Back in April, I unenthusiastically walked into Spring Convocation where Neil deGrasse Tyson was the keynote speaker. I was there, like many, under the requirements of a class, not my own desire to expand my thinking and hear the thoughts of a world-renowned influencer. I’ve since realized a true appreciation for these events.

It wasn’t the act of going to Convocation and listening to Tyson that didn’t interest me. I usually enjoy hearing people’s stories and perspectives.

But after learning about the spring’s Convocation speaker, I shut down when I heard the words “scientist,” “astrophysics,” and “cosmos.” I’m a journalism major. I write, talk and collaborate. No offense to my McMichael-minded friends, but sitting in a laboratory and doing the m-word (math) has always put a knot in my stomach.

If you know me, you’d know that I’m all about reflecting and analyzing.

And with Itzhak Perlman’s upcoming Fall Convocation conversation Oct. 6, I recently did some personal reflection on the influential people who have come to Elon University and shared their ideas — people who have made an impact on a global scale: Tyson, Steve Wozniak, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, to name a few — and my feelings, or in many cases, lack of feelings, of gratitude.

Before I even stepped foot into Alumni Gym, I let my ignorance block a good opportunity to learn beyond my comfort zone.

And in the end, Tyson’s message wasn’t a lecture on the formation of stars or vastness of the universe, but lessons such as the value of an education and learning — things everyone could clearly relate to.

So going into the Fall Convocation with Perlman, I’m changing my mindset.

I’m changing my perception of the possibility of learning from an accomplished and world-recognized violinist, with life experiences far beyond what I can imagine.

Do I know anything about violins and classical music? No. I spent an hour a week during elementary school taking piano lessons and got excited when I learned how to play more than the first chord of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.”

But did I know anything about cosmos?

I believe there’s a lesson in every opportunity, especially in ones where you aren’t already an expert.

Use your ignorance to your advantage. Don’t be afraid of it.

There’s a lesson in everything if you look.


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