I remember that when I first visited MIT and stayed with a fellow gymnast in EC, she was genuinely insulted a bit that I said it ‘wasn’t weird enough’ for me.
I can understand. I was asked to describe myself in only three words this year, and what came out was “I’m totally normal.” This from a circus performer, of course, so take that with a grain of salt.
But in most of the ways that people measure, I was normal. Quiet, studious, not a partier or a wave-maker, I was (and still am in most cases) someone who is happy to be on the sidelines of the action rather than in the center.
And yet, Senior House spoke to me as soon as I stepped in the courtyard during rush. I knew I was home.
For me, what was important about living at Senior House was not who I was, but who I was surrounded by: people who represented what, to most other communities, would be an *appallingly* varied cross-section of socioeconomic, cultural, and moral values and habits, shoved into one comparatively tiny building and not just coexisting, but genuinely living together.
Although Senior House had its ‘sections’, what was evident upon visiting was the utter lack of formal division between them. At rush everyone hung out in the courtyard together, comfortably, at ease with themselves and those around them. Steer Roast shows the same spirit in bringing together decades of alumni with disparate pasts and presents, and erasing any perceived boundaries between them.
At Senior House, living amongst those you had common interests with didn’t become self-segregation. Not just tolerance but acceptance of, and friendship with, those whose paths and neuroses were vastly different from your own was in some ways the only norm.
This was what represented home to me: a place where the first rule was to be yourself without excluding meaningful interaction and connection with others whom, physical address aside, you had next-to-nothing in common with.
An environment like that doesn’t flourish unless there are comparative few rules otherwise on people’s behavior, and that’s why East Side culture is invaluable.
Oh, and a kick-ass tire swing. That sold it too.