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Rotary dial on an old fashioned phone. Dhscommtech at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


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Rotary dial on an old fashioned phone. Dhscommtech at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons


I’m not a huge texter, but if I could text myself, back in the day, I’d say: SIENNA! IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU!

It’s probably best to start with the catalyst of my epiphany-- my father-- whose unique communiqué paints a fairly accurate portrait. Texts from my Dad are about as predictable as Old Faithful. They arrive on a near daily basis. They include abbreviations which have yet to achieve colloquial adaptation. And usually, they involve some sort of information hand off, a fact or tidbit which I call or email in in order to receive the same response fifteen minutes later:

Got it. Tx-

Which, if you are curious, I have come to realize stands for Thanks-- not, as I once assumed, Text. Here’s a list of typical texts I got from my Dad throughout freshmen year:

Pls email this photo to me- no rush. Tx-

As In: He does not know how to transfer photos on his phone to the computer and is requesting my assistance.

Hi! I am driving home now; please call and we can discuss your game plan for June. Tx-

As In: He wants to know when my finals are so he can text me day of to wish me luck.

Hope yr mtg with Jill goes well; look forward to hearing what you discussed. What was her last name again?

As In: He wants to look up the professor I talked to so he can ask more detailed questions about our discussion. 

I’ve got to say, I felt pretty good about staying in touch with my parents this year. I called my mom twice a week and would always give my Dad whatever he asked for—a last name, a test assessment, description of the weather—whenever he asked for it. I figured fall would be the worst of the homesickness, and after Christmas, I was feeling really, really good. I’d made friends. The sun was out. And Boise felt so far away, so snowy and cold and distant. One day in January, right on schedule, I got a text from my Dad around 10am.

Pls call; important. Tx-

After scouring my brain during lunch for anything significant I’d done recently—no tests, no meetings, no events—I called in, curious what he wanted an update on now.

“Your grandfather—my father—died last night,” he said. “I thought you’d want to know.”

I felt it then: homesickness, the real kind. The kind where you’d give anything in that moment to go home, to be home, in your real, actual home with your parents and sister and that stupid dog which you hated so much but would welcome so warmly now—come here, Penny, you hound dog!

I’d only met my Granddad twice. He’d worked at a dairy factory most of his life, and when my Dad left Georgia for Idaho he’d never come to visit. The loss of “Grandpa Paul,” as we called him, felt transient and uncomfortable. I’d never understood nor knew him, and now I never would.

What scared me most was that realization (which all freshmen have— I was very late to the game) that this world doesn’t stop when you go to Stanford. That there is no crazy Interstellar time warp protecting your home from meteorites and tragedy. It’s so easy when you come here for the universe to become Stanford. Everything seems to orbit this beautiful, magical, amazing place. But I wish someone had told me—I wish I’d understood—that when you leave home, you really do leave.

What I’d tell myself, if I could go back, is to carry that love for your family with you when you come here. It makes you who you are. And don’t forget your family needs you just as much as you need them. It’s not all about Stanford. It’s not all about you. It took loss for me to realize the depth of my Dad’s love. I can see him now, pulling out his reading glasses, fumbling with his phone in order to talk to me in this sterile form of communication I’d deemed best. That all he wanted was to talk to his daughter, so far away, in this sunny paradise he’d dreamed his kids could achieve.

I wish freshman me would take the clue, or at least call a little more. A text is a pretty dumb way to talk to your parents, after all. And your parents love you, so much! And you do too, more than you realize.

So call them, ok. It’s not all about you. And Dad: Tx for everything. 

Sienna White

Atmospheric/Energy Engineering
Class of 2019

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