I can’t believe I am sitting here and writing this. And if you are reading this right now you sure have dedication, and I admire that, because this school has been hearing about Half the Sky for far too long now. The latest iteration of the summer reading experience happened on Oct. 10, a brisk (for Florida) Wednesday evening. It wasn’t a documentary this time, but the female counterpart, Sheryl WuDunn, to our previous speaker, Nicholas D. Kristof.
She’s relatively famous. It’s relatively exciting. It was probably expensive. I get it. But the timing was horribly wrong. For one, it is mid-Oct., midterm season here at Rollins. Also, it was that magical time when freshmen campus-wide found themselves bonding with other stressed and flustered students that just stumbled upon the realization that the catastrophic amount of work they had to do wouldn’t be getting any smaller and the time commitment to sports and clubs wouldn’t be dissipating any time soon. In the middle of all of this, halfway through the semester, summer reading kept popping up like the reoccurring nightmare that was orientation. It is time to move on.
Don’t get me wrong. I teared up at the movie trailer. I felt guilty when she quoted Bill Gates in her closing remarks. I liked the colorful pictures on the big screen. But I have midterms to study. And emails from lonely old piano teachers to answer. And papers I need to research. And my life to figure out. Had her talk happened earlier in the semester, my opinion on the matter would be drastically different. But it was simply bad timing on Rollins’ part. It was too little too late.
Another qualm for me was the content of her presentation. It was as if she was talking to a group of students who had no previous knowledge on the subject. An understandable position to take, but in reality she was talking to a group of well educated, easily bored students who had read and internalized (whether voluntarily or by force) the book. And to this ideal audience she simply retold almost every personal, moving story in the book. Her goal to reach us through pathos backfired, and at the end of the night, the ghastly stories of strife and redemption got one step closer to being as ordinary and everyday as the mints in the cafeteria.
I felt the collective inhale of the stadium when she uttered the line, “You won’t hear anything differently from me tonight than from my husband.” We knew we were in for a long night. I can’t hate on Sheryl. She was genuine about the topic and looked so fabulous in the bright blue dress that I couldn’t quite tell if it was vintage thrift-shop that she picked up on her travels, or vintage-inspired Vera from the new Spring 2013 Collection.
Regardless, as I sat in the chilly gym, my mind wandering from the wilting plant on the stage in front of me to the shimmering lights reflecting off her necklace and perfectly coordinating shoes, I realized it didn’t hurt me to just sit there and listen. Although in the short-term, the presentation was a horribly scheduled pain in the ass.
It was a moment in time that most of us spent surrounded by people that, by now, we are realizing we care about tremendously. And as the herd of students passed out the doors before the Question and Answer session into the Florida breeze, everything didn’t seem so bad. Thanks for reading. Now get back to work.