Letter from the 'Penn, Interrupted' Editor
On getting old, looking back, and writing it all down
I rang in 2021 sitting on the couch in my childhood home in White Plains, New York. It was me, a glass of sparkling apple cider, my nuclear–family–turned–COVID–bubble, and Ryan Seacrest, performing for a dystopian–looking, empty Times Square on national television. Brutal.
It’s safe to say the verdict on 2020 was unanimously horrendous. It’s hard to separate that year from the isolation and fear wrought by the early months of the pandemic. Not to mention the devastating upheaval that was the abrupt cancellation of in–person school.
2021, though, graced us with a bit more nuance than her predecessor.
It was a year of standing apart and coming back together—of building up immunity, breaking routines, and bracing for a brave new world. In the span of a year, COVID ravaged our campus, then vaccines paved the way for our return. First–years and sophomores moved into dorms in August, many of them seeing campus for the very first time. Hurricane Ida swamped Philly, forcing Penn to cancel classes for an unprecedented “flood day.” Students marched on Locust Walk, demanding action from the University on issues from a violent assault at Castle to the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We danced at fraternity parties and ate at Wawa and made out with strangers. We watched a televised insurrection and in–person commencement. Things got better, and then they got worse. “Normalcy” crystallized, yet only under the confounding specters of climate change, COVID–19, injustice, and overwhelming change.
For our last issue of 2021, Street presents “Penn, Interrupted”: a journalistic retrospective on what it means to exist as a college student while the world is on fire. We interview campus activists on the path forward to fossil fuel divestment and racial justice. We reflect on grieving the loss of family members, getting older, and growing to love ourselves. We attempt—as best as we can—to freeze this moment in time, fossilizing its sorrow as well as its hope.
2021 has been remembered in the stories we’ve written, the pictures we’ve taken, and the Instagram “photo dumps," TikToks, and Tweets we’ve shared with the world. For me, it’s been chronicled in this little magazine that you, reader, hold in your hands right now.
This may very well be the last thing I write in 34th Street Magazine. In a few weeks, I’ll pass the torch to the magazine’s next Special Issues Editor, whoever that may be. In five months, I’ll cross Franklin Field in a cap and gown and will pack my cluttered little bedroom on 41st Street into boxes. In a few years time, there will be no one left in the stacks of Van Pelt or the booths of Allegro Pizza who remembers this era of “Penn, Interrupted.” Maybe that’s a good thing.
With that, I’ll leave you with Street’s very own time capsule: our remembrance of what we’ve lost, gained, and learned in this lap around the sun. Jury’s still out on whether it’s been a good or a bad one, but it’s certainly been something. A journalist can never complain about that.
One last time, SSSF,
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