Category Archives: Memories of Penn

My 25 Year Penn Reunion: Living an “As Is” life in a world that only wants “So Perfect!”

Author:  Lisa Niver Rajna, C’89

Wandering on Madison Ave in Manhattan last week, I noticed paparazzi everywhere. After asking, a woman told us, with tears in her eyes, that JLo was eating lunch. I would have missed her. She did not look “So Perfect” but she is stunning. As I left New York City for Philadelphia for my twenty-five year college reunion, I have been thinking about what have I done and what do I want for the next twenty-five years!

In a life filled with product placement where JLo is lifting her Coca-Cola glass so many times per hour on American Idol, our lives have been given a structure that we might not purchase if it were not so insidious.

In As Is by Rachel Michael Arends, the story is told through several narrators and Arends is able to share deep perspectives about how people with different lifestyles lock themselves into their own cage about money, sexuality, and professions of what they think that want and should own and should do.

Through Arends’ intriguing characters, we are able to wonder and wander. Is it a good choice to be an artist? Is it okay to defer your dream to care for your father? Most of the interactions and characters would have accepted the decisions of their friend or family member if they had only been told. Fear made nearly every character in this book withhold their personal truth.

Hiding themselves made them seem like a cheap imitation of what they could have brought to the table. Choosing to be courageous and wish for what they really wanted and reach out to receive it often only comes after tragedy and hardship but hopefully Rachel Michael Arends’ novel gives you the hope to share your story and live a life painted fully without regrets.

Early in the novel, Gwendolyn says: “On television it can look glamorous, and perhaps some people would love this lifestyle. But I don’t,” I wondered what didn’t she like? And who was she really?

Wandering the parade and picnic at the University of Pennsylvania, I thought what would life be like if we did not pretend. Gwendolyn believes that Armand “actually enjoys being So Perfect all the time,” it gave me pause to think about who do I know who resembles that remark and do they feel like Gwendolyn that “it just seems wrong, incongruous, and unnatural,” and more of a cage than a life.

There were many buttons to wear at Reunion: “I met my wife at Penn,” “<3 Penn,” and “Don’t worry, I don’t remember you either!” Maybe several alums felt like Gwendolyn: “I find it scary and unnerving when strangers approach me as if we’re old friends. I don’t like to worry about what I wear, if my hair and makeup look good enough (according to Armand they never do), what I say, or how I say it. I prefer to stay at home behind our high fences, inside our security system.”

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

w/ Joyce Lim Twomey

 

She has been told by Trey, her producer, “I’m lucky to have this job, that anyone in her right mind would want it.” At an Ivy League institution, in marriage or in many other settings, we are sold that line about being lucky. I went to medical school because I was smart in science. Like Gwendolyn I felt, “I don’t want to let anyone down…[but] I’m beginning to fear that I’ll be trapped in this mansion forever.” We sometimes become embroiled in a labyrinth or career and we seem to be stuck. Breaking out of the mold and consciously taking a different path can be a struggle but isn’t the freedom, to be who we really are, worth it?

When we become lost from our selves, we often need someone like Gwendolyn’s sister, Megan, to ask us: “What’s your plan? Are you going back there?” We all want to have someone in our life that we can tell as Gwendolyn does, “You’re like an island of sanity in the craziest day I’ve ever had.” It is possible we have those people already if we would only be honest with them about how we feel and what we need. Most of us keep our wounds and concerns a secret only sharing what we think looks “So Perfect” to the constant measuring up on Instagram and Pinterest.

When one character with a cane walks on a floor above Gwendolyn with a sliding sound, she muses, “It’s strange to think of carrying your damage on the outside where everyone can see it.” What if we shared our fears and foibles on Facebook and not just our fairytales that come true? Carrie, a character who is a fan of Gwendolyn on television but becomes a true friend in the story, shares, “The biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of this year is that life is one big surprise after another, and maybe I should loosen up and try my best to roll with it.” As I walked the parade on Saturday standing in between the two wonderful women who were my college roommates, I realized that I am so lucky in both an “as is” and “so perfect” way to have walked this road surrounded by people who know what I look life in real life and want to be friends anyway! Whether there are tears of joy or sadness, they have always run to my side, whenever I am ready to share this rollercoaster of life.

Arends’ character, Armand, realizes that “As Is,” could be his “motto for acceptance. Not an excuse to settle necessarily, but a reminder that at a certain point, you just need to say, OK, enough is enough! I’m sick of chasing the dream of perfection and that’s not a failure.”

Gwendolyn does believe in fate, as she says, “You have to. I just saw a falling star out the window and I wished for you. When I looked up, there you were!” In some ways like the movies, we want to say, “I wished for you” and for the person to appear. What if you are really wishing for yourself to stand up, take up space and live your dreams? I wish for you that you are inspired to pause and think about your own parade and find a path that leads you to yourself and the fulfillment of your best dreams.

w/Barbara Yorke

w/Barbara Yorke

About the Author: Lisa Niver Rajna (CAS 1989) was honored to walk in graduation on May 19, 2014 with her classmates from twenty-five years ago! Learn more about her journeys at WeSaidGoTravel.com and ScienceisntScary.net.

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Filed under 25th Reunion, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Commencement, Lisa N.R., Memories of Penn, Penn Alumni Travel, Penn Park, Reunions, Traditions

Congratulations to the Class of 2014

Author: Janell Wiseley

 

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Filed under Academics, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Alumnni Education, Campus Life, Commencement, Janell W., Leaving Penn, Locust Walk Talk, Memories of Penn, Reunions, Sweeten Alumni House, Traditions, Uncategorized, View from Sweeten

I’ll Be Seeing You

Author: Carolyn Grace, C’16

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It’s been a week of “lasts” here at dear old Penn – yesterday was my last chapter meeting with Sigma Kappa, today was my last day of classes, and Friday will be my last rehearsal with Counterparts.  Normally, I’d be excited for the closing of yet another school year.  Summer’s just around the corner, and I’ll get to spend it with so many of my friends who are choosing to stay in Philly!  But for one reason or another, I don’t feel that excited.  At least not right now.

Maybe it’s the rain (sorry, I mean MONSOON) outside.  Maybe it’s the looming papers and final exams that I have in the next couple weeks.  Or maybe it’s the realization that I’ll be boarding a plane next semester instead of driving 45 minutes to move back on campus.  Whatever it is, I’m sad to be nearing the end of my sophomore year.  It was hard getting back into the swing of things when I returned to campus this past August, and it by no means got any easier.  But in spite of all that, I can say with confidence that it was better than my freshman year.  I was presented with new and exciting opportunities, and more importantly I met new and exciting people, people who I am honored to call close friends.

I found this picture in my room earlier this afternoon:

It’s the first picture of me from this academic year, the first day of NSO to be exact.  I definitely had no idea what the year was going to be like, but that didn’t stop me from goofing off with my friends!  That seems to be the best way for me to combat the anxiety of not knowing, acting silly.  Hopefully, I can keep a similar lightheartedness as I enter my semester abroad next year.

I wonder what my last picture from sophomore year will look like.  I guess I don’t really need to know right now.  There’s fun in not knowing.

Until next year, dear Quakers.  I’ll be seeing you.  Thanks for reading :)

 

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Filed under Academics, Campus Life, Carolyn G., Clubs, Memories of Penn, Penn in the Summer, Photos, Student Perspective, The Arts, The Arts at Penn, Video, Videos

Penn Traditions: The Good, The Bad, and THE RED & THE BLUE!

Author: Nicole Svonavec GEd ‘09

Every college student takes part in traditions on their campus as part of a unifying undergraduate experience.  I’ve attended and worked at several colleges so far, and Penn’s traditions stand out for their uniqueness, mass appeal, and staying power.  Experiences like Hey Day, Spring Fling, and taking a photo with your boo at the LOVE statue, have stood the test of time.  Creative Class Boards, Penn Traditions students, and other student leaders are forming new traditions (shout out to Holifest!) every year.

On the other hand, some traditions have faded into history.  And let’s be real, I’m feeling okay about that.  While I love reminiscing with our Old Guard alumni about retired traditions from their Penn days, I see a few good reasons to keep these in the archives:

“The Bowl Fight”

Although these strapping young lads look quite happy in the photo (from 1905), The Bowl Fight stands as one of Penn’s most historic, but also most sketchy traditions.  I’m not sure which one of these students was elected to be shoved INSIDE that bowl by his peers, but I would cry seeing our fabulous freshmen and sophomore duking-it-out on College Green in present-day.  Final verdict: This tradition is one of Penn’s best (craziest) stories, but a happily retired one.

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

“The Poster Fight”

(Note how many of these old traditions include the word “fight.”  Thankfully the advent of Pottruck Gymnasium seems to have given students a more productive outlet for their pent-up energy).  1905 was a busy year for traditions, and The Poster Fight stands as another fine example of class rivalries at their best/most intense.  The poster below (located in Sweeten Alumni House – come visit!) shows how “no blow was too low” when asserting your eminence over other classes.  Hopefully they all hugged it out at the end of the day.

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“Kissing the Boot”
Everyone loves a good freshman rite-of-passage, but the 1940s-50s tradition of kissing Ben Franklin’s boot outside of Weightman Hall strikes me as a bit unsanitary.  Good thing freshman carried this out in early fall, because kissing a metal boot in the winter seems like it could cause the same nightmare as getting your tongue stuck to the flagpole in elementary school (Note: this did NOT happen to me, whew).

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

Photo and facts courtesy of Collections of the University Archives and Records Center

The Penn Traditions program is currently working on a new event (to launch in fall 2014) aiming to teach current students about some of these hilarious/spirited/dangerous traditions of the past.  If you took part in a really fun tradition on campus during your time at Penn, email svonavec@upenn.edu so we can include it in our event!

*Thanks to the Penn Archives and Under the Button for inspiring this post!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Historical, Memories of Penn, Nicole S., Traditions, Uncategorized, yPenn

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Author: Liz Pinnie

Yesterday a friend from Admissions stopped by the Interview Program Office for a cup of coffee during his break from sitting in committee (yes, it’s that time of year!).  As he melted into a chair and took a slug of his coffee, we started to chat about his impressions on reading hundreds upon hundreds of interviews.

What has recently struck J. about interview reports is the ability of interviewers- of all Penn class years and schools- to touch upon those certain qualities that makes Penn Penn, and a Quaker a Quaker.  Interviews took place via skype, phone, and in person conversation all over the world this year- from Dubai to Detroit, from Slovakia to Santa Monica- from alumni ranging in age from 22 to 85.

In 64 years, there have been a few changes at Penn- a transition from typewriters to computers to tablets, the conversion from Penn-specific building to community oriented growth in West Philadelphia, the evolution from weekly letters home to dorm hall phone calls to texts, the creation of Locust Walk as a pedestrian thoroughfare, the full integration of women to the University, and growth through eight different Presidents (among a few other changes- The Arch, anyone!?).

However, what we’re seeing from interview reports is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Throughout Penn’s past, a passion for activity both inside and outside of the classroom has remained, along with a desire for growth in knowledge, a hunger for integration, and excitement for innovation.

Over 12,000 of your fellow alumni are discovering students with these indelible Penn qualities from all over the world through interviews- if you’d like to help, join the Interview Program by clicking here, and share with us what you think makes a Quaker a Quaker.

 

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Filed under Campus Life, Historical, Interview Program, Liz P., Memories of Penn, Uncategorized, Volunteering

Come back to campus this May 16 – 19, 2014

Author: Kelly O’Connor

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Come back to campus this May 16 – 19, 2014 to catch up with friends and celebrate all things Penn!

Registration opens Monday, March 3rd.

Check the Alumni Weekend website for event details and updates.

New for 2014 – The Parade of Classes and Alumni Picnic will be held at Penn Park!

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Filed under 20th Reunion, 5th Reunion, Alumni Benefits, Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Campus Life, Class of 1993, Class of 1995, Commencement, Events, Family Programming, Kelly P., Memories of Penn, Reunions, Uncategorized

The Fine ’09 Gets Creative for Their 5th Reunion

Author: Nicole Svonavec GEd ‘09

NicoleSblog

This May, members of the Class of 2009 will reunite to celebrate their 5th Reunion.  They’ve chosen the theme BYO9 in honor of the Philly BYO restaurant culture.   The planning committee is encouraging fellow 09ers to BYO (bring your own) memories, stories, and updates, but of course, we’ll already have the wine.  Check out their awesome to-do list below to see how they’re gearing up to return to campus and P-A-R-T-Y!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Programming, Alumni Weekend, Memories of Penn, Nicole S., Philadelphia