Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Y (no, not the YMCA)

For those of you who aren't familiar with Brigham Young University (BYU), we have a large collegiate symbol (I believe it's 380 feet high and 130 feet wide), a concrete 'Y' on the side of "Y Mountain" on the Wasatch mountain range. Creative, eh? The trail to the Y is one of most hiked trails in Utah Valley and there is a great view at the top. There are several traditions with the Y, such as lighting it during homecoming week, or 'kissing the Y' when you hike to the top of it. I've hiked the Y three times myself. Once was during Homecoming Week to light it, once with a friend and once by myself. The Y is kind of important to us.

I am a pre-communications major and writing articles is something I've been doing a lot lately, and I've been practicing. Also, interviewing. I've been learning how to interview people and take notes and turn that into a story. Walking up to strangers isn't the thing that is hard for me, I'm okay with meeting new people, but walking up to them to interview them is a different story. It puts me out of my comfort zone, so I've been practicing to get more comfortable with it. So, on my last excursion to the Y I brought a pen and paper and decided I'd get some practice and write about something that every BYU student knows about and how they feel about it. I care about the Y, and it means something to me and I wanted to know how others felt about it. (And I got some good pictures when I hiked up there this time.)

Bethanie Newby, a BYU alumnus from Orem, sits on top of the Y, squinting in the bright, afternoon sun out across the valley, water bottle in hand. Newby has hiked the Y an astonishing 64 times. She hikes the Y for a unique reason; Newby is a breast cancer survivor and has been hiking the Y six times a week for 11 weeks.

“I’m tired of feeling old, I want to get strong again,” Newby said.

Like Newby, the Y on the side of the mountain east of BYU’s campus means much more to students and alumni than just a symbol of the university they attend, it represents them and their goals.

When asked what she feels when she’s at the top, looking over the valley, the city, the many church buildings and the temples, Newby says gratitude. That sense of accomplishment, that only she can make herself strong again; that she beat cancer and will not let anything else take away from her life. She says the Y represents goals to be reached and goals already met.

Hikers climb up to the Y with friends, family, or solo. The view encompasses BYU’s campus, the city of Provo, several Latter-day Saint temples, and Utah Lake. Students, past and present, hike to the school’s symbol for many reasons, many of them personal and even spiritual. To them, it’s not just a whitewashed, stone letter on a hill.

Marie Clarke, a 19-year-old sophomore from Sandy, majoring in marketing has hiked the Y four times. She said it’s a family tradition and a fun activity her family has to spend time with each other.

“The trail isn’t that pretty, it’s hard work, but it’s so rewarding at the top,” Clarke said.

Clarke said that when she looks at the Y it’s not just school pride she feels, it’s an ownership of the Y and everyone and everything it stands for.

Sara Fisher, 21, a sophomore from Spokane, Wash., and a biology major cannot count the number of times she’s sat atop the Y. She said she loves hiking the Y and the feelings of solitude and peace she gets.

“It’s a good place to go to read the scriptures and marvel at God’s creations,” Fisher said.

She says it’s very self-satisfying, to sweat up the hill and to make it to the top knowing it would have been easier to simply turn back. To her, the Y means achieving goals and self-determination.

BYU freshman Cree Farnes, an 18-year-old from San Diego, Calif., majoring in civil engineering uses the Y trail as a good workout and says getting to the top feels great, like he can do anything in this life.

He says the Y represents BYU, but also a little more. “It’s like a beacon on the mountain, I always know where I am when I can see it, I can never get lost.”

After catching her breath and turning away from the breathtaking view one has at the Y’s summit, Newby stands up to head back down to the base. “You know what this Y means? It means only you can make yourself strong...the regular hikers they motivate you and they help you, but it’s on you.”

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