As she walked into the coffee shop on the square, it was obvious that she fit right in. Though it was pouring outside, the tall woman walked to a table with a huge smile on her face. She was wearing a black pair of Doc Martens, high wasted jeans, and an acid wash button up shirt, buttoned all the way to the top. Several tattoos peeked out from under her sleeves as she took off her raincoat and set her things down. She walked up to the counter and asked the cashier about every vegetarian or vegan thing on the menu.
Gabby Buerger was born in Austin and lived in a suburb North of the city until she left home for college. Art and music seem are the center of her life. She is an art student at the University of North Texas and is trying to put out an EP before the end of the year. As a nineteen-year-old woman, Buerger has a mostly positive outlook on life, but that is not always the way it had been for her. She said that if high school, and her earlier years, had not been so difficult for her, she would not be the person she is today.
“I’ve realized that adulthood isn’t a thing,” Buerger said. “It’s just something that people want from you.”
When her coffee and pastry arrived at the table, she thanked the waitress and pulled a few things out of her bag. A pen, a notebook, and her phone were now laid on the space in front of her. She took notes of her own answers and doodled the whole time she was in the coffee bar.
Buerger had struggled her whole life with things like financial problems and mental health. In high school, she described herself as overwhelmed because of all the challenges facing her at once. During her senior year, Buerger’s depression and anxiety hit a peak, which sent her to a mental facility in Austin. She was completely cut off from the world for five days, which changed her personality drastically.
“Every time I drive by the building,” she said, “I get a weird, sinking feeling in my stomach. A lot of bad memories.”
Although she still struggles with the mental illness, Buerger has finally started to feel proud of who she is, proud of her aesthetic and outlook on life. She identifies as queer, which she describes as her “rejecting the binary.” She does not conform to what is exclusively female or male. She said that this is her way of “combatting misogyny and homophobia in one fell swoop.”
“I’m glad to see that her vulnerability is not something she hides, but that she uses to be a more empathetic and observational human,” said Buerger’s mentor Jim Burton.
Over the past year of knowing her, Burton has observed that Buerger is always genuinely curious about how people think. He said that her mental flexibility is one of her brightest characteristics. Though she finds these things weaknesses in herself, she is impressed by the adaptability and intelligence of others.
Buerger’s tattoos help her show her personality proudly. She has eight tattoos that were done by official, licensed artists, and four “stick and poke” tattoos that she did herself. Her favorite tattoo is one that has a lot of meaning to her. Growing up, she learned a lot from her father about Native American culture and one of the signs of good luck in some of the Plain tribes is a white bison. Buerger has a picture of a bison on her leg and she believes that it makes her somewhat stronger as a person. She plans on getting more, including some that represent her relationship with her mother and father.
Fellow art student Sarah Kaplan said that Buerger is always pleasant in class. Sometimes in class, students help each other with some projects. Kaplan says that Buerger is always there to help and give constructive criticism. She also said that Buerger takes criticism well, which is a very important quality.
Art is a large part of Buerger’s life. As a Drawing and Painting major at UNT, she has taken several different types of art classes, but she said that without her high school art teacher, she wouldn’t be as advanced as she is now. Mrs. Watson, the art teacher at East View High School, believed in her and let her take an advanced ceramics class before she should have been allowed to. If she didn’t take that class, Buerger said that she would have been behind in college.
“I think we saw so much of ourselves in each other that night that really made us comfortable together,” said Josh Bryant, Buerger’s close friend, while recalling one of the first times they started to get really close. He said that Buerger is always willing to listen and comfort a friend in need.
Gabby Buerger is a caring person who has big plans for her life. She wants to move to one of the coasts and have her own art studio. She said she wants to live a peaceful and productive life.
“My biggest pet peeve is when people have negative, poisonous arrogance,” Buerger said. “I am aware that I have no control over what people think of me, but I think I want to be remembered as just a kind person.”