The Styrofoam Cup

Originally published July 2, 2016 on mylittleapt.com

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while.

I’d tell myself that I’d wait until I was in the perfect park. The best pier with the best view. Over the perfect cup of coffee.

What can I say, I’m extraordinarily picky about aesthetics.

I’d lug my laptop around everywhere, just waiting for the spark to hit. With much satisfaction, I report that I think I have indeed finally found the writing spot.

Context: there is a printing press IN this bookstore that prints self-published works. Like, smack in the middle of the store between the hours of 12-6PM. They have books hanging from the ceiling, seating for customers against one of the walls with dark wood mini drop leaf tables that fold out in the shape of books. I’m also sitting next to a guy in a suit with a Mets cap who appears to be typing out a novel on his laptop (times new roman font in caps lock, double spaced, he’s on page 90 – what else could it be?), with a yellow padfolio by his side where he’s writing edits. He occasionally stops and looks around for a few minutes at a time — I’d like to think that he’s trying to gather inspiration for characters while he does this, and that one day I’ll read about the girl in the button front canvas skirt and grey tee shirt that sat next to his novel’s protagonist. Cue love story.

 

As for the “spark,” .. I’m out of excuses at this point, and if I can’t find it in me to write in this magical little book store next to this mysterious author bro, when will I ever.

So, New York.

It’s crazy to think that a little more than a month ago, I was sitting cross legged on my couch in Austin, about to press send on an email that would a week later, land me here.

Home has always been a fluid notion for me. An age-old cliché for sure, but I believe home is where the heart is. And my heart was in the industry changing, time sensitive, life saving work that ORGANIZE was doing. That I could be doing.

When I was sitting on that couch in Austin, furiously scrolling through Facebook groups for a place to live and calling my mom at 1AM asking her to come up to Austin to help me pack (actually, this conversation began with “look mom, I need you to just listen to me first and not saying anything until I’m completely done”) but please-don’t-tell-dad-until-the-morning, I knew I’d be alright.

I’d fall in love with New York, or damnit, I’d make it fall in love with me. Either way. We were gonna learn how to live with each other.

 

When friends and family ask me what I think of the city, I always say: it’s everythingamazing, and everything exhausting.

The hustle is inspiring. Every dream you ever had will grow 10x, along with the urgency to make it happen. I’m a huge museum buff and coffee shop dweller, and the city lacks neither. My cup runneth over.

But it’s dirty. Claustrophobic at times. My feet just lost their blisters a week ago. Grocery shopping is stressful. Rush hour in the subway sucks. The green spaces are beautiful, but you can’t help but want more when you’re from a state like Texas (we’re really hashtag blessed, ya’ll). 

 

Everything amazing, and everything exhausting.

But still, my heart is now here. So here is home, for now (re: August 24th).

It would be impossible to summarize the work I am apart of with ORGANIZE in one blog post, and you have to be very careful about what you publicly say in this space because it is a sensitive one, but what I can say is:

Politics. They shouldn’t have room to exist in some spaces.

Transplant surgeons and altruistic donors are absolute heroes.

No one should have to wait in a list 120,000 people long. 22 people shouldn’t be dying every. single. day because they couldn’t receive an organ in time.

Smart and innovative tech is the solution to many of America’s problems.

Our technology is changing the space as we know it. In 20 years, I know I will look back at the body of work I have helped to contribute to, and I truly believe it will be one of my proudest moments.

ORGANIZE created a centralized registry, you already know that. We helped lead the conversation at the White House Organ Summit a few weeks ago. But, in my opinion, what we have next in front of us is even greater. We have pioneered something we are calling social declarationscreating an app to help connect patients in need of an organ (82% of patients waiting are in need of a kidney) to living donors, and are also working on bridging the health disparity gap in minority communities, beginning with a beta test group in Washington Heights. I’m also working on a nation-wide Latino focused campaign that has a ton of my heart, and along with our director of partnerships, am working with a group of high school students on another project that I’m unsure if I can speak to quite yet.

The hustle and the inspiration is alive and well and lit.

 

Which makes it even more important for me to remember to pull myself back down to earth.

Some places are harder to keep perspective than others, New York is definitely one of those.

This is where I replay Simon Sinek’s story of the Styrofoam Cup. You can click and take a listen, but the core lesson of it all: 

“As you become more successful, as you do well in life, you will be afforded many advantages. People will call you sir and mam, carry your luggage, hold open doors for you, they will bring you a cup of tea without you even asking for it. But it’s not meant for you. It’s meant for the position you hold. And when you move on, they will give all those things to the person who replaces you. Never, ever forget that you only ever deserved the Styrofoam cup.”

I don’t remind myself of this story to lessen who I am and what I do. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t own your place, lean in, ask for more. But if anything has become more clear to me as I’ve grown in my career, and especially here:

You can’t get where you’re going, if you don’t remember where you’re from.

Let me say that again.

You can’t get where you’re going, if you don’t remember where you’re from.

I sit here in this gorgeous shop in Nolita with my $7 coffee, live in a building I quite honestly don’t deserve to live in but was just crazy lucky to get a deal at, am surrounded by the brightest minds at the most amazing job, but at the end of the day:

I am Analisa Cantu. 2nd gen Mexican-American. Border born and raised. Public and state school educated. Daughter of a third grade bilingual teacher and school district maintenance supervisor.

And I don’t forget it, because I quite actually wouldn’t be here if I ever allowed myself to. That GoFundMe that helped me get to New York so quickly? 96% funded by people from the Valley. My plane ticket and my first month of rent. Past students I’ve worked with, friends, people from high school who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years, strangers of friends, past teachers.

So, to drill it in one more time:

You can’t get where you’re going, if you don’t remember where you’re from.

Stay humble, stay kind, there is always time —

Analisa Cantu