Exactly three weeks ago, in one of the few quiet moments I remember having in New York, I wrapped one mitten around the handle of a large, rolling suitcase and the other around the handle of an umbrella, which I held above one-third of my head and three-thirds of the head of an older woman whose gray hair was wrapped in a plastic babushka. A blizzard of “historic proportions” was supposed to slam the East Coast later that day, but the snow had already started falling like an innocent whisper that would later turn into an anguished scream as its intensity increased.
We were waiting outside Penn Station for a bus to take us to Boston. The driver, who was fanning warm air toward his face with a crinkled copy of Sports Illustrated, refused to open the doors until 6:45 a.m., which was 15 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave.
“Come stand under here with me,” the woman had said a few minutes before, nodding her head up toward the small umbrella.
“No, thanks,” I said, my words getting caught in the scarf wrapped around my face. “I’m okay.”
She scooted a few centimeters toward me, her shoes making a soft scraping sound on the gravel.
“I’m trying to be nice, but I also want you to hold this,” she said. “My arm is tired.”
The wind blew the umbrella and our bodies. I readjusted my grip to check the time on my phone. She readjusted her stance to check the sky, and I don’t know whether she was looking for a lull in the snow, or daybreak, or something else entirely.
True to his word, the driver opened the doors at exactly 6:45. I left the city I had called home for the past five months on the first bus out. I looked back only to see a white cloud swallow the skyline. The storm traveled at a pace just less than bus-on-a-highway-miles-per-hour, so the road ahead of me was clear but the path behind disappeared.
The blizzard eventually caught up, and it hasn’t stopped snowing since. It has snowed 95.7 inches in Boston so far this winter, most of it in the past month.
“You moved here at the worst possible time,” people tell me. “But it’s not always like this. I mean, the snow has to stop eventually, right?”
My life flashes before my eyes during the last sixty seconds of every year. It started in 2000, when I heard a vague rumor that the computer I played Jumpstart learning games on would crash and the world would end.
To calm myself, I remember lying on my floor during News Year’s Eve 1999 and listening to Britney Spears’ “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart” because I figured it was an appropriately sad song to listen to while I waited for an inevitable death. (I was a really fun 7-year-old). As I pushed the “back” button to start the song over for the umpteenth time, I wondered how long the new year could be called “new.” If problems are supposed to happen in the new year, optimistic, 7-year-old Allison thought, maybe they’ll stop when the year isn’t “new” anymore.
We survived Y2K, obviously, but since then, I’ve often wondered how long the new year, or anything, really, can be called “new.” To distract myself from the inevitable dread that builds until the New Year’s countdown, I’ve spent the past few New Year’s Eves walking around and asking people who are otherwise enjoying themselves, “How long do you think the New Year is ‘new?’”
The answers vary. “Two weeks.” “A month.” “A few days.” “Until I stop following my resolutions.”
“You need another drink.”
It wasn’t until this year that I decided, for me, the New Year is “new” as long as there’s hope it’ll be better.
Just before I moved, someone put Boston in a snow globe and gave it to a toddler. First, her parent turned it upside down to let snow coat the houses, roads and trees, and then, once it settled, the parent handed it off. The toddler has turned the snow globe upside down, shaken it and thrown it against the wall repeatedly. It hasn’t broken.
Boston is trudging through a snowstorm that has buried sidewalks, streets, parked cars and, often, plans to exist in a world outdoors. I have spent more days snowed in my 114-year-old house than I have out of it. It has often felt like a slow descent into madness set to the first fifteen seconds of Mozart’s “Rondo alla Turca” because the people who live above me have a piano and haven’t improved enough to get past the opening lines (or played any other songs).
When you move to a city where you can count the number of people you know on one hand, or, more accurately, on a few fingers, people will tell you that you’re brave. For me, being brave wasn’t in the act of moving. In the moments when I was accepting a new job, signing a lease and waiting for the bus driver to open his doors, I felt confident. I felt like it was “right.”
Now, as I keep getting thrown against the glass of the snow globe, my hand leaving a faded print on the windowpane before I slide down, I find myself having to be brave. Being brave comes when I’m alone inside my 114-year-old house listening to the floors creak and jumping every time my neighbors fling snow at my window while I sit in my new bed and realize that, for the first time in my life, my situation doesn’t have an expiration date. Graduation or an internship end date won’t force me to move. This is my life, and now, more than ever before, I get to decide what happens next.
I am exploring from the inside out. I know which floorboards creak and I’m starting to know which cabinet to look in for the plates and which to look for the mugs. I watch the snow roll off the roofs across the street like steam escaping from a boiling pot, only to soon feel a cold chill run down my spine as it seeps in through the storm windows that won’t close. I feel a growing pain in my heart because I want to start learning and exploring and living but am trapped inside. For now, I am trying to figure out my new life while bumping into things in the dark.
“It’s not always like this.”
Today is February 16 — 47 days into 2015.
The New Year is still new.