The end of the academic year is a beautiful and terrible time. I woke up the other day, dreading the load of work and studying I have to accomplish by May 22. But almost simultaneously, I realized that the coming four weeks would be over in the blink of an eye. I could have done a number of things with this realization: scramble to begin my Dean’s Date assignments, make a pitiful attempt to start running with bikini season on the horizon or even plan some awesome to-dos for my few weeks of downtime during the summer. I opted for none of these.
I went to shows. A musical, martial arts action-adventure show: “Journey Beyond the West: The New Adventures of Monkey.” The diSiac show, “On the Edge,” which undoubtedly lived up to its name. And just this past weekend, I attended the tale of “Sweeney Todd,” an amazingly chilling yet somehow comical musical that managed to blow me away even with Mother Nature literally raining on our parade.
Admittedly, before attending each of these performances, I felt a tinge of guilt. There was some sort of assignment I could be working on, something for an extracurricular that needed handling. Really, any semblance of productivity would have made me happy. But I can honestly say that by the end of every show, there were no remnants of guilt left.
I’m at the point in my college career when I know myself, work-wise. I know when I’m going to actually get assignments done and when I’m going to just be thinking about a show I wish I were going to. There’s no point in not getting work done and missing a cool opening show at Theatre Intime. But then, even if there is some reading I could be doing, going to a musical, a play or an art exhibit — it’s never unproductive. Though I’m not privy to the dedication leading up to a show, I can only imagine the blood, sweat and tears that go into a major student production. The lines at the ticket office always annoy me, but, really, it would be a problem if they didn’t exist. We need to cheer on our friends and fellow students in general who are endeavoring to create something more than a paper or presentation.
But going to student performances is more than supporting people we know. I go for myself because in truth, it is scarily simple to dismiss this part of life. I never realized that my seemingly little involvement in art affected my personal happiness so much. But in that hurried transition from high school to Princeton, I managed to leave behind writing, choir and musicals. It wasn’t until I returned to this part of myself — through my opinion columns, through my a cappella group — that I realized just how much I needed it.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I will ever be as involved in the arts as I was in high school. My time is limited, and, as many students do, I have found new interests that also demand attention. Still, even if I’m not always the creator, there’s something magical about watching creation. But I think this gets more lost than being actively involved in the arts. At least if I’m painting something, memorizing lines or rehearsing a piece, I can say I have worked toward a goal. This translates to any piece of academic work. Though I’ve produced work that I am genuinely proud of in these past two years, I feel that a by-product of this is that if I’m not holding something tangible, there is nothing truly productive happening. It’s a dangerous line of thinking that “doing” is the only way to experience something and grow from it. University culture encourages action — academic, social, civic — and that’s a good thing. But often times, these actions become a series of monochromatic motions, and we become disconnected from our original motivations and the effects that we’d hope to see happen.
Art slows down time. In an almost breathless pace of life, rather than acting or doing, art gives us an opportunity to observe windows of life and reflect on what they signify. In doing so, we reconnect with ourselves, each other and, incidentally, become a part of the art itself.
Lea Trusty is a Wilson School major from Saint Rose, La. She can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.