You may not know me, but I would like to open this letter with a warm, heart-felt, and gracious thank you.
Earlier this month, you attended the University at Buffalo’s Distinguished Speaker Series as our Student Association’s featured speaker. And after hearing you speak to the entirety of the UB community, I applaud the decision of the Student Association, not only to bring you to campus, but to chose you as their featured speaker of the year.
You see, the week you came to campus, I had three final papers looming over my head. I’m a current graduate student, in my second year, in the Higher Education Administration program. These final papers, ranging between 15-30 pages each, seemed like the only thing that mattered…until, a fellow graduate student asked me, “Hey, are you going to John Legend tonight?”
Please don’t be offended when I say that I completely forgot you were coming to campus. I knew you were coming on December 3rd, but I didn’t realize that day was December 3rd. It’s been one of those semesters, you know?
Anyway, I went up to the ticket office with two of my friends…”Hello, I know it’s incredibly last minute, but do you have any more John Legend tickets?” And to all of our surprise, the older woman at the desk pulled out three crisp tickets with your name printed across each one. “The last three!” she exclaimed, and handed them over to us. It was fate.
Little did I know how drastically things would change for me that night. You see, two days earlier, I was in my office, a graduation countdown ticking away on my desktop, staring blankly into a computer that wasn’t giving me any answers. I wanted to figure out my future, my passions, my dreams. Lofty goals to figure out in just one afternoon, wouldn’t you say? Regardless, I sat at my desk in my square office, looking at blank index cards with a pen poised in my hand. “Michael,” I told myself, “Just write something. Anything.” For each index card, I wanted to write down a potential career. Something to pursue. A dream to chase. And after thinking to the point of brainache, I resigned. I put the pen down. I collected the index cards and put them in the recycling bin.
And then, two days after that, I found myself with a John Legend ticket in hand. I find it important to mention that I work in our Intercultural & Diversity Center. When you talked about social justice issues, advocacy work, and the importance of education, I felt as if there was a golden cord of resonance that was beaming between your podium and my seat in the very highest section of the highest bleachers.
From that night, I learned two things from you:
- We’re just ordinary people, maybe we should take it slow.
(A beautiful reminder, but I already knew this one), and
- Passions are the things that keep you awake at night.
Let me say that again for everyone else. Your passions are the things that keep you awake at night. The things that you care so deeply about, so intensely about, that you literally and metaphorically cannot sleep because you have so much passion for these issues.
Please allow me to explain. Within the recent weeks, especially with all of the events happening in the world, I haven’t been able to sleep very well. I toss and turn, I get anxious about things I’ve never thought about before, and to be honest, I’m scared. I said it. I’m scared for the world around me. Now, I know I can’t live my life thinking this way, but I’d be lying if I said these things haven’t been keeping me awake at night.
You informed me that the things I initially saw as my fears, the things that scare me the most, the things that keep me up at night, are my true passions. Education. Social justice. Advocacy. Diversity. You restructured my entire perspective. You gave me hope, regardless of the circumstances.
And for that, I say thank you.