A Likely Story | Don’t skip out on speakers
Too often, we try to justify missing speaker events without realizing what we are giving up
March 23, 2011, 5:26 am · Updated March 23, 2011, 12:00 am·
When I first stepped on campus during Penn Previews three years ago, I was impossibly wide-eyed and spent those first couple of days in a state of constant disbelief. My visit hit its peak when I was given the first flyer that I ever got on Locust Walk — a piece of paper that informed me that John Legend was giving a mini-concert on campus that very day. Being a big fan of his since high school, I couldn’t believe my luck. I rushed to the venue, excited and eager.
Yet, when I got there, I was shocked by the number of people who had turned up — there was barely anyone there. The questions rushed to my mind. Did people not like John Legend? I mean, the man had Grammy Awards and hit singles. Why wasn’t the room packed?
Some years later, I finally understand the reason. If I remember correctly, the concert took place on a Thursday in the middle of the day. People were probably in class, finishing papers or complying with deadlines.
I know this because, quite regrettably, I have also become a part of this collection of people. Those too often unable to trade the hustle and bustle of their hectic routines for the chance of an intimate concert with a famous musician.
Penn’s semi-constant stream of renowned guests, coupled with the never-ending to-do lists that sit on our desks, make it easy to forget that the chance to sit down and listen to acclaimed individuals is a rare one. But, in spite of this, we repeatedly end up missing out.
Just last Friday, I woke up to a tweet from Kelly Writers House faculty director Al Filreis that worked much like a wake-up call that read “Hung out w/ Rufus Wainwright last night. Oh, don’t I love the Writers House.” The tweet I wrote as a result included the hash tags #majorfail and #thismakesmesosad. You see, I had let go of my chance to spend an afternoon with Wainwright — a remarkable singer-songwriter — simply because, while he was sitting only steps away from my dorm room, I was too busy doing homework to even realize he was there.
What makes this neglectful attitude even more senseless is that speaker events tend to be far more memorable than the assignments that one might have to postpone to attend them. And yet, we are reluctant to privilege these occasions over writing papers.
I, for one, will confess that I did not go to see Jesse Eisenberg and Aaron Sorkin, the star and screenwriter of the Oscar-nominated flick The Social Network, respectively. I wasn’t even close to attending the lecture by Malcolm Gladwell, the rather awesome New York Times best-selling author. And I didn’t even try to swing by a recent Noam Chomsky on-campus appearance.
The question necessarily follows — how and why did I go from being the person that wouldn’t have missed the John Legend appearance for the world to this jaded individual who doesn’t even notice when Rufus Wainwright is on campus?
Like many others, I seem to forget that I won’t always be at Penn — which, among many other things, means that I won’t always have the option to be lectured by Junot Diaz or Seth Meyers. Still, we treat this stuff like it’s a dispensable part of college, the activities we can most easily sacrifice when we don’t have time to spare.
This way of prioritizing is, quite simply put, a failure of judgment. But we continue to fail because we get too caught up in the day-to-day grind of college life to realize what we are doing.
In fact, as I’m writing this paragraph, I am actively not attending the Mia Farrow event that is taking place at Irvine Auditorium right now. Once again, I don’t have time for it, and I didn’t make room in my schedule for it. But the plain truth is that I should. We all should — because for the four years that we are here, and probably for those four years alone, we have the ability to do so.
Sara Brenes-Akerman is a College junior from San Jose, Costa Rica. Her email address is brenesakerman@theDP.com. A Likely Story appears every Wednesday.