What They Don’t Tell You About Snow
In the first week of 2016, I left my job and my boyfriend. Both departures had been planned months in advance.
The end of my job followed a surprisingly honest conversations between my boss and I. The boyfriend was less deliberate, but as I began to see both he and I in our true lights, the weight of that relationship became unbearable.
I went to his work to break up with him. It was just one train stop away from mine in Cambridge, Mass. I sat down and just said it. I wanted to break up. I appreciate you but this isn’t working for me.
It pained me to say it but as I walked outside into a dark January evening, the frigid air searing my tears into my face, I felt, for the first time in a long time, a feeling of better things to come.
Over the next few months I applied for jobs and did what I could to enjoy the time knowing that soon my financial situation would become desperate. On one particularly restive evening, I watched a snow storm from my bedroom window. Weighing whether it was better to be warm and constrained inside, or cold, wet and free outside, I chose the latter. I put on my boots and coat and walked five blocks to the city soccer field.
The field lights were on and the snow swirled around in the air, perfectly illuminated. Standing there in that urban desert of snow, I couldn’t help but feel cleansed by its beauty and power. I fell backward onto it. There was about a foot and a half on the ground from a previous snowfall and I just laid in it, staring at the sky.
There was no noise except that unmistakable rush of a snowstorm. You never get that peace and quiet in the middle of the city.
As I laid there, I couldn’t help picturing myself three years earlier, panic stricken while rolling a suitcase through Harvard Square. I moved to Boston to get a job and thought it would be easy to get an apartment. However, it is not easy to get an affordable apartment in September in a densely populated college town. I was bouncing from hotel deal to hotel deal while searching for somewhere to stay.
On this particular afternoon, my mother had joined me to help look for apartments and give some much-needed moral support. As we walked over an old brick sidewalk, I felt my chest seize up. It was an all-too familiar feeling of absolute and completely unfounded dread.
I stopped and took a shallow breath. Looking around in the crowded square, I bent forward in an attempt to shield my face from the public view. I saw a teardrop hit the sidewalk.
Doubt paralyzed me. What was I doing in New England, so far from home? Would I have what it takes to make it here? How would I handle the winters? I had been so scared.
And there I was, three years later, watching the snow swirl above me. Growing up in Florida, I didn’t know much about snow. Luckily some locals educated me on the basics, like how mittens are warmer than gloves and layers are key to warmth.
But here’s what they don’t tell you about snow: snow is cleansing. Snow kills the existing greenery so it can grow back even better than before. The live, healthy trees regrow after the winter; the old diseased ones don’t make it.
Like the snow, life changes can be uncaring, beautiful and mighty. They slough off the things we don’t need and force us to take only what we can carry into the next phase of life.
As I let the snow fall on me that night, I couldn’t help but ask it to cleanse me. Let me take only what I need into my next phase of life and help me leave my dead beliefs behind.
I have since relocated back to Florida. I am supremely happy that I don’t have to scrape ice and brush snow off my car and that I don’t have to wait in the snow for a bus. But even though this place fits (dare I call it home?), I can’t help but think that maybe, sometimes, we Floridians miss something without the snow.
Originally Published in the Self Narrate Column in the Gainesville Sun
Photo Credit: Gail Frederick