments. “Into the Unknown'' continued to resonate with me in quarantine, not only because it felt melodramatic to sing in response to myriad pandemic-induced unknowns, but because of how Elsa embraces a potentially kingdom-upending reality with all the power of Idina Menzel’s legendary belt. Channeling that confidence was implicitly motivating.

I decorated my walls with inspirational Frozen 2 posters from a book that I purchased in the party favors section of Walmart in September. Camille Williams / North by Northwestern

Fast forward to September, when I was buying household goods at Walmart with two of my housemates. I kept insisting they should buy kitchen items in blue to be more “Frozen-esque.”  I debated which Frozen books to get (the comic book), forced on size 13 kids’ Frozen boots and studied the party favors aisle. Overall, my Frozen-motivated purchases totaled $40, even after deciding against jewelry, placemats and stickers.  I posted a haul on YouTube.

"This is actually an obsession,” said Melissa Perry, one of my housemates. She pried me away from Walmart’s toy section after I (unsuccessfully) tried to convince her that I needed a $20 singing Elsa doll.

No trip to Target or CVS was complete without an inner debate about the value each Frozen item could theoretically add to my life. Usually, the answer was very little, but that didn’t stop me from considering it.

“I don’t mind it. I think it’s kind of funny,” said Saira Singh, who shares the room with me. “Many times, I’ll enter the room, and I’ll hear the Frozen documentary playing or just Frozen itself playing. But I think it’s kind of cute.”

So, obviously I had to be a Frozen 2 character for Halloween. I spent hours combing through size charts to see if I could squeeze into $45 girls’ birthday party costumes on Etsy, and comparing quality across cosplay shops, Amazon and the Disney Store. On the verge of getting a handmade version of Anna’s caped adventure outfit for over $180, common sense finally kicked in, and I got one for under $50 from Poshmark, an online reselling platform. It was by far my favorite of my three Halloween costumes I bought that October. (The other ones were Lady Gaga’s Born This Way outfit from the 2011 Grammys and Tiana from the Princess and the Frog).

I thought pursuing a “Frozen 2 aesthetic” would stay a one-time Dollar Store inside joke, but Disney’s magical ice franchise with its earnest, likeable characters and excellent marketing captured not just my impulse control but my heart.

However, I realized things had gotten out of hand when my mom and brother mainly got me Frozen gear for Christmas: a dazzling but ill-fitting Elsa costume, 12 pairs of socks, and a t-shirt and sweatshirt with the same image on it. Even though I was grateful, I realized Frozen represented an incredibly small subset of things I liked, and it was now something I could appreciate without needing to hold overpriced Disney merchandise in my hand. Have I been channeling my anxiety around a remote school year into consuming Frozen products?  Sure. But it’s cheaper, healthier and more fun than maskless house parties. Thank you, Elsa!