Princeton University will never cease to amaze me with the way it connects me to other people. Meeting famous people is always great. Meeting people with academic interests that are similar to yours is fantastic. But when you get to meet someone you admire and respect on both intellectual and artist levels, and substantively meet him, rather than just shake his hand or get something signed…that’s amazing. And when you get to have a half-hour conversation with him where you talk about things you’ve both experienced and you realize you’re both just normal people (except one of you has watched and wowwed at Youtube videos of the other), that’s incredible.
That’s what Princeton gave me today. Which is why I’m not even mad about being locked out of my room until tomorrow morning because I refuse to pay $30 for Public Safety to come open my door. It’s why the seemingly endless monsoon outside isn’t even getting me down. There is a smile in my heart if not always on my face for the rest of the evening (don’t want to look like a smiling idiot sitting at work in the library) because I got to have that incredible experience with the one and only Joshua Bennett this evening.
Y’all probably remember me gushing about how amazingly talented he is a few months ago. (If not, click here.) A friend of mine posted his 10 Things I want to Say to a Black Woman video sometime last year, and I said “Mmmmmm!” more times than I could remember ever saying in response to anyone’s words ever before.
So when my friend M told me he was a first year graduate student here in our English department, I pretty much died. And by “died,” I mean started concocting a plan to meet him without seeming like a stalker. And the very next day, I heard his voice while I was walking down the street, and looked up to see him walking along across Prospect Street. And once I saw him walking through the student center. And so, when he walked into my Mellon Mays Holiday Mixer this evening, an uncontrollable smile broke out on my face. And when we got paired together to learn more about each other and introduce each other to the group, I wanted to squeal.
I tried to play innocent. We did introductions, I talked about my research, we got food, but by the time we sat down to keep talking, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to tell him. “Okay, I have to be honest–I know who you are. I’ve watched your YouTube videos and I think your poetry is amazing and when I heard that you were a grad student here I just had to meet you. I hope you don’t think I’m crazy…” And do you know what he told me? Joshua Bennett told ME that I made his day. That he sleeps on a futon, and so for me to say that I’m a fan is humbling. And I was just honored to meet the man.
It’s strange having someone you’ve admired from afar/the internet materialize as a real person with real jokes that you can laugh at and have him laugh back. That you could be in the same place at the same time having different experiences with shared stories and compare notes. He’s looking for more of a connection to Black students on campus, and thinks my thesis is particularly interesting with respect to Princeton, and there’s a decent chance we might just get to be friends over the course of my last few months here. He was also just mad chill and it was fun to be around him even after I was over the shock of my good fortune in getting the chance to talk to him (hopefully without coming off like a stalker). How can awesome people be so normal? My mind is blown.