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How to live through the cold

A part of me dies in New York when I can no longer leave the house without a jacket.

Suddenly I am an insecure thirteen-year-old afraid to show her arms, only now there is no one there to remind me to grab a jacket. I must remember, I must prepare, I must know how to live through the cold, or I will never make it through the year; I will never make it through the grief that is getting older and getting colder.

Something changes after the warmth of summer fades, something sets in, like a call to action, to change or be changed.

I find myself mourning everyone and everything as if this season is its own wake. I consider myself a cheerful person, I love the holiday season, and reasons to dress up. But the three weeks until I return home feels like a lifetime.

My friend, Adam, moved from Michigan and was an engineering major for approximately three semesters.

I knew Adam for a month before he moved out of the city; he looked like a kid who knew how to be alone. I used to envy how he was unafraid to go on the metro or smoke outside the CVS on Fulton, so when we had his going away party I was surprised. I asked him why he was leaving, and he couldn't give me a good answer, all he said was “It was colder than I thought it would be.” this is the same answer he gave me when I saw him light up for the first time and asked him why he did it.

I have still never smoked a cigarette, for I am fearful it will make me want to flee New York.

I didn't expect myself to grieve growing up as much as I have. That change and loss are all part of the deal. I suppose this is obvious, but one day you're dreaming about what the future will look like, and another, you're in it, and you have to let it be what it is. Maybe that sounds silly.

I used to think grief only happened when someone died, that it was conformed to death, and so whatever I was feeling had to be something different. Then I found a picture of a girl I knew in elementary school. We went to the water park together, and it hit me that I would never see her again, and if I did, on the street somewhere or at the grocery store, would I be able to recognize her, would she to me? I knew the answer, I still know the answer.

I decided there must be a name for this, and it must've been grief, because the next morning I went to the corner store and forgot my jacket, and for the first time in a long time, it was freezing. I cried over orange juice on my way home and got so angry because I meant to get milk, and cried again because I should have brought a jacket, and cried even longer because I couldn't remember what waterpark we went to.

This had to be grief, because otherwise it meant I was going insane, and I had no time to do that because finals were a week from now and I couldn't go crazy and have time to study for second-semester Mathematics.

Once, I spent a whole day between the oven and the kitchen table trying to balance studying for finals and making my mother's chicken soup, and no matter how hard I tried, something was wrong. I don't know exactly why I didn't just call her; some days, I think I would rather freeze than admit I don't know what I'm doing, and I’d rather be alone than admit I need people.

After tears and a lot of burnt vegetables, I decided I would walk outside and try to remember why I was in a different city, without my mother's soup, and with one too many lingering questions on how to live anyway.

A block in, I was shivering, and New York lived on.

This is where I've learned that the secret to survival, is to let yourself be needed and let yourself need.

Otherwise, you will not make it through the winter.

I want so badly to be the girl I used to be in the place I am now, but it’s impossible; one could not have existed without the preface of grief foreshadowing; I couldn’t have made it here without laying to rest a part of who I used to be.

So, I walked home and called my mom. My soup was missing celery, and before I left the house to grab the final ingredient and try again, I grabbed my coat.

When I wonder what it takes to live in a new city, go to a new school, and live a new life, I have to remind myself I'm not borrowing somebody else's, that I am, in fact, not a visitor to my life, that once the winter passes, I will still be here, as long as I let myself be.

I put on re-runs of Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals and pretend I'm not afraid of growing old.

My brother will visit, and he will be taller than I remember. This is grief, hundreds of miles away.

I try to reconcile with the fact that I am not fifteen anymore, and I have to let myself belong in the world instead of being afraid of it the way I used to be. This is grief next to you calling to you, asking you to bury the dead, but still, please visit often.

if you want to know how to live through the cold, call your mother, grieve your younger self, and remember your jacket.

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