When I heard there was a chance of snow the night of Dec. 16, the news passed over my head without much of a second thought.
Judging from the past two to three winters in Jersey, I assumed the predictions of up to two feet would magically drop to roughly two inches overnight, and I’d awake the next morning with much of the grass still visible.
But the morning after, when I looked out my window, the ground was covered in white. And it wasn’t any of that slushy, powdery snow, either.
It was perfect packing snow—the kind you wish for as a kid to make snowballs and snowmen. The type of snow you have to shovel fast before it freezes to your driveway the next morning. Snow that serves as a buffer to the busy noise of the world, prompting New Jerseyans to sleep in later than normal.
While staring out the window that morning, I was blissfully unaware of what a snowfall like this meant during a pandemic. In the past, snow like this might have kept you inside for a day or two, but then plows would come and roads would be cleared, salt would stick to sidewalks and everything would resume once again.
You could go see a movie, or make plans at a friends house, or call in a dinner reservation. But in our current reality, where many families have relied on walks, parks and fire pits to stay connected to those outside of their homes, the snow will serve as an icy barrier to the alternatives some of us just (finally) grew used to.
And it’s not just the snow—it’s all of winter, in all her wicked glory.
It’s the way the sun sets at 4:30 p.m., before most arrive home from their 9 to 5. It’s the temperature drop that you endure just to see loved ones, but keeps your time limited in comparison to a warm day in July.
I know for me spring has never seemed more alluring, simply because I could meet a friend at the park to pass a soccer ball with (and I don’t even play soccer).
Maybe winter is what we need to keep us distanced, to stop the spread. Or maybe it’ll be what breaks us, and we’ll begin to make “just one exception” and convene inside once again.
Either way, it’s yet another variable we must adjust to and learn to live with. It’s a painfully isolating one at that, as it threatens the “outdoors and distanced” assurance that has served as our principal coping mechanism.
According to Gov. Murphy, you can still meet a friend for a socially distanced walk, but according to winter, you “would, if only it wasn’t so cold. But definitely the next warm day.”
Now more than ever, it’s important to prioritize your health—both physical and mental—in any ways that you can. I know how hard it can be to pull yourself out of bed when the cold and the dark feel like such heavy blankets, but it’s important that we do, and that we help each other do the same.
Early sunsets, precipitation and low temperatures are most certainly obstacles, but they are not obstructions.
Spend time with family, take drives, and play in the snow. Be resourceful! A garage can be turned into a socially distanced hangout space, and shoveling can be a great way to get a work out in (and actually follow through on your New Year’s resolution).
And for the elderly and the high risk population, this winter is even harder.
Putting in extra effort to make connections, however often that you can, makes all the difference. Setting up Zoom calls, dropping off food and even a simple text—that is, if your grandparents know how to work an iPhone—will help them get through this isolating period.
Stop by Paper Source (Princeton), and pick your grandma up some new stationary. Drop your grandpa off a pizza pie from Aljon’s (West Windsor). And remember that your words mean more than anything else—yes, phone calls with relatives can at times feel tedious, but even talking about the weather can serve to comfort and connect.
At the end of the day, this is just another block we must chop at, and it’s important to remember that winter is a block.
If you start to feel more isolated, less productive, and lack motivation, that’s okay. Allow yourself to feel justification in these feelings, instead of feeling frustrated by where they came from. This year, each change is nuanced, even one as fundamental as the change of seasons.
Rubenstein is a 17-year-old resident of West Windsor.