This is the second time I bought a pair of shoes and regretted it. The first time was in middle school. I showed up to the first day of basketball tryouts in a pair of beat-up blue Vans. Little did I know that Nike Air Force 1s and Jordans were the prerequisite to play ball. As a new seventh-grader — I had just moved back to the Bay Area and switched schools — I was psychologically and physically ill-prepared for that first day. I was the white boy who wasn’t “fitted” and had no “shoe game.” It didn’t help that I couldn’t shoot a free throw.
Tired of being bullied for being uncool, I dragged my mom with me to buy my first pair of Jordans: red 14s. They were the most expensive shoes I had ever owned. Did they help ease the transition into my new school, dunk like Mike or make the friends I so craved? The short answer is no, so I gave up on fitting in. The next year, I made varsity like all of the eighth-graders. But more importantly, my classmates began to like me for the quirky, annoying kid that I couldn’t help being.
When I arrived on campus this fall, I shopped around for my first pair of boots. As a transfer student from Southern California, the perils of the East Coast winter took on mythological proportions. People made it seem like frostbite was a natural occurrence. This time, I was convinced the boots were necessary. Yet when I received that thin, long, yellow slip for the package containing my Sorel boots, I already knew deep down that the East Coast winter wouldn’t live up to the hype I had fabricated. Even when I count my post-Nemo escapades, I wore my only pair of “East Coast shoes” a handful of times. My perception of how I would adjust to Yale was as skewed as my image of a New Haven winter.
What my Sorel boots couldn’t have prepared me for was the shitty weather inside me. I can’t pinpoint when I started to feel depressed. It may have been when the temperature first dropped below San Diego’s average of 70, and I had to throw my sandals and shorts under my twin bed. More likely, it was seeing the leaves outside my window turn brown and then be ripped to shreds by the December winds that tipped off my consciousness. But it wasn’t the winter’s fault that I was feeling down and out. As much as I’d like to blame it on the weather, the roots of my melancholy lay elsewhere. I missed the life I left in San Diego (there were thoughts of sandy, warm beaches); some of my classes seemed dull, and many of my peers disengaged; I was lingering at the tail end of an unhealthy relationship. I put so much thought into preparing for the weather — buying boots, warm socks, thick padded jacket and let’s not forget the long underwear — as a coping mechanism for dealing with the emotional strain of transferring. I overestimated both the snow, and my ability to transition into Yale.
The changing of the seasons wields an odd power over some, perhaps many, maybe even most of our campus. On the surface, there are the observable differences between fall and winter: the lack of people lounging on Cross Campus in tanks and salmon-colored shorts, the piles of snow strewn on the sides of York Street which make it difficult to jaywalk, and the vast emptiness of those competing frozen yogurt places.
But the more important, and insidious, changes are happening internally and most often unseen. Many hibernate and find themselves unable or uninterested in getting out of bed. Mood lights flicker on, and antidepressants are prescribed. Comments like “the weather sucks” are uttered frequently, often in place of “I’m feeling crummy.”
I complained about the weather too, but I was kidding myself. The snow and the cold were some of the least painful elements I braved this winter. While I feel a bit silly for buying boots better suited for the Alaskan tundra, there’s no shame in my game. You know what, I don’t regret buying those Jordans anymore, either! If I had to buy a pair of shoes for every formative experience, then I’d be content with a closet full of shoes I never wear. Luckily, I have all the shoes I need for this spring.