I came to East Campus last fall feeling like Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate: I had more freedom and opportunities than I could ever have imagined laid right before my feet and no idea what to do with them. (Granted he had just finished college and I had just started, but just go with it). People were building in the courtyard and in their rooms, wiring circuits onto the hall walls, painting their own walls, cooking, coding, and playing Ultimate Frisbee out by the Green Building. I felt overwhelmed and aware of all the things I didn’t know how to do, but I very quickly got over it once I started talking to people and participating.
That same fear appears quite often when I’m hosed, and it stings every time. MIT definitely has moments of nirvana, but when you feel sad, stressed, or suffocated by all the work, it really hits you hard and without mercy.
I’ve found the cure to be buried within the people I’ve known in the past year. I love all of them, but I want to talk briefly about one group I grew close to last semester. The first night I was psetting in the lounge, they said hello to me even though they either didn’t know me that well or had never seen me before. The second night, a few took me up to the top floor of the Green Building. We sat down in a dark classroom, looked down at the hazy streets and white lights of Cambridge, and wondered who else might be awake. Within a week, I knew almost everyone and felt completely comfortable crashing in the lounge or joining in on an episode of Game of Thrones. I opted to transfer a little later and got accepted. For reasons I will never understand, these people took a chance on me. It means more to me than I can say.
Like I said, MIT is a place of two extremes, and growth in such an environment often occurs slowly and painfully. But the people I live with are my family here, and when I’m with them, the growth doesn’t feel nearly as painful. It’s the little things (a hug, a friendly card or plate of cookies, a conversation about life, or just seeing someone’s face) people do that make this possible. That’s how it should be.