The endless in-between

Dear world, I have a proposition for you. Could we maybe just skip all of the Februaries between now and eternity? Growing up in the Great Lakes region, I learned from a very young age that February meant still stuffing yourself into your puffy winter gear long after that winter gear has lost its luster. In fact, by February in northwest Pennsylvania, everything has lost its luster. The snow is no longer magical—it’s just cold and very persistent.

My sister and I had complementary snowsuits—one pink and one purple. As we got a little bigger each year, February meant packing ourselves and our snowsuits like bloated sardines into the back of our tiny red hatchback for the ride to school. When I started taking music lessons in fifth grade, it meant trudging through the snow with a saxophone case as big as myself and packing that into the hatchback too. Since some of my dad’s work was seasonal, February also brought with it a sense of scarcity. It was the time when we started to worry about our winter stores running out.

By the time I got to high school, February was less about the weather and more about the waiting. It was a month of auditions and applications for summer programs, of anxiously checking the mailbox for very important envelopes. And although the applications were different and the stakes felt higher, February remained that way for the rest of my long education—a worrying and waiting month, in which the fates review whatever you have offered up and confer about your next steps.

This February has been my very first post-school February. Having moved south and finally graduated out of the academic calendar, I had rather hoped that each of the months would take on a quieter character, that September would not be so amped up with anticipation and February would not be so filled with dread.

Despite whatever balmy visions I may have had about Atlanta, it’s still colder here in February than it usually is, and grown-up February still feels like a month of reckoning. It is a time for doing your taxes and for taking account of everything that has changed, for better or worse, since this time last year.

By now, you know how much I love beginnings. And sometimes I can deal with endings too, because they usually lead to new beginnings. In-betweens, however, are impossible to wrap my head around, and after watching twenty-six Februaries come and go, I am certain that February is nothing but an endless in-between.

There must be some important reason for February to exist—a rare flower, perhaps, that only blooms this time of year—and if you can think of one, I hope you’ll let me know. Otherwise, I will be eagerly ticking off its last few days in hopeful anticipation of spring.