By Lauren Herber, Editor-in-Chief
This past summer, I had the opportunity to live out one of my longest small-town girl fantasies: working and living in New York City. The day I moved to the Big Apple the humidity was so thick you could choke on it, and I finally realized what everyone in Arizona means when they talk about “dry heat.” Thanks to my Midwestern friendliness, I was a magnet for people selling things I really didn’t want and doomsayers describing in detail my inevitable descent into fire and brimstone.
I went to NYC in the hopes of finding answers to some of my biggest questions (what do I want to do with my career? where do I want to live? how can I make my life amount something?…you know the drill) but ended up leaving with even more questions. For example: “Was that a squirrel or a rat?” (A fun game to play in Central Park after dark. Pro tip: it’s probably a rat. And if you’re in/near the subway, it’s definitely a rat.) And: “Why is that puddle the color of chartreuse?” “Is quality of life just a myth here, or is it actually achievable?” “Who came up with all these arbitrary neighborhoods? And as a follow-up question, what’s the difference between The Village, the East Village, and Greenwich Village?” “Do they pronounce ‘Houston Street’ like that just to embarrass tourists?” (New Yorkers pronounce Houston Street like how-ston instead of Texas’ pronunciation of hue-ston. Make this grave mistake and you will be greeted with snickers and eye rolls from haughty, impeccably dressed Soho dwellers.)
But I can’t give away all my stories just yet. What I want to share right now was, for me, the most shocking revelation of my summer: that I missed Phoenix. I missed the flatness of the desert, the crackle of “grass” under your feet that’s really more like tinder, the downtown scene that I had once considered to be boring. I was flabbergasted. When I first moved to Phoenix a year ago, I was coming off of a four-year stint in Boston. I looked down my nose at this so-called “city” and scoffed at it for having the audacity to consider itself a thriving metropolis. So I left it all behind and went to New York, the city of all cities, the be-all-end-all, the ultimate experience lusted after by restless small-town inhabitants. I stood in Madison Square Park, with the Chrysler Building on my right and the Empire State Building on my left, gawking at the endless city skyline, hearing snippets of conversations in 5 different languages…and missing Phoenix.
There are plenty of things to miss about Phoenix: my favorite local restaurants, the excessive abundance of pools, the palm trees, In-N-Out. But I came to realize more and more that what I really missed was Thunderbird. I missed the professors, the Pub, even Lecture Hall 54. And, of course, the people were what I missed most of all. There’s a certain level of feeling free to expose your most authentic, true self that can only be achieved at Thunderbird. I know from conversations that I’ve had with friends and alum that this is a phenomenon experienced by most Thunderbirds, and it’s one of the things that connects us all. New students, I know you’ve just finished Foundations and have been bombarded by dozens of fanatics ranting about the “Thunderbird mystique” and the unique bond between Thunderbirds. Maybe you’ve bought into all of it already, or maybe, like me, some of you are a little skeptical. But I can tell you that it’s real, and that the awareness of how real it is fills you with both a happiness that you’ve experienced something so magical and a sadness that it’s so short lived.
So I want to remind you all–first years, second years, alum, faculty, staff, everyone–of how united we are, and what it is that unites us. There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about who the “real” Thunderbirds are and debate about some Thunderbirds being “more of a Thunderbird” than others. Talk of this nature does nothing but divide us at a time when we most need to stand united. We are all T-birds. We are all a family. And nothing will change that.