My (very short) Penn bucket list

I’m finally drinking a latte again!

In an interview shortly after La La Land was released, Emma Stone said that she refrained from dairy while filming because it was bad for her voice/throat or something like that. So, as the Penn Monologues show weekend drew closer, I thought about that and decided I do the same, hahaha. As if I’m belting out some solos or something… Anyway, I love lattes and I missed it so much this past week. So, I had to get one on my way back from the last show, lol.

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Langston, Savannah, me, Frances, Emily, Dionysia, Jackie, Dalton, Claire and James

Penn Monologues is basically a show where about 10 students write a personal essay, submit it to the group and get chosen to perform it (or, in the case of 2 people this year, write an essay and have someone else perform it for them). I thought it was a cool idea because I love memoir, personal essays and stories… like I love going to open mic nights and speakeasies. At Penn specifically, it’s a cool way to learn a tiny little bit more about the experiences of people I probably bump into on Locust Walk on a regular basis.

I wrote about moving away from home and “growing up” kind of, other people wrote about being an immigrant, going to music festivals, their relationship with their grandparents, having a family member with autism, dealing with eating disorders and etc. I liked that the essays were diverse in subject matter and tone. Some were sad, some were happier, others were funny or a bit of both.

Honestly, I was so humbled to be among these people, and I know that sounds dramatic… it sounds like the kind of thing Oscar winners say about their fellow nominees, but honestly, I was in awe of everyone’s writing from the start. Emily’s essay was called The Space Between Us and there a couple of lines in her piece that I just absolutely loved. When describing her relationship with a friend she grew up with, she said “she invited me to her birthday party, even though I didn’t invite her to mine” and then at a later point in the piece, described how they had grown apart to the point where they walked past each other like strangers, she said “she was wearing a sweater that once sat in my closet”. OH MY GOD. SO GOOD. That’s the kind of writing I like. Simple, clever ways to aptly characterise feelings and dynamics. (And it wasn’t just Emily’s—everyone’s pieces had great lines like that, this was just one I can remember at the top of my head.)

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I literally just got this picture 2 minutes ago from my creative writing professor (in whose class I wrote the piece I performed) and she told me she was proud of me and I had all the ~feelz~

All the readings were recorded but I think it’ll take a while for it to come into my hands (or, I guess, more accurately—my inbox). So, in the meantime, if you want to see what some of the performances were like, watch some from last year’s show, like Langston’s Yogurt or Aubrey’s American Insulation.

My motivation to do this was to check off one of my very few Penn bucket list things (ok, to be honest, it might have been my one bucket list thing): to perform on a stage. I used to kind of like performing. I mean, I did very amateur cheer and some traditional dance/aerobics stuff (lol) in Form 1 & 2. I think in sekolah rendah I used to try out for storytelling and perform here and there for things like teachers’ day or whatever. But that was ages ago now. Whatever spark of inspiration I had ever gotten from all the people who have told me that I should dance or act has long since dissipated. But I knew I still had that impulse and I wanted to do just one because it seemed more daunting here at Penn than anywhere else I had ever been before. Penn Monologues seemed pretty low key (i.e. no long hours of rehearsals and no singing or choreography whatsoever) so I decided to submit a piece.

And I’m really glad I did. A few other people in that cast also had no real prior experience performing so I didn’t feel alone. Plus, I just genuinely liked everyone in the group. My favourite thing about it—and I totally didn’t expect to feel this way—was that it has been the experience most comparable to the feeling you get around hari sukan parades and stuff back in school… like, everyone working together to put on this thing and getting nervous about it right before going on. I’ve organised quite a few events at Penn, but I think none of those other events made me (and everyone else in the group) nervous enough, nor was the event fun and entertaining enough (that is, they were always more serious stuff) that it brought the whole group together quite rapidly. And it might just be me, but I appreciated the subtle moments of camaraderie I had with the other cast members backstage and how quickly we can form inside jokes when we’re putting on a show, etc. So yeah, I’m glad I did it.

Shoutouts also to my friends who came to the show: Hui Jie, Shahirah, Ken, Oliver, Kim, Eliza, Busra, Irtiqa, Iman, Dania. Two of my professors from last semester also came to see the show, which was so nice! Admittedly, they didn’t come for me specifically but I still loved seeing Dr. Paxton and Jamie-Lee in the crowd. Special shoutout to my friend Clare (!!!) who helped me edit this essay and practice performing it. I know paying money to give up a couple of hours on a weekend is not easy. I have declined many invites to shows over the last 4 years, so I know this to be a fact and I genuinely appreciate all of these people so very much.

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My friends being super supportive. Hui Jie is pointing to my name in the program! They screamed my name when I walked on stage and I was a little startled, haha.

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My friends who could relate most to my piece ❤

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Good friend + show director 🙂

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Iman, Busra & Irtiqa ❤

Okay, so moving on from the show…

This weekend was also just generally an insanely pleasant one. The weather has been wonderful and I’ve just been having such a good time. On Friday night, after my show, Irtiqa, Iman and I headed over to West Philly for our friends Sanaa and Zahraa’s birthday dinner at Aksum. Food was really good and I just had such a good time catching up with the MSA girls. It’s one of those nights you laugh a lot and don’t remember what was so funny 2 hours later.

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I made the birthday girls pause in that position so that I could take this picture lol

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Our waitress (Casey, I think) was THE BEST. She ran after us because someone left their takeaway box on the table and she took this for us.

I also hung out with some of the other cast members from Penn Monologues that same night. We went to Dalton’s place—and he has a cat by the way!!! Thank goodness it was the most well-behaved cat ever and stayed firmly on one side of the room. Needless to say, it was the side of the room I did not venture to. Anyway, we had pizza at his place and watched Parks and Rec. I got to know Dalton, Savannah, James, Claire and Frances a little bit. Clare was also there (yes, there are two “Claires” except it’s Clare with no i and Claire with an i) and I loved getting to hang out with her more. I realised I hadn’t hung out with her in a group since probably our freshman year when our RA would have office hours for our hall to come over and eat snacks, so yeah, that was nice.

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Spot Dalton’s siamese cat behind him.

On Saturday evening, I went to Simply Chaos’ show. They’re a stand-up comedy group and I literally just found out about them this semester which makes me so sad because I would’ve loved to see all of their other shows. In fact, I only found out about them at all because this one guy who’s in the Monologue show was also doing the Simply Chaos show on the same weekend so a bunch of people were talking about that. But yeah, the show was hilarious. I went alone, and usually, when I go anywhere alone, I laugh a little less because I’m a little more self-conscious but I just couldn’t even think about that at all during their show. It was just hilarious and I had such a good time.

I also got to hang out with Hui Jie this past weekend. She came over on Friday and was whining about how hungry she was so we decided to go get some egg tarts! That quite quickly turned into an afternoon tea session where she tried to teach me how to say “my name is Dayana”, “I am from Malaysia”, “I study in the USA” and “I am hungry” in Danish over egg tarts and custard buns, hahaha. And of course, we haven’t had enough time with each other this weekend so we’re going out for dinner tonight, too!

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Anyway, that’s all for this week, I think! I might come back and edit this when I have the video from the show but until then, have a good week!! 🙂

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