Documentary stars inspire packed ballroom

Savannah Sawyer
Staff writer

Photos by Allie Douglass/The News

“What do you want to do before you die?”

It is a big question, one asked to a packed ballroom Tuesday night in the Curris Center as Dave Lingwood and Jonnie Penn from MTV’s “The Buried Life” spoke about their journey, dreams and aspirations.

Lingwood and Penn, along with Ben Nemtin and Duncan Penn, have been crossing things off their list of things to accomplish before they turn 30 since 2006. Each passing year seems to come with some sort of new development.

This year they wanted to start at the source and speak with college students about their experiences.

“They apply so much to college students because we’re the people that watch their show and they’re about our age so I like that they do go to college campuses just because their overall message is to not take life for granted and don’t wait, seize the day,” Alex Green, lecture chair for the Campus Activities Board, said.

Green said the idea for the event came about when the Student Government Association met with “The Buried Life” stars at the National Association for Campus Activities.

The Buried Life project started in 2006 when the group got together and decided they wanted more out of life. The group did not know exactly what to do, but they knew the name: The Buried Life, named after a poem Jonnie Penn read in class.

“I brought it to the guys and we thought the same thing, that this is kind of what we were feeling like,” Penn said. “That most days you were fine and some days you just felt like shit and you didn’t know what to do with yourself, you wanted more out of life, but you didn’t know how to define it or put your finger on it.”

From there the group decided they would make a list of things they want to do before they die. For every item crossed off the list they helped a stranger accomplish something on his or hers.

While the show covered what the boys did to cross things off of the list, the lecture they gave Tuesday night was centered on the ways the two have helped people do things that were once deemed impossible.

The first person they helped was a man named Brent who had spent most of his life on the streets. Because he had recently gotten his life together, he wanted to give back to the shelter that had given so much to him. In order to do that he would need a truck, they said.

The boys worked their magic and were able to buy a used truck originally priced at $2,100 for only $480.

“This day was so profound for us because we never experienced this,”?Penn said. “We hadn’t been great kids in high school. We hadn’t known what it feels like to make a huge impact on someone’s life.”

Throughout the lecture the stars encouraged students to not let fear keep them from doing what they want to do.

One item on Lingwood’s list was to ride a bull.

“I got on this bull and it’s kind of like getting on an airplane that you know will crash,” Lingwood said of the experience.

As their message to do what you love and believe in reached homes across the nation, MTV realized the potential and picked the show up for its first season.

The two stars agreed that through the show, they were able to help people.

“This issue of depression is something we hear over and over and over again,” Penn said. “If anyone in this room has ever felt depressed, anxious (and) you’ve struggled with cutting, or anorexia, or body image issues, just know that you’re not alone. I think the hardest thing of growing up is you feel like you’re the only one going through this, but it’s something everybody goes through.”

The event also allowed students to share what they want to do before they die.

Gabriel King, graduate student from Milwaukee, Wis., had a voice that stood out in more ways than one.

King said his dream is to sing with a recording artist such as Brandy Norwood. When they asked King to sing for the audience he performed an original song and received a loud round of applause.

King said he started singing at a young age.

“As soon as I could pick up a microphone (I started singing),” he said.?“I listen to music all the time and I just feel like it means so much.”

The speakers encouraged students to go after what they want, turning their dreams into projects – projects, they said, that can be completed.

“You just have to be you because there is so much pressure in this day and age being young to be what other people expect you to be, to do what other people expect you to do,” Penn said. “We think that you should take pride, that there is pride to be taken in being you and to do the things that you really dream about doing, whatever they are.”

Read a Q&A with Lingwood and Penn here.

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