Dearest towns, cities, and counties of the Northeastern United States,
I feel your pain.
Well, let me correct myself – I don’t actually feel your pain. As your tweets, texts, and status updates ensured I was informed of the newest onslaught of wintry misery that would soon be impacting your commutes and school schedules, I was walking down the street in my sweater, running errands on a mild, overcast day. Given the density of family and friends with whom I interact regularly that reside in the greater Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC areas, I was convinced that my current city of residence was in the midst of some sort of heat wave. After all, this is the first winter I’ve spent in the Pacific Northwest – I have no preconceived notion of what it should be like outside. But when I returned to my car and put the key in the ignition, the gentleman on the radio assured me otherwise, explaining that the rest of the week would be mild and seasonable in a similar fashion to today. So while I don’t feel the tangible ache of cold joints or the uncomfortable dampness of snow-soaked socks, a quarter century of snowy experiences and subzero memories doesn’t exactly disappear overnight, either. I know how awful it must have been these last few weeks, and I’m sorry that you’re there.
I’m sorry that you’re there because I can vividly remember those nostril-freezing walks between academic buildings, those evenings when a blanket was a necessity to venture down into the basement. But also, I’m sorry that you haven’t figured out that you should pack your bags and explore greener pastures.
I was like you once – wary of the west, overwhelmed by the vast expanse of land, concerned with the distance between friends and family that in reality would be easily bridged by the miracle of commercial flight. Years ago, it was me disappointing a Colorado-dreamin’ girlfriend when I told her I couldn’t move to Denver with her (She stayed – I win). It was me, questioning whether the west was truly best, skeptical of the nearly universal narrative that life was easier the closer one got to the Rockies. I was naive then, and perhaps a bit close-minded as well.
More importantly, I was wrong.
During the depths of your polar vortex, I went running outside. In shorts. At a latitudinal line equivalent to the northern tip of Maine. The local “feels like” reading on my weather app was eighty degrees greater than the windchill-devastated number associated with my hometown. Again – I live farther north than you. All of you.
I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t your typical rub-it-in-your-face climate brag. It’s not your beach-porn Instagram pic trumpeting an all-inclusive Caribbean vacation. It isn’t your smug classmate in Tampa snidely lamenting about donning a light jacket as the evening temperatures drop to a ‘frigid’ 65 degrees. This is about growing up in the northern US and vowing to stay in the northern US, albeit it with a different secondary geographic modifier. It’s about maintaining four seasons, but doing so in a way that doesn’t require one to take days-long shelter from the elements. Those folks in Florida will sing a different tune in August, when “95” refers to both the height of the mercury and the percentage of humidity in the air. The Sonoran desert is wonderful in February, but far less forgiving in the summer (and the spring, and the fall, for that matter). Spring in the Pacific Northwest means flowers and showers. Fall means cooler temperatures and foliage. Sound familiar? Oh, and summer? Just three months of perfect weather spread over eighteen hours of sunlight. There are still seasons; it’s just that they’re superior (Okay, the foliage in New England can’t be beat; that part was a lie).
Does saying all this make me soft? Perhaps. Soft like the fleece that keeps me warm on my way to work without the need for additional layering. Soft like the powder in the mountains that I can elect to go see, but doesn’t mind if I decide to opt out this particular weekend. I would miss snow immensely if it was cut out of my life entirely, but I’ve come to accept the fact that I much prefer the option of snow to the depressing certainty of a midweek nor’easter. You can pay for the prix fixe menu, or you can get what you want a la carte. I know what I’m choosing (unless it’s restaurant week, in which case, this metaphor no longer makes sense anyway).
I’m telling you all this not to make you feel worse, but to motivate you. Get up. Pack some clothes. Explore your options. Bring your superior pizza and sports fanaticism. Bring your sarcasm (I don’t think they get it here). Bring yourselves, warts and all. I miss you…just probably not enough to come back to you. It’s not you, it’s me.
Also, maybe your weather.
PS – You can keep the bugs, too