Every year around this time, I sit down to a blank, white page and attempt to draft a letter to the graduates of a place I dearly love. This letter is meant for more than those I graduated who in 2007. It has always been my intention that this letter reaches and impacts classes who came before me and who come afterward.
Hailing from Frederick, Oklahoma, the size of UCO is what hooked me. I graduated from Frederick High School with 61 other souls. When I started at UCO in the fall of 2002, there were 15,000+ students enrolled. As a kid from a small town, I knew a university of this size and scope wouldn’t be overwhelming. It would also open the door to experiences and people that would have never crossed my path in the little town I called home for 18 years.
One of those people is now someone I consider to be a dear friend, Elizabeth Jones. I was several years ahead of Elizabeth. We were both members of the Greek system. We were both from small towns in western Oklahoma. We have similar political outlooks on life. We are both open-minded, relish new experiences, and aren’t afraid of making drastic changes to better our situation. With all this in common, for the life of me, I cannot remember how we originally crossed paths. I know I met her a couple of times, but our first few exchanges were nothing more than simple pleasantries. Life went on, I moved to Seattle, and I put most of Oklahoma in my rearview mirror. Then I returned home for Christmas one year and made my usual visit to Oklahoma City to see the old stomping grounds and spend some time with friends. Elizabeth sent me a message and we struck up a conversation. Later the night, we met up for beers and talked until we couldn’t keep our eyes open. Instantly, I knew I had a new friend.
A year or so later, Elizabeth and I would conceive of a plan to hike the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail spanning the west coast of the United States running from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. Walking 2,650 miles is no easy feat, so we set about some serious planning, but life got in the way. A car failed me, and finances got the best of me. Our grand plan would have to wait. Of course, the thought of this thing never happening crossed my mind.
A few years flew by and the friendship between Elizabeth and me intensified. She even made a trip to Seattle and we did some hiking along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail in North Cascades National Park. A little more time crept by and I found myself living in Los Angeles with my partner. Then, a magical window opened before me. In 2020, my partner and I would be heading back to Seattle. I was finally working a job that paid me fairly, because of that I have been able to get debt under control. Physically, I had more miles and experience hiking underneath my feet. It finally seemed like we could make the PCT work in the summer of 2020. Not wanting to miss this opportunity, I set a launch date two years out and asked Elizabeth to join me. Without a moment’s hesitation, she agreed.
Next year, this random person from Elk City who I met at UCO and I will begin one of the most arduous, joyous, and fantastic journeys of our lives. As I stand back and gaze at the wonder of it all, I can’t help but thank UCO for bringing us together. I know our story of friendship is one of the thousands forged on a campus tucked away in a suburb of Oklahoma City. Our friendship isn’t an uncommon collegiate story. College friends as godparents and groomsmen at weddings is a normal thing. Elizabeth and I aren’t the first people to leave UCO or any other college campus as friends. Yet, the next phase of our life is unique and I am forever grateful to UCO for bringing me a friend with whom I share so much in common.
In October of 2020, we should reach the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail in Manning Park on the other side of the Canadian border after six months of hiking. When we do, you better believe it will be a UCO flag we raise in celebration. Without this special place, none of this would be possible.
Be good to each other,
This website exists because of readers and supporters. If what you just read made you smile, please consider supporting the website with a monthly gift. Your support means everything and proves to the world that original content still matters.