Zach Woods and I had been planning to have this cheese date for weeks. Little did I know that his hometown has a surplus of it. When I brought two pieces of goat cheese, he exclaimed, “I love goat cheese! I’m from the middle of nowhere Texas, but it’s like lots of goat farms and stuff.”
Zach likes to tell people he’s from Austin; however, his actual hometown is two hours outside. This corner is dotted with farms, ranches and small family-owned businesses. The real reason Zach says he is from Austin is that it’s “liberal, very welcoming, very accepting of many identities,” whereas his town is not.
Our conversation showed me how little I knew about Texan culture beyond some politics. For starters, the food culture in Texas is more elevated than that of Boston. “There is not a place I could find a fish taco here,” Zach noted. His hometown is truly Texan as Zach explained the tradition of gifting your HoCo date mums. If you are unfamiliar with mums, they are gigantic arrangements that girls wear around their necks. They are composed of ribbons, charms and anything else that is flashy — sometimes, they are even shaped like the state of Texas. Zach admitted to even giving his high school girlfriend a mum.
When asked about his work habits, Zach mentioned that he works “just two shifts” at J.P. Licks during the week. His true optimism showed as he noted “I’m getting paid to hangout with my friends.” However, Zach works these two shifts on top of his job at a preschool — where he spends as much as 35 hours a week. Zach’s favorite kids are not the baby goats but rather the preschoolers that he teaches. As much as the kids are able to learn from him, Zach is able to learn from their younger perspectives. They are open-minded and embrace criticism. When Zach first got his ears pierced, a preschooler told him only women could have their ears pierced since that’s what her parents had told her. However, after Zach explained that anyone could get their ears pierced, the kid responded “Oh, really? Cool!” He got a similar response to having his nails painted, but he noted that now many of the preschooler kids he works with also paint their nails, regardless of their gender.
Like many of us, Zach came to Tufts wanting to be pre-med. And like many of us, Zach is no longer pre-med. Rather, he wants to go into educational policy because “the education system is so … messed up.” This new career goal is the culmination of the years working in a classroom with preschoolers.
Between his two jobs and career as a student, Zach will still say to himself: “I’m bad at time management.” However, Zach says his friends like to remind him, “You obviously can figure it out.”