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Laura Ng didn’t cry once during nursing school. No tears during her first year and a half of professional nursing, even in an emergency department. But on one of the first days COVID–19 cases started to ramp up, she worked a 16–hour shift: her ER was short–staffed. After getting home, she showered and used the bathroom.
For my entire tenure as its editor–in–chief, I’ve struggled to find a good answer to a very important question: what is Street?
Allow me to set the scene. It's November 2017. Hamilton Court's renovations haven't yet started. I'm a sophomore, it's my first semester editing for Street, and I walk into William Street Common (RIP) for 34th Street's first Battle of the Bands. Angela Huang emcees, Katherine Ross signs us in at the door, bands perform, people mingle, and the winner gets a piece written about them in Street.
I’ve always had a fondness for bad tv—maybe it was because I liked high school and these teen shows remind me of that time (albeit with a lot more drama than my life actually had). Maybe it’s because I’ve still got some growing up to do.
I just woke up from a nap. Something about the overcast, gray weather and the slog that comes with school and work this time of year just makes me want to curl up in bed and sleep the day away.
When pop princess Kim Petras first broke out with songs like “I Don’t Want It At All,” a glitzy ode to capitalist excess hooked around the line “close your eyes and swipe it," life and lyrics didn’t exactly line up.
As I write this, I’m toggling back and forth between Penn Course Plan, Penn InTouch, and the English Department’s homepage, because—and I can’t believe I’m writing this—I’m planning out what my last semester at Penn is going to look like.
I probably need to get off Twitter. I tweet maybe three times a week, but the lurking is a full–time job. I monitor culture, what people at the places where I’ve interned are up to, what people on P*nn Twitter are talking about.
When the majority of the Class of 2020 first set foot on campus as students, High Rise Field was still green. Allegro Pizza and Huntsman Hall stayed open 24 hours a day (I even spent 24 hours in Huntsman for a Street article, once upon a time).
In the introduction of The Politician, Sufjan Stevens' “Chicago” hums over a montage of a wooden body being constructed. That’s a key word—constructed. The body is wooden and hollowed out, a Trojan horse containing the refuse of a privileged, hyper–ambitious life. There’s a purple heart curdling in a vat of steaming black sludge. There are books—biographies of presidents, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” And eventually, after the body is sewn into a bespoke, jewel–toned suit, we see our main character.
Every time I walk into the 34th Street office—so pretty much every day—I’m greeted with paper. The wall behind my desk is tiled with covers of old issues dating back to 2017. To my left are photos of former Street editors—one DFMO–ing, one as a child in a fedora. A note from my predecessor Nick Joyner is tacked right in front of me. An ad from "Professor Salaam" touting a "sexual powder" and protection from "mystical abuse" hovers directly in my eye–line on the back wall. A note saying “Good Job!”—I don’t remember who wrote it—sticks to the corkboard to my right. These are the ephemera that mark my time on 34th Street.
Today I went to my English seminar on the 6th floor of Van Pelt, the seminar room with the great view of the Philadelphia skyline. The French doors were thrown open and a breeze pushed into the classroom. The doors were open because the room had been freezing, but as I sat right in front of them, I just felt invigorated by that first brush with fall, a sunny day with perfect weather and a beautiful view. Despite the fact that I had a midterm afterwards and felt criminally underprepared, the breeze felt so amazing that I almost forgot the sleepless night before and the stressful day ahead.
I was thinking a lot about mental health this week. For the last few weeks, we’ve been editing and shaping a feature on antidepressant use—more specifically, what happens when you go off an antidepressant. What happens to your body? How do you feel? What makes antidepressants so important for so many people, and, for some, so desperately hard to stop taking?
This summer, my aunt and I went to Bradley Beach in New Jersey. On our way back from the steaming hot beach day, abbreviated by biting green flies and triple–digit heat index, we pulled into the parking lot of a Wawa. After a month and a half working and living in New York City, I wanted nothing more than to pull into the nondescript parking lot and order a grilled cheese on one of the grimy kiosks.
Well. We’re halfway done. Not the school year, but the term on the Daily Pennsylvanian’s 135th Board. It’s kind of messing with my head — the idea that my tenure here is bound by a calendar year that will be over before I know it.
When I floated the idea to go random with Penn 10 this year, I wasn’t really sure if it was going to work. I knew why it should work—everyone at Penn has a valuable story to share, reinforcing competition can exclude important narratives, and randomness is a great, fun experiment.
Erumuse Momoh (C’19) started playing soccer at four years old. He’d been inside his family’s house in Silver Springs, Md., kicking around a ball—maybe a soccer ball, maybe a basketball, maybe one of those toy balls for kids to play with. Somehow, the ball got away from him and he shattered four of his father’s prize vases, leaving only the tallest one—as tall as he is now—intact. His dad walked in, saw the carnage, and carted him off to Little League soccer sign ups around the corner. And, as Erumuse says, “the rest was history.”
In past years, Penn 10, a special issue highlighting graduating seniors, has been positioned as Penn's younger, cooler, 30 under 30. And that’s awesome, because so many people on campus are doing such impressive stuff at any given time. We spotlight some of these people every week in our Ego section, particularly in Ego of the Week, where we profile a senior who’s well known on campus and active in the Penn community.
This year is legitimately almost over, and it’s starting to freak me out. As I write this letter, there are two weeks left until the last day of classes. Finals are sneaking up, the seniors are near graduating, and my friend is even getting married at the end of the year.
It’s been a long week. If you know me, you know I say that every week. But this week, I mean it. For one thing, my favorite show, Crazy Ex–Girlfriend, wrapped on Friday. And also, I’ve been trying this emotional vulnerability thing, and it’s exhausting.