I’ve always loved the commercials that the University of Texas commissioned the one and only Walter Cronkite (a Texas Ex!) to record before he died. My favorite line from the nine awe-inspiring, goosebump-causing TV spots?
“Is there a rallying cry for the thinkers and doers of tomorrow? A motto that sums up their passion for creativity and their pursuit of discovery? Sure, there is: ‘Hook em, Horns.’”
I could spew cheesy Texas quotes all day, from John Steinbeck to Willie Nelson to the late, great Coach Darrell K. Royal, and everything they say is true. I could throw quotes at you for this entire article, but there’s no way to put in words the way I feel about this place. My feelings about Texas are a sum of every memory I’ve made here, every person I’ve met here and everywhere I’ve been. I believe that we leave little pieces of ourselves behind in every place we visit, just as we pick up pieces of those places that will remain a part of us forever.
Today, I leave the University of Texas at Austin as a student and begin a new adventure. The last three-and-a-half years haven’t always been great, but I have been forever changed by the pieces of myself I left behind at UT, and, more importantly, the pieces of UT I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
I never thought I would get into UT. When I was a little girl, I rooted for the Longhorns sitting on my daddy’s knee. I remember watching Ricky run. I remember when Major was the man. I remember watching Vince cross into that end zone and confetti raining down on him as dad and I fired off shotguns and fireworks in the front yard. I remember Colt when he was bad, then good, then bad again. And that was all before I was a student (I was going to say, this was before I was a Longhorn, but I’ve always been a Longhorn).
I didn’t have the grades to get into UT. To this day, I still don’t know exactly what got me there. I’m stumped. Maybe it was my SAT scores. Maybe it was a killer essay or recommendation letter. I’m not sure I’ll ever know.
Regardless, I made it. I came to UT a terrified 18-year-old unsure of what to expect. I thought I’d flunk out. I felt that I didn’t deserve to be there. I had zero friends at UT, and I was afraid to make any. I didn’t know what to expect. I remember registering for 8 a.m. classes and thinking, “This isn’t so bad.” I remember making my first C in a course in my entire life my first semester and thinking, “This is going to be a long ride.”
There are many things I won’t remember from my years here. My seven semesters have flown by, and my brain cells are fried beyond belief from a combination of cheap wine, coffee and late nights. I don’t think I’ll remember what I learned in my classes, or what grades I made (except for that ONE C, ugh) or assignments I stressed over for months. But I do know a few things I’ll never forget.
I’ll never forget my god-awful freshman roommate, who wore my clothes without asking and broke my favorite pair of earrings. I’ll never forget the girls down the hall, with whom I shared late-night Wendy’s chicken nuggets and animal crackers in the library, and without whom I would never have survived freshman year. I’ll never forget riding down the dorm stairs in a luggage cart, fire alarms during my favorite TV show, a gunman on campus, and terrible seats at football games.
I’ll never forget losing my high school love to time and distance and circumstance. I’ll never forget getting my heart fully broken a few months later, as I soon learned that people don’t always feel the same way about you as you do about them and that boys don’t always mean what they say. I’ll never forget falling in love quickly and overwhelmingly with the wonderful man I’ve called mine for nearly two years, to whom I credit my good grades, my work ethic, and my sanity during that time.
I’ll never forget Sixth Street and staying out until 6 in the morning. I’ll never forget dollar beers at Cain and Abel’s on Tuesday nights (sorry, I’m never calling that place “Abel’s”—it’s always “Cain’s” to me). I’ll never forget Midnight Rodeo and building forts with my roommates. I’ll never forget moving into my first apartment alone, having to purchase a couch and insurance and grown-up things.
I may forget things I learned in my classes, but I’ll never forget the professors who touched my heart, who became more like friends and mentors than teachers. They were the ones who believed in me when it felt like no one else did, when I didn’t even believe in myself.
I’ll never forget the feeling of strolling through the Main Mall on a sunny day and looking up at the Tower and thinking “I am here. I am really here.” I’ll never forget game day in Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, the chants of “Texas Fight,” and how to this day “The Eyes of Texas” sends shivers down my spine. I’ll never forget the first time I sang the Eyes after I found out I got into UT—at a Texas baseball Big 12 Tournament game, a capella since we couldn’t technically play it over the speakers. Then, my first time as a student, at Gone To Texas the night before classes started. Then, today, my last time.
I can’t put into words what it is that I love so much about the University of Texas. But I do know that today, of all days, I am feeling grateful for my family, my friends, my education, and these beautiful Forty Acres.
Today, I symbolically make a major life change, though nothing’s really changing—I’m still living in my same apartment, with my same dog (although hopefully getting some new furniture to replace my broken couch), and working the same job I’ve had since August, though now it’s full-time. It’s a little weird to think of it as “moving on” when I’m staying put—but that’s only physically.
Today, I can already feel my world changing. I can feel the winds of the future on my face, and for the first time in my life, I’m embracing it. Today, I say goodbye to the University of Texas at Austin, the place where my soul will forever remain, the pieces of which I will carry with me forever. I became a real person here. I made a life here. Today, that life ends.
Today, I’m a thinker and a doer, with a passion for creativity, pursuing discovery. Today, along with a few thousand of my closest friends, I deliver my rallying cry for one last time as a student: Hook em, Horns.
How do you remember your college? Tweet us @litdarling
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