Monday, January 16, 2012

The Lessons of Winter

"Winter is Coming"- The Words of House Stark

It's been a mild winter. In fact, it's mid-January, and here in Chicago and we JUST had our first real snow a few days ago. Normally, Chicago feels like the tundra at this time of the year. Walking outside last week I saw a girl wearing a shortsleeve shirt and looking very comfortable and happy because it was 55 degrees out. I was wearing my winter coat and I was very uncomfortable and annoyed. I could feel the warm sun on the back of my neck.

I hated it.

I know I'm in the vast minority here, but I kind of like Winter. I know, I know. Cold sucks. Shoveling snow sucks. Frozen pipes really suck. Lack of sunlight sucks. I get it. Winter can really, really suck. I mean, once upon a time surviving through the Winter was a legitimate concern.

But I like Winter.

When I was a small Sean, I participated in ice hockey, an awesome, super-fun sport that requires frozen water to be played. Every year, my youth hockey teams would have fund-raisers where we would stand outside of local businesses with our jerseys on  and ask patrons of those businesses if they would like to donate some money to our team. I remember complaining about it to my dad. "It's too cold!" I yelped.

 To which my father replied "Quiet. Cold builds character."

"Cold builds character" belongs in the great pantheon of things my dad said along with "Celtics play hurt" and "Never pay for dirt".

As an adult, as stated above, I've learned to like Winter. In fact, I think Winter has taught me some really good lessons. Here they are:

1. Over prepare for everything- Some winter mornings you wake up, and check the forecast and see that it's going to be 20 degrees out. You dress appropriately wearing a warm coat, a hat, maybe some boots. Then, in the middle of the afternoon, an arctic front moves in that the local meteorologist wasn't expecting for a few more days. All of a sudden it's windy, and snowing, and it feels like -15 degrees outside.

This is why I overdress when I go out in the Winter time. I wear a thick coat, a cowl, gloves, winter hat, and LL Bean boots that I'm pretty sure I could trudge through the Arctic with if I wanted to. In the Winter, you learn to over-prepare.

2. Snow is awesome- Is it a pain to shovel snow? Yes. Does it look really gross after it's been on the ground for a few days and few hundred dogs have used it as a bathroom? Definitely. Is it the funnest? Yes. Skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights, sledding, sleighing, singing sleighing songs, building snow forts- these are all things that require snow. There is so much joy to be found in the desolation of Winter, and playing in the snow is one of the purest joys you will find in all of life.

3. Ice hockey is awesome-  It requires ice. Right, Milan Lucic?

4. Cold really does build character- I thought my dad was full of it when I was a kid but he's right: Cold does build character. You need to hustle to get by in the Winter time. Hustling makes you a stronger, hardier, better person.

5. Winter food tastes amazing- soups and stews, roasts, hot chocolate- hearty food that warms your insides. Winter food is the greatest.

6. Finally? Winter makes you appreciate the Spring. And the Summer. When you've gone through a long hard Winter, that first nice day in late March or early April feels extra special. And when it's 95 degrees in the Summer time, you won't complain as much because you remember January when it was -15 degrees out. How can you learn to appreciate nice weather if you've never experienced crummy weather?

And that's it. Winter is great. Winter is hard, but it can be beautiful, and fun.


  1. I don't agree with hustling making the universal you a stronger, hardier, better person. For you, certainly, as you say, but with so many drastically different personalities in the world, people face and should face different obstacles differently.

    I do agree that snow is awesome and that over-preparing is key.

    1. Hey Julie,

      Maybe my wording there was a I don't mean to say that there's only one way to deal with obstacles, or even that the experience of dealing with cold makes folks universally better. What I meant to say is that it can encourage people to work harder, and learn more about themselves through that hard work.


  2. Oh man, I love winter too. You can always put more clothes on when you're cold, but there is a limit to what you can take off when you're hot (and still go out in public).

    Also, I feel less guilty for living like a hermit when the temps are in the single digits.