I had the summer of my life. There are no words to describe what we did, the people we met, the places we saw and everything in between. For 70 days, across 15 states we shed blood sweat and tears to spread the Ulman Cancer Fund’s mission. We were pushed beyond our mental and physical limits and even further beyond that. We were challenged in unexpected ways and even surprised ourselves on how we overcame obstacles as a team. Now that it’s over, I looked forward to reliving those moments over and over when I got back to California. Most of us, including myself, kept up with daily journals describing our days. For me I also brought a video camera. It stayed in the watervan for anyone to use at anytime. I miss my 4k team sooo much now that it’s over and I just want to open up my journal to read about our summer. Then pull out my camera to watch those moments live in color. See my teammates smile and hear their laughs. But unfortunately I can’t. Because during my stay in the Bay Area my rental car was broken into and everything was stolen.
All I could think about the first 24 hours after it happened was what I lost. Videos of us telling people our stories, starting the wave outside of old faithful in Yellowstone, our first dedication circle, speeches from arrival and our last ride together as a group in Portland, all the dancing, the cute and awkward stares, weird conversations that were secretly filmed, hot sauce, the views, secret handshakes, our first moments crossing into Oregon, water stop randomness, hours of singing and joke telling from the vans, spraying eachother with water guns to escape the heat, bike tag, Swiper’s birthday, Drew’s safari commentary from Ali’s birthday, and soooo much more. Many of the videos I had seen already but most of them I hadn’t had a chance to watch or share with the team.
Everything from postcards/letters I wrote to notes/letters I received from my Team/family/ friends are all gone. I no longer have a list of Mariel, Matt and Tom’s one-liners. They took my list of dedications and a contact list of people I met along the way. I no longer have a timeline of how my feelings for people grew over time or what tiny moments I had with people that solidified our friendship would last forever.
Most of all, I’m upset that the memorial videos I started for Jeremy Pope and Renee Emerson are gone before having a chance to share them with their loved ones.
I feel cheated that no one will ever read my entries about our service events or read about the cancer survivors, hosts and strangers who impacted me the most. I feel disappointed in myself that I have to break my promises about posting journal entries online and sending out postcards to people who donated to my fundraising page. I should have sent things home. I shouldn’t have waited so long because I knew better then to procrastinate and now it’s all gone. And to make things worse my 4k friend Caroline got her stuff stolen too. Im upset mostly for her and If you knew her heart, you would understand why. And although she’s told me countless times over the last 48 hours not to feel this way, I still feel responsible. But I don’t know what to think. I don’t know why people do such horrible things. I don’t know what this means for the person I am now post 4k.
Prior to the 4k I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. 2016 was a difficult year for me. And just before I left on this trip I could feel that weight starting to takeover. I could feel it winning. But day by day, while being on the 4k with these 22 people who started as strangers turned teammates and who are now family took that pressure away. With each day I spent with them and the countless other amazing and kindhearted people I met in 15 states, I was able to find myself again. I’m a better person now than I’ve ever been. I want more for myself. I want more for others. I see better in people and I appreciate more now than ever before people’s resilience.
This experience has meant everything to me. There’s nothing I can do for UCF to repay them for what I got out of the 4k. I found love in the most unlikely of places and discovered light in some of the darkest situations. And now I get to be apart of that experience for someone else for years to come as an Alumni in the same way that PDX16 and the other PDX teams were so special to our experience.
The world can be a terrible place and sometimes bad things happen to good people, but if the 4k taught me anything (and I’m referring to Team Portland 2017 aka PDXcellent/PDXd/ PDXtra, our alumni, the hosts and the cancer community), it’s that you never give up on the fight. So I’ll rewrite the journal entries and I’ll find some way to thank the people who donated to my fundraising page. I will find ways to contact the people I met this summer because I believe our paths crossed for a reason. My 4k family is forever and I’ll recall our memories and moments we shared everyday because no one can take that from me. The times we shared play over and over again in my head just as live and in color as they would be on my camera. And I know that if I ever forget anything or if the pictures start to fade I still have each of you in my life to refresh my memory. You all have permanent places in my heart and mind. Because you have changed my life forever and we will continue to make new memories for a long time after the 4k is over.
So I’ll end with this for anyone who is listening. Just a few lessons I learned on the 4k are…Kindness and generosity is a gift that never gets old. Be good to yourself and to others. Reach out to those you love. And open yourself to love from the weirdest people in the strangest places by just starting a simple conversation. Spread positivity. Let yourself receive help as often as you give it to others. And finally, the struggle to survive is never more powerful than our will to live.