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Winter coats, heaters and hot packs: A personal essay

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DECEMBER 10, 2022

I am cold.

It feels like I’ve always been cold. I remember freezing since I was as young as 10 years old. It only got worse from there. No matter how many winter coats or heaters or hot packs I bought, the cold would not leave me. When I turned 17, it started to get a bit better. I met some great people and I got to know myself. All of this familiarity brought me some warmth. 

Eighteen was the warmest I ever felt. I built myself a solid community, I built myself a life and a personality, and with these tools I built myself a fortress so airtight that the cold could not get in despite its best efforts. But life changes drastically when you’re 18, and suddenly my fortress began to crumble. Growing pains, I told myself. I’ll build it back up when I’m strong enough again.

Eventually, my fortress deteriorated completely and I was victim to the frost once more. It was an unfamiliar feeling; I had been comfortable for so long that I forgot how freezing felt. To make matters worse, I didn’t have my familiarity — the foundation of my shelter — anymore. It was a difficult journey but slowly, I relearned how to live with the cold. Winter coats, heaters and hot packs became my best friends. I became an expert at masking chattering teeth. My freezing hands weren’t a bother to anyone because I kept them stuffed in jacket pockets and hidden in mittens. I never was strong enough again, so this time I built a wall instead of a fortress. It wasn’t ideal, but it got the job done. It kept me alive.

I had been comfortable for so long that I forgot how freezing felt.

Then at 20, I was met with the sun. At first I was scared; I had never been in such close proximity to such heat. Its rays managed to get past my protection and seep through my wall and I was intrigued. I cautiously took down a few of my bricks and whispered a “hello.” It turned my way, and my whole world changed. The ice around my fingertips began to melt, my teeth ceased chattering long enough for me to crack a smile, and every part of me just knew the sun would be important in my life. By the end of our conversation, I had taken down all of my bricks, and I finally knew what it meant to be truly, thoroughly warm. 

After this encounter, we were instant best friends. Every day, we would make each other laugh and we would learn so much from each other. My teeth never chattered and my hands never froze. I stored away my winter coats, heaters and hot packs. I started to feel like I was 18 again: like my days of frost and isolation might be over.

I was wrong. 

On days when the sun had to attend to its own business, I was at a loss for warmth. Normally, this would have been fine — I had lived like this my whole life — but I had taken down my wall to let the sun in. I was defenseless; the cold was free to consume me. I fought hard; I refused to be dependent on the sun; I refused to let the best part of my life be a contributing factor to the worst. I doubled down on my winter coats, heaters and hot packs, but they weren’t strong enough to make a difference without my wall. 

I refused to let the best part of my life be a contributing factor to the worst.

I was at a crossroads. Rebuilding my wall meant losing my best friend, for no fault of its own. I would be abandoning someone who had shown me nothing but love and kindness simply so I could be comfortable. I knew how to live with the cold; my winter coats, heaters and hot packs weren’t enough to keep me warm but they were enough to keep me alive. Wouldn’t it be selfish? To block out the sun just because I was at an inconvenience? Or would it be the right choice? To put myself first?

I still don’t know the answer.

So I sit and shiver and wait.

Contact Anoushka Singal at 


DECEMBER 10, 2022