At Agape Latte, Professor Speaks on Finding One’s Self

Mark Potting, Ph.D., speaking at Agape Latte on Feb. 17. Taylor Brethauer/The Quadrangle
Mark Pottinger, Ph.D., speaking at Agape Latte on Feb. 17. Taylor Brethauer/The Quadrangle

The campus ministry conversation series Agape Latte returned for its first event of the spring semester on Feb. 17 in the Jasper first floor lounge.

Students came for the coffee and chocolate fountain, but stayed for the talk given by Mark Pottinger, Ph.D., head of the Visual and Performing Arts Department. He spoke about his struggle of feeling left out and different in a diverse world.

Agape Latte, now one-year-old, began as an event hosted by Boston College but MC started its own chapter back in the spring semester of 2015 and the interest-level for the events have continued to grow, some talks attracting over 100 attendees.

Pottinger started his speech with a look into his cultural background- his mom’s side of the family is Jamaican and Jewish, while both of his parents are Pentecostal. He reminisced on feeling odd to have so many definitions as to who he was as a person and defining his family, too.

He spoke on the struggle of moving and having to deal with kids who wouldn’t let him sit at their tables and then deciding to eat lunch in his car. Once he graduated and went to college, however, he started meeting people he could fit in with.

“Everyone there were also struggling to fit in, to find direction, identity and purpose. It was kind of exciting to be around people who were also trying to find their place. It was like ‘this is my place, I’m now in college’,” he said.

Pottinger then thought back to his major, connecting with the feelings of college students who might also be in the same boat. Many people found it hard to believe that he originally started out as a physics major because he enjoyed science in high school. However, he wasn’t happy in this field and a professor pointed him towards a grant for music theory research abroad and switched majors soon after.

“This started me on that path to finding a way forward in my life, in a way that allowed me to realize my authentic self,” he said.

His time abroad changed him mentally and spiritually. He found himself and was changed for the better during his time studying what he really wanted to do.

“I was forced not to look at others to define me, but I was forced to go within me,” he said. “I always allowed people to look at me and decide their definitions for me, so I can fit in. The time away—forced exile it seemed—allowed me to come to terms with myself.”

Pottinger closed by saying his authentic self was probably always present but he had to go through struggles in order to find it. Music became everything for him and where he found his success, finding his path through his studies.

“All of these things, whether it be circumstance or happenstance, allowed me to become who I am and well, here I am,” he said as he finished his speech.

The next Agape Latte will be held on April 12- keep an eye on @mc_agapelatte on Twitter for more details.