Surviving Your First NYC Winter
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New York Normal: Surviving Your First New York City Winter

A New York City winter is like a cold that lasts 6 months. In November and December, you feel the illness seeping into your bones. It’s unpleasant, but not unbearable; however, you know it’s the calm before the storm. January, February, and March are the heart of the sickness, the symptoms include aching bones, congestion, disorientation, runny noses and even mucus producing eyes. Yes, every hole on your face becomes runny. April is the slow recovery.

New York winters are like a cold and while experiencing it, you’ll question your survival.

Winters Past

The last two winters of my life were spent in hoodies and sitting on the open beaches amid 50˚ weather. Snow was an old friend, a distant memory, someone I’d left behind in another life.

I have lots of fond memories of snow: building snowmen, igloos, and rolling what seemed like a hundred snowballs with the other children living in the cul de sac of my suburban childhood.

I also remember the less fun times like getting snowed in for weeks at a time, atop the winding road and steep hill that Liberty, Kentucky knows as Snake Ridge. While reminiscing on that snowy road, my mind borrows the haunting score from The Shining’s opening scene.

Did I mention that those long, snowed in weeks were usually spent without electric? I was living a Jane Austen novel, minus the romance.

There were lots of snow days in my high school life. Those snow day memories are my favorite. We were young, dumb, rebellious, and full of life – a dangerous combination. We’d hike for hours through the snow filled hills, trying to see the top of the small town we called home. Each step felt like another inch closer to Freedom. We drove on unsafe roads; we tested how many donuts we could turn in snow filled parking lots. Then, we would sled hills on private property until we were chased off. We were a Bob Dylan song.

In college, snow days become far and few between. You aren’t too old that you’ve forgotten how to have fun in the snow, but you also have responsibilities like work, bills, and an active social calendar. Or maybe, you’re trying to head down 75 South for Spring Break right when a snow storm hits. You start to see the inconvenience of the white death.

Life Without Winter

Then comes the real world. And snow days are nothing but a fond memory of wintry yesteryears.

An interesting twist in my winter past: three years ago, I loaded up my car in December and happily drove away to the heavenly south. In the south, you see pictures and hear ghastly stories about friends and family bearing the harsh winter, you listen to their sad stories while sipping sweet tea on your patio, your only words of comfort are, “Bless your heart.”

Life without winter is perfect, I tell ya. But you know what kills perfection? Ambition. One day that silly little voice inside your head tells you that now is the chance to follow your lifelong dream and move to New York City. As I sit here typing, during my 6 month of winter, part of me wishes I’d water-boarded that voice with bourbon.

Hello, New York City Winter

I didn’t, instead, like an imbecile, I once again loaded my car, this time driving into the f’ing first city of winter. I mentally prepped for months, I tried talking it up to myself. “You can wear cute sweaters, and colorful winter coats, and all the boots you want.” Still, I wasn’t buying it. Deep down I knew what the future held – frozen snot on my face (and sometimes hair); kissing the crowded sidewalks of New York (multiple times); and the soul crushing coldness. My lady, New York didn’t disappoint.

But she was kind of a tease when it came to winter. Autumn in New York was just as perfect as pop culture had promised. So I expected the same of the rumored New York Winters. I wanted to see Manhattan sprinkled in snow at Christmastime.  Oh, how fun it would be to catch snowflakes in my mouth as I walked in and out of the stores on Madison Ave and stared in awe at the window designs of Bergdorf’s. I wanted a New York winter As Shown on TV.

In reality – I did stroll in and out of stores on Madison Ave and pause to look at the window displays of Bergdorf’s, and it was sprinkling in Manhattan. It was actually more of a torrential downpour, but hell that’s just details.  Along with those details, I remember my paper bags filled with Christmas presents tearing from each unavoidable splash of rain that hit them.

November, December and thru mid-January were cold, wet and snowless. I was aggravated that society had lied to me about New York winters. I was told there’d be snow. And that’s when it happened . . . Like a fool, I stood outside beneath my street lights and looked up at the New York sky and mocked her inability to produce snow.

Please Note: Never mock a New York winter. She will smite you.

A week later it started snowing and it finally stopped yesterday.

Here’s where movies and TV shows lie about New York Winter’s: the snow is beautiful as it’s falling and sometimes even an hour or two after, but then, it gets dirty and the piles mounded on the sidewalks get higher and higher, until you feel lost in a frozen tundra. And there’s no way out. You just have to wait for it to melt, but it doesn’t because it’s below zero. The most defining factor about a New York winter is not the snow, but the bitter coldness haunting the city, squirming itself into your bones, until it possesses every inch of your soul.

New York City is a Cold Bitch.

I learned that there’s no such thing as too many layers. If you can fit four pairs of leggings under your pants, by god you do it.

I once wore a thermal tank, a button down, a wool cardigan, a fur-lined hoodie, two winter coats, a knitted scarf, two toboggans, and a pair of knitted mittens and I still felt cold.

I finally understood the true suffering Jack from Titanic felt. He too just wanted to go to New York City.

There are moments when the breeze catches the bitter air and scorches your skin like the open flames of hell.

Hindsight, right? Now, here we are a week into spring, and it’s snowed twice. Ugh, snow is so last season.

I survived my first New York winter, perhaps, barely made it is a better description, but I did make it.

A New York Winter is like a 6 month cold – there are no antibiotics, no at-home remedies, no amount of Vitamin C that will cure it – the only prescription is to suffer through it.

Following a five-year stint in New York City, Ashley is now a Los Angeles transplant. Having grown up in rural Kentucky, Ashley is passionate to share self-care techniques used around the world and hopes to make them accessible to folks in rural communities. Ashley believes in gratitude, personal legends, and doing good. Aside from being a business leader in her professional life, Ashley is a novelist and freelance writer.

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