By Noah Bergam (VI)

I get a lot of snail mail these days. Almost each letter falls into one of two categories: college advertisements or campaign literature from the local Malinowski vs. Kean election. 

College season and election season. What a fun combination. One moment, I’m skimming through my second copy of UChicago’s “The Life of the Mind,” and the next, I’m bouncing between Toms, comparing the “Dangerous Pelosi Liberal” to the Pingry grad who is purportedly “bought off by the healthcare industry.” But really, my investigation is more cursory than thorough. Smooth pictures, flashy text, the ephemeral feel of fresh ink––then it’s off to the pile, and I return to my college essays to spend hours tweaking the prose of a single paragraph.

Marketing yourself and your content is a draining process. I think we all know it. Every little detail seems to matter so much as we craft applications, performances, newspaper layout––and yet, when we absorb the content of others, we naturally skim and simplify, reducing hours of someone’s painstaking work into a fleeting glance. 

To an extent, such behavior is warranted. The Internet, and, by extension, the world, inundates us with enough content and worries to last each of us literally thousands of lifetimes. Sometimes I feel like I’m barely staying afloat in the great ocean of information. I feel like my laptop, operating on eight measly megabytes of marginal storage. One more Zoom call, one more Chrome tab, and I’ll crash. 

I suspect this is a common apprehension among our student community. We’re all overworked, keeping tabs on a thousand different endeavours in and outside the classroom. All the while, we’re trained to chase leadership and become the best at whatever we do––but we’re not all that disposed towards appreciating the things that others do, whether it’s trying out a peer’s club, or reading a student publication, or cheering on a friend at a sports game. 

We can all fancy ourselves to be stars in our own respective realms, but ultimately, we’re bound to be part of the audience more often than we are to be on stage, and it would probably benefit our school culture to take that concept to heart a little more often. We ought to truly consider who we are as audience members, as readers, fans, and listeners. Is your experience in this community just a cursory flip through fancy pages, or is it something deeper, more connected and appreciative? 

Instead of immediately recycling the letters, I decided to keep them in a pile for a little while longer. It stings a bit to let them go so fast, because I know someone, somewhere in the universe, worked hard on these magnificent missives. They deserve a little respect.