The competitive nature of Penn isn’t an exaggeration. It’s to be expected that a school renowned for producing the most billionaires in America would be full of students with the goal of making as much money as possible. I’ve experienced the stress, even in my first semester, of thinking about majors in terms of potential income first and passion second. “Hard science” majors have a difficult track ahead of them. But, I also think that it is a different kind of hard to be an English major, harder still if you don’t write about politics. Harder then if out of all things to write about, you pick love — a topic that busy, cynical, overworked Penn students make no time for.
I've just started reading "If Beale Street Could Talk" by James Baldwin. While watching the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation — directed by Barry Jenkins, the director of “Moonlight” — I had the sensation, growing as I watched, that there was a feeling to be had by watching that movie, one that might make me a fuller person — and yes, I do believe a story has the power to do that.
In the trailer, I heard, "Remember, love is what brought you here. And if you’ve trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way." That's the voiceover as the screen goes black, and if you watch it, I do believe you might feel something similar to the something I felt.
The story is about a 19-year-old girl, Tish, whose boyfriend and childhood friend, Fonny, is wrongfully jailed, when she finds out they are expecting a child. The story is one of an unashamed belief in love in the worst situations — especially, in fact, in the worst situations. The story is a testimony to the power of loving and being loved, in any kind of relationship.
While I was reading the novel, I ran into the quote from the trailer, which was prefaced by an important qualifier: “I don't want to sound foolish.” That word, foolish, did not surprise me. It made me wonder, though, at what point it became foolish to love.
I’m not a perfect person by any means, and like I’ve said before, I haven’t always been the biggest advocate for love. I understand that at a place like Penn, there is something to lose by opening yourself up to love, and it can sometimes feel like a four-credit class you have no time for. I understand that, as a young adult, trying to set yourself up for success is not easy. And yet, none of this, to me, means that our lives should be centered around money and power instead of love.
What I mean to say is that if you think life is just too busy right now, no one is telling you that you have to get married tonight. I’m not even really talking about marriage and relationships. I’m saying this: If you walk around thinking yourself cool and important because you think the idea of love is stupid, don’t.
In a 75 year-long Harvard University study on what makes us happy, George Vaillant writes the two pillars of happiness that he’d discovered: "One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away."
Love is happiness — the only silly idea would be to try to ignore that.
KALIYAH DORSEY is a College freshman from Pennsauken, N.J., studying English. Her email address is email@example.com.
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