By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief
The first time we met you made me cry.
I had just moved to Phoenix and was far outside of my comfort zone. I was feeling lonely and lost. I didn’t want to be anywhere near you, but I knew I had no choice—I would be spending every day with you for the next two years. So I took a deep breath, tentatively approached you, and was instantly overwhelmed by your recklessness and chaos. I broke down and went home, feeling like I was out of my depth, and knowing that I couldn’t avoid you forever.
Over time I learned to keep up with you. I learned to navigate your moods and cycles, when to avoid you (2-7 PM, to be exact) and when you’d welcome me with open arms and no distractions. I grew to depend on you, to expect to see you and spend time with you every day. I shared with you my thoughts, ranted and vented about all my miniscule crises, and sang my heart out and didn’t care. You saw me happy, sad, anxious, and excited; you saw me laugh and cry and sulk.
But despite all this, all the time spent together, all the vulnerability and things shared, you still lashed out at me. I found myself crying on your shoulder, literally and figuratively, the many times my tire blew out or my car broke down. I began to be wary of our time together, the literal rockiness of our relationship a constant threat to my safety. We’ve had some bumpy times, haven’t we?
But when I think about you, it’s not just about the pain and bad experiences. When I think about you, I think about sunshine, palm trees, the wind in my hair, rollercoasters, and, oddly enough, steak. When I think about you I think about hours spent listening to the Serial podcast, Spanish music, and endless radio commercials. When I think about you I think about the grandeur of the mountains and the freedom of the wide open plains just north of Phoenix. When I think about you I remember what it feels like to fall in love, to start an adventure, to embrace a new challenge.
You weren’t always beautiful. I’ve seen all your flaws, with your cracks and debris and bumps and ridges. You aren’t fresh and colorful and blooming like the 51 or the 101; you’re rough and dangerous, a work in progress. I think maybe that’s why I feel such a strong connection to you. Last month when you got a makeover, I started wondering when they would repave the other side of you. I waited weeks and weeks for your metamorphosis to be completed, to watch you emerge shiny and smooth and new. It still hasn’t happened, and I’m starting to realize that it never will, at least not while I’m still here. In a couple of weeks, I will leave Phoenix, and your life will go on. It makes me sad to think about how you and the rest of the city will keep growing and changing as if I never existed, as if we haven’t spent almost every day together for the past two years.
It’s strange to think that soon I won’t think about you anymore, won’t have panicky dreams about trying to sneak into the HOV lane when I’m by myself, won’t curse trucks and vans for kicking gravel onto my windshield. Stranger still is the thought that one day soon, I’ll wake up and I won’t immediately head to Thunderbird, something that I have done almost every day for two years now. One day very soon, I’ll wake up and I won’t even be in Phoenix anymore, won’t be in the place that I’ve come to call home surrounded by the people I’ve come to call family.
The consistency of our time spent together has made it easy for me to track my personal growth. When I first met you, I was a girl who didn’t know what she wanted. Now, as I leave you, I’m a woman who is confident and strong. Would I be the person that I am today without you? Without all those flat tires, breakdowns, and moments of hopelessness and helplessness? I don’t think so. It might seem strange that I’m writing a love letter to an inanimate object. But to me you’re more than just a highway: you represent the journey I embarked on when I moved to Phoenix, the person I became while I lived here, the role that Thunderbird has played in my life, and the road to my future.
Saying farewell to you is admitting that my time here has come to an end, which is something that I’m not ready to do. For two years I’ve woken up to the sound of birds loudly (and sometimes irritatingly) chirping in the giant tree outside my window, rushed through my 30 minutes with you (or sometimes more, depending on traffic), and spent all day in a Glendalian oasis, in either Snell or Lecture Hall 54 or the IBIC. For two years you’ve brought me to Thunderbird, to a place that quickly became home, a place where I had dreams crushed and new dreams built, a place where I had the opportunity to be inspired by some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. For two years you brought me to the place that challenged me, frustrated me, delighted me, and made me who I am today. I’m not ready to say goodbye.
How will I continue learning once I leave this place? How will I rebuild a new home, find a new family? What will I do with all my creativity when I no longer have to write an article every week for Das Tor? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but just like your life will go on after I leave, so will mine. And just like I won’t ever forget Thunderbird, I won’t ever forget the road that brought me there.
I don’t want to say it, but this is my last chance: Farewell, Phoenix. Farewell, Das Tor. Farewell, 17. Farewell, Thunderbird. You will forever hold a special place in my heart.