Student Life: A Balancing Act

I began buttoning my shirt, adjusted my brown belt, and slipped my feet into my two leather loafers. One week later, I slipped on my neon blue tank top, lowered my Ray Bans, and rolled up my high socks. To think I was seeing Branford Marsalis’ Quartet serenade the halls of the Schwartz Center, raving on McDonough to Fluxus and Cazzette and having the time of my life at CounterPoint surrounded by the wonders of Laidback Luke and Skrillex, all within a week, was simply mind-boggling.

It got me thinking.

Throughout this week I’ve been fortunate to hear lectures by some of the very inspiring Emory Alumni that came for Alumni Weekend and Homecoming. The Film Studies Department hosted a lecture by Laine Kline (87C 90L), the Senior Vice President of Business Affairs for 20th Century Fox International Productions. Although a majority of what Kline told us was off the record, there was one line in particular that I thought was appropriate for this piece: “Emory is this playground — try philosophy and economics, — take business classes and writing.” Laine stressed how important it was to “find your skill,” and “discover your potential.”

It has been overwhelming, one month into college, trying to figure out everything from how to get to Tarbutton Hall, to learning the Greek alphabet solely for the purpose of navigating frat row. But out of all this tumult, I’ve learned one key tenet: balance.

There are students here that, on the day they got into Emory or even earlier, decided that they were either “math and science kids, “”English kids,” “history kids,” or definitely not “engineering kids.” Too often students find something they are comfortable doing or learning early on and forget what else is being offered. For this reason, Emory mandates fulfilling a set of general education requirements, a way to virtually force Emory students to give every area of education a try, hoping that something new and not in the normal comfort zone, will spark their enthusiasm.

Yes, there are many loopholes so that “Intro to Logic” serves as your math class and “From Botox to Behavior” fulfills your science requirement, but what’s the point? There are so many different clubs, student organizations, athletic teams, musical and art groups — the odds of seeing a baseball player sing opera isn’t very likely. But what about the rest of us, those that fall in the middle?

It was so refreshing, as I walked back to my residence hall from the gym last Friday, to see over a hundred people huddled around the entryway to the DUC. For what? This was my first exposure to Emory’s “First Friday” and, although it wasn’t actually the first Friday of the month, all of the campus a cappella groups (there must have been 20 of them) pulled off some sort of Glee-shindig and showcased a few of their songs. The sun was setting over Atlanta and the smell of Cinnabon being given out by SPC’s homecoming promotion mingled with the euphonious sounds of “No Strings Attached,” “ChaiTunes,” and more. It put everyone into a trance. I had finally found what I was searching for: that group of tennis and basketball players that were on their way back to their dorms, or going to the DUC, but either way found themselves watching what was supposed to be a minute or two, turn into a full hour. Throughout the performance, the crowd fluctuated in size but I finally saw the meaning of  “the Emory Balance Beam,” a theoretical model that creates a feng-shui for the Emory community.

Don’t be afraid to join the step club, the polo team, or even be a member of “Meditation with the Monks.” If you don’t want to, that’s fine but, when you say no, remember where you are and how long you’re here for. Four years can go by in a blink of an eye but they can also go by at the perfect speed, allowing you to discover yourself, explore new things and “find your skill.”

I sit here writing this article, laying in my bed, still wearing my neon blue tank top that seemed to be the proper attire for CounterPoint. Yes, the sound-barrier-breaking beats and the blinding lights still have my ears ringing and my eyes flashing, but with that comes my tranquilizer: two hours of improvised and graceful jazz. I can still see and hear Marsalis arpeggiating up and down his soprano sax and his drummer, 21-year-old Justin Faulkner, creating rhythms not heard since the days of Max Roach.

By no means have I found my “Emory balance,” in fact, not even close. But what I may have found, was something a bit more crucial — a motivation to start searching for it.

With that, I tried out for a cappella.

Brett Lichtenberg is a College freshman from Hewlett, N.Y.