Last week, I cooked dinner with friends at an apartment off campus. J. and G. met with me at my dorm, and we walked over together. I brought over lentils, a box of pasta, and a mix of vegetables. Bobby, whose apartment we visited, taught us how to make bread. In the second grade, my class used to bake loaves every week to bring down the street to the men’s rehabilitation mission, but I hadn’t done it since.
B. bakes bread frequently, and knows how to fold the dough into itself with ease. I didn’t quite have the style yet, but shaped it to the best of my ability. After the dough had risen again, we slapped it experimentally and cut the letter X into the tops of each ball with a large sharp knife and put it into the oven.
I cooked lentils and pasta over the stove, and we chopped our vegetables into rough chunks. I have never made lentils before. Truth be told, I can’t remember ever eating them before I went over to M.’s for brunch this January. (She lives in the same apartment as B., along the other side of the building and several floors above. She let me in through the fire escape door and we climbed in through her bedroom.) Once the bread was baked we mixed lentils and pasta shells together with the vegetables. L. had arrived by this time, and we sat down around the wooden kitchen table and shared our meal.
I really enjoyed it, and am glad that we spent the time together. It made me happy, and I hope that we do it again soon.
Lately, a lot of discussion on campus has had to do with mental health and wellness. I understand that it is an incredibly important topic to discuss, and am glad that it is getting the recognition that it needs. The culture at my university is frequently a stressful one – at an Ivy League institution, the competitive and pre-professionalism can sometimes make moments of relaxation and restfulness seem like wasted time. We have high expectations for grades, responsibilities to our organizations, and aspirations for summer internships and jobs. However, in our pursuits of prestige, I think we can very easily lose sight of purpose.
This isn’t to say that my peers (and myself included) aren’t purposeful. I have met some of the most driven and well planned people here at Penn, whose plans for the next several years surpass most things that I could imagine doing in a lifetime. To me, purpose has a lot to do with emotional and intellectual fulfillment, both in the present and for the future. I need reminders, sometimes, to seize opportunities for “wasted time”, to spend a few hours in a conversation with a friend instead of on another application for summer research funding.
One of my goals for the year was to be more mindful, and spend more time connecting with the people around me. Dinner was part of that. This weekend, spent on a trip to Washington, D.C., with friends, was part of that. Taking a few moments from my day to write this is part of that.