“Everything you do has an impact. Who you are – that you are – actually matters. In an interconnected world (the only kind we have), our actions and the actions of others are inextricably linked- we are always and forever in a dance of mutual influence with those with whom we directly and indirectly participate. It is the unavoidable reality of being social creatures, only magnified by an ever-increasingly complex and interwoven societal structure. We matter to each other.” ~ Paul Greiner
I think a lot about the legacy we all leave behind. It is our personal connections that we make in life that allow our legacies to live and thrive. A personal motto of mine is that “you live today for how you want to be remembered tomorrow.”
Every action you take every day you are telling the world how you want to be remembered. Every person you make a connection with you are leaving your legacy. They are carrying that legacy forward and cementing it in history. There are a few qualities I look for in people that I admire most. One of them is admiring how a person connects with others and the lasting impression they leave behind.
I doubt I will ever feel more joy or pride for what I have accomplished the last several years than I will the 73 days from today when I walk across the stage as a graduate of the University of Florida. I will never be able to convey what reaching that moment will mean to me and what I have sacrificed to get there. It will probably be the greatest day of my life and signify what is likely to be my greatest personal achievement.
Being a Gator, even long before I was a student, has connected me with people who I have formed eternal friendships with. Sharing my passion as a Gator with my family has also brought me closer to them. Which also means that as I cross that stage, a part of me will be doing so with a heavy heart.
A few years ago, I lost my mother, Billie Christine Mitchell, to cancer. She had battled cancer twice before with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. This time the enemy was lung cancer. She and I had gone to football games together. She even once made me a Gator themed Christmas tree in an attempt to pull the Scrooge out of me and restore my Christmas spirit. Loved the tree. Still not a fan of the holiday. Yet, it was a moment we shared together.
The day I found out I was accepted to University of Florida, I somehow managed not to say a word to anyone. It was eating at me inside not to want to tell the whole world. I wanted my mom to be the first to know. Naturally, I couldn’t just pick up the phone and tell her. I had to do it in a special way so that sharing the news was a memorable one. That very day, I special ordered a “Gator Mom” t-shirt and sticker and had it sent over night to her. When she received it, she took this picture and posted this to Facebook.
We were over 1000 miles apart at the time, but we were still able to share that moment together. It clearly meant a lot to her.
This coming July will mark 10 years since I lost my father, Woodrow Bass, Jr., to a variety of serious health issues which included an unknown form of cancer. My father and I shared a mutual love for Gator football. We had many phone calls both celebrating and commiserating after games.
I was able to use his love for the Gators to help him through a tough transition in his life. My father had a stroke that ultimately left him in a condition where he would require round the clock care. Moving him to a nursing home was the single most difficult decision I have ever had to make my entire life. My sister, Rachael, and I did everything we could to make him feel at home. How did we do it? One way was we covered his room in Gator posters and anything else orange and blue you can think of. I bought a Gatorhead emblem, typically used to decorate a car, that I put it on the back of his wheelchair. He loved to zoom around in that thing and you should have seen the smile on his face when I put that on there.
Deep down I know my parents would be very proud that I finally earned my degree, but it will be difficult not being able to look up to them in the stands and share the moment with them.
Edward Aschoff was a Gator alum and a graduate from the same College of Journalism and Communications that I will be awarded my degree from this May. I watched his career soar as he worked with the Gainesville Sun and no doubt you have seen his work on ESPN. I met him once in person, but we corresponded plenty through social media over the years. Ironically, more of those conversations were about another reptile, Godzilla, than it was about the Gators. Go figure. He had an astonishing gift for connecting with people. He was genuine, thoughtful, clever, selfless and as humane as they come. You can see it in his writing, his interviews but also in everyday life. That was something I always admired about him.
Both my mother and father left their own legacies in their own way. They found ways to touch, even change, lives of those around them. I still see evidence of their impact to this very day. You always knew where their heart was. You could pretty much always count on them. That was never a doubt. It is those connections, those lasting impressions are a quality I have always found most admirable in people.
On December 24, 2019 the world lost Edward to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma – the same cancer that I witnessed my mother fight through twice. It was also his birthday. In the days and even weeks following his passing it was very evident that he left a lasting legacy of his own. You could see the impact by the way he connected with everyone around him professionally, personally and as a mentor by how they spoke of him and by the stories they would share of their connection.
In their honor…
Today is #GatorDay, a yearly event where UF students can interact and engage in meaningful conversations with legislators at the Florida state Capitol.
I wanted to find a way honor those people that I have built connections with and admire most for my upcoming birthday and graduation. Naturally, the best way to honor them is live as admirably as they did, but I wanted to find a way to also honor our connections.
This Thursday (2/20/20) is Gator Nation Giving Day at the University of Florida. It is a 24 hour fundraising campaign where alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends and families “Stand Up & Holler” to support various programs at the University. The College of Journalism and Communications established the