BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)

“The single more powerful element of youth is that you don’t have the life experiences to know what can’t be done. While others highlight the value of wisdom, wisdom also remembers that achieving certain things was hard, if not impossible. Young people don’t carry that burden. They’re too naïve to realize what can’t be accomplished, and in that fact lies their willingness to try.” — Adam Braun

I woke up so early that I needed two breakfasts today. Feeling weirdly full and brimming with not only a cup of loose-leaf peach green tea but also a cup of warm optimism on this grey Phila morning.

Not all who wander are lost. What a tacky nicety. What a brilliant, resilient, dangerous truth.

Call me lost, call me seeking meaning, searching for significance, pondering our essence, desperate for substance, or hurried in purpose — I’m following my naive, dreaming heart. Crossing off the rat race of our generation to throw specks of paint onto a scary, beautiful blank canvas of my next few weeks.

Recently, I’ve spent quite a lot of time wearing my Thinking Cap, pursuing thoughts pointed at why I think so much and the value that might be derived of these Thought Journeys. Thinking opens the door as much as we let it. Thinking expands our reality to the extent that we push against the barriers of our mind. However, thoughts are still trapped within us. Thoughts are limited by the mere existence of their inhabitance in our mental dwelling places. They are often singular, often one-dimmensional, often caught up in the moment.

On Thinking to Dreaming to Doing

To begin my summer, I moved into my friend’s empty room in which i would stay until June 1st to create a minimalist vibe to maximize creativity. During these 15 days, my goal is to accomplish one thing — Create a dream too big that it not only intimidates, but genuinly frightens me. Any smaller, and it will not force me into stepping into confidence, audacity, and the unknown. All of us Can just as much as we Can’t. The experiences that we choose to define these random variable outcomes determines the space for us to discover our brilliant human nature.

Having been on a consecutive six day thinking experience, I’ve decided to stop thinking so much about stuff. This recently conceived conviction is born from the notion that when thinking is devoid of action, a fruitful mind cannot function without a fruitful life. And life is a series of actions.

I’ve been bulldozing through books these past days, the most recent Adam Braun’s “The Promise of a Pencil” (and have David O to thank). Essentially Braun’s working autobiography, his dyanimc voice throughout his narrative is captivating. He starts off a bit cheesy and intentionally naive — reminds me a lot about myself — a do-gooder mentality with little previous legitimate action to back up our desires. What strikes me the most is how he conqured the scary limbo space that is a ‘semi-successful proven business concept’ in taking his venture from one small, singular success to a scalable, sustainable power for positive force global education.

My dreams all revolve around creating spaces for community, for flow, for stupidly good music that we let ourselves completely FEEL, for spontaneity, vulnerability, dancing, and creativity. Since April, I’ve hosted 7 ‘stranger gatherings’ and around 80 people have been a part of these spaces. The beauty of creating space is that it’s so mentally expansive in that the most critical element of it is the people. Space is a congregation of heads filled with glory, of myriad experiences of a lifetime, of tragedies of a lifetime, of stories to be shared and hands to be held. For every fifty or so ideas that float around in my headspace, there are 1–2 that I and others think are worth pursuing. This isn’t an idea. Rather it’s a truth. That we need more community.

I’m not looking for Facebook likes, CP success, ‘fame, glitz, or glamor’. I’m looking for a culture of holding space for one another — across generations, communities, races, that allows us to simply be really fucking human. To live in full-catastrophe, but to do it fucking together. To not build professional networks (lol have u seen how horrible my Linkedin is), but instead lifelong kinship.

Why? Because we all get really lonely sometimes. Even when we have a lot of friends. Even in urban places, in schools filled with thousands, in workplaces harboring the best and brightest. That feeling you love your life, but deep down, at the quiet end of the day, know that there should be more. That muted discontent as a product of our muted culture. We need a space where we ALL lean in together. Where we ALL make the first move together. Where leaning in, and taking the first step, isn’t an isolated event. We need a space other than that of a frat party where the drunk boy makes the first move (nothing against drunk frat boys — i think they’re pretty groovy), but a space where we can make a platonic move of friendship and community in complete sobriety.

The personal story (which is another story to be shared in its entirety at another time) is that basically, I was really, sickeningly lonely freshmen year. I didn’t have friends. But that was because I didn’t try to make any. I threw people into buckets and instantly decided I didn’t want to associate with most of them. It was so easy to thrust all the blame on Penn, on “Penn Face”, on urban schools, on a dead culture. When really, it was me. Your situation is one thing, but the way you chose to respond was a completely different one. The people at Penn are amazing. People here are explosive. People here keep me up until 3am pushing each other in our passion projects, and have me up at 9am the same morning to meet at Hubbub to help me refine my working definition of vulnerability. People here go out of their way to make you feel loved. To make you feel two strides more than okay. To push your intellect and follow your thoughts up the ladder into woo-woo land. To exercise and refine your conversation tools, your listening skills, and completely overturn your pillars of reality. The most beautiful moments and friendships are the ones where we can sit in complete silence and just be.

My dream is to create a space (whether that means overturning an old, unused space or building a new structure from ground up) on Locust Walk. A physical building. Like Arch, Perry World House, XYZ Fraternity, like the Graduate Student House. A 24-hour alternative space.

This space will function as a place that feels good. One that operates in the day but just as important, one that doesn’t close at night. So that when the day comes when you get sick of Huntsman, VP, or the high-rise lounge, there will a time and space for you.

A cozy AF space with furniture and visuals designed by artists and social architecture and social dynamics prototyped by architects and organizational dynamic nerds. Activities organized by all of us. This isn’t a “Safe Space”. We’re not here to take refuge, to escape Penn, or to congregate people who are similar to us and express the same sentiments. Absolutely not. This space might be my ‘dream’. But this space is not a dream. It is a contemplation of a reality that is perhaps the future. It will be built on the underdog mentality and it is one that I’m willing to fight for and my hope is that others will too.

A dinner table, big windows, a coffee house and fine pastry selection, a space for me to expand my stranger gatherings (please come to the next one! text me 248–892–5888), a place to deeply listen to music and meditate, a space to bring a date late at night when you don’t want to go to a frat house or back to your bedroom and simply want to get to know them more— the very act of defining the space is setting limitations to it so I will stop here before I limit it too much.

In essence, a house to celebrate our innate ability and desire to create. Create ideas, create passion projects, create stimulating conversation, create headspace for ourselves, create sweat through (good and hard) yoga, create friendships…create vulnerability. The limits should not been defined because there should be no limit. There will be precepts. The is only that I am dead set on as of right now— no Greek wear. Because in the best of ways, it’s pretty irrelevant to anything innately genuine about you (i am affiliated with the Greek community and enjoy my community but recognize its limits in its ability label people into singular circles).

“If you want go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. It’s in the presence of others who are smarter, kinder, wiser, and different from you that enables you to evolve. Those are the people to surround yourself with at all times” — Adam Braun

I really need your help. I’ve done nothing but think and talk and think and talk to people about this. I’m going to begin rolling out plans for this right after I take a pee break and go for a run. Let’s brainstorm and work through this together. I can be reached at 248–892–5888, sbian@sas.upenn.edu, on Facebook as Serena Bian, and I’ll be in Philly until June 1st and SF June 1-June 7.

Let’s spend time with one another. A stranger is a friend we haven’t met yet.

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