- Route: Rockies
- Ride Year: 2017
- Hometown: Claremont, CA
- School Year: Senior
- Major: Political Communications
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The first dream job I had was to be the Costa Rican Ambassador, and I've had a lot of dream jobs since. I love dreaming up new dream jobs. And I love learning. I've made my way through many of the disciplines at UT--communications, geography, cognitive science, economics, architecture--because I'm fascinated by the way in which they all intersect with one another. For 6 years, when I was younger, I kept a rock collection; the rocks were mostly just pebbles from the street but each one had its story. One was from my dad's climb to the top of Mt. Whitney. My dad is pretty cool, and my mom is too; I'm very grateful for them. They taught me to always strive to act with purpose, and they help me to craft my own story. Here are some of the small details:
I have great respect for the versatility and durability of potatoes. Sometimes I forget to separate my recycling; sometimes I'm vegan. My favorite part of playing tennis was going through my pre-serve routine: bounce, bounce, rock back & forth. My favorite part of playing soccer was the frozen grapes during halftime team talks. My favorite part of swimming was the parka. My computer houses many secret recordings of my sister and I singing "For Good" - though they're not so secret anymore. I go through a jar of peanut butter every two weeks. When I go to the ocean, I swim far out because I'm afraid of sand sharks. I am an advocate of happy socks and dancing. And I firmly believe in the importance of hearing stories that differ wildly from my own.
Why I Ride
I believe in the importance of developing a Why for each project I undertake. For Texas 4000, my why is Quita, my first dog, first best friend, and the first one to teach me the sadness of loss, whose final heartbeats I listened to one afternoon on my kitchen floor in third grade as she died of lung cancer. My why is Mrs. Stone, the fourth grade teacher from my elementary school with the bright smile and Miss Frizzle glasses, to whom the rose garden at Chaparral Elementary is dedicated. My why is Wendy Losh, the radiant piano teacher who instilled within her students an enchanted love of music that still beats within me. My whys are Nina, Lalo, and Poppy, all three of my grandparents; all three of whom fought cancer in its different manifestations, all three of whom my family lost during my freshmen year at UT Austin. My why is Lisa Marie, the four year old girl who loved Cheetos and Big Red and Minnie Mouse, whose family I was lucky enough to spend time with in college through the B+ Foundation Hero program.
In 2013, illness and death played prevalent roles in my life and the lives of those close to me. This period was almost comedically tragic - I stopped answering phone calls from my mom, afraid of more bad news. It was an enduring and grief-ridden time for my whole family, and very, very isolating. But now, when I think about my grandfather, Edward Schwartz, our Lalo, I see the way his bright blue eyes twinkled as he drove us down Rim Road overlooking all of El Paso and told the stories of his childhood. I hear him playing his harmonica and singing New York New York. I smell the ocean, and remember his love of fishing, his little dinghy boat he’d named “The Real Me”, and the walks our family would take along the oceanfront on Balboa Peninsula to watch the boats come in from Catalina Island each evening.
When I think of my grandmother, Evelyn Schwartz, our Nina, I taste jelly beans—in particular, the combination of one strawberry and two lemon to make strawberry lemonade—and I taste the Devil’s Food Cake she would make for even the most minor of special occasions. I see her beautiful penmanship scrawled across an index card holding that cake’s secret recipe, the words “beat the hell out of it” written in her flowing cursive. When I think of my Nina, I feel the piano keys the first time I played, as she taught me the fight song for she and Lalo’s alma mater: The Eyes of Texas. And I hear her telling me that the most angry she ever saw my grandfather in their 67 years of love was the time she forgot her student ticket to the Texas basketball game.
When I think about my grandfather, Michael Weigand, our Poppy, I hear his big, bubbling laugh. I see dancing fireflies, and recall the magic of humid summer evenings feeding catfish from the porch overlooking the little lake in Wichita, Kansas. I feel the chalk for the pool cues in Poppy’s game room, and remember how proud I was to be the oldest grandchild, the first to play our grandpa in pool, checkers and chess.
It’s interesting, the sensory details our brains latch onto in order to fill the space when those we love leave us. The figurative representations we retrospectively—subconsciously—create to account for memories that shape-shift as time grows longer. Accounting for the absence of what was once so present and real.
When I first tried to write Why I Ride, I found myself latching onto the difficulty felt in losing all three of my grandparents—in watching my parents lose all of their parents—in a nine-month period over the course of my first year at UT. And how difficult it was to contend with not only the grief for my Lalo, Nina and Poppy, but for the four other brilliant lights which were lost in that same time period as well. And how angry I was that cancer had been the cause of four out of seven of those lights being extinguished.
When my grandmother passed away during my first final’s week of college, a friend of mine said something to me that has stuck with me since—their leaving has created a dark space so that you may fill it with light. And what I’m coming to find is that, in reflecting on cancer and its insidious consequences, we are given the opportunity to make a choice: to focus on the dark space, or to focus on the light which preceded it, and use that as tinder for rekindling lights in the dark. Illumination. And so I choose that option; I choose light. I choose to ride. I ride for a brighter tomorrow and for less grief. I ride to replace hopelessness with hopefulness, and I ride with Texas 4000 so that we can be a lot of a light in a dark space. So that we can join together in the light against cancer.