Sep 7, 2016
Posted in: Miscellaneous
It is currently 5:26am and even though I really truly definitely positively absolutely should be asleep right now, I’m not. I know that classes start tomorrow (or I guess today, if we are being technical about it) and I really ought to be well-rested if I want to be up and ready to stuff my brain full of knowledge by 10:05am. Unfortunately, what I ought to do and what I have apparently ended up doing have failed miserably at coordinating themselves.
I am no stranger to staying up late, but usually, my late nights are precipitated by something concrete and urgent: a pset, an exam, or the occasional deep, probing conversation about life, the universe, and everything. If it were up to me, I’d sleep at least 9 hours every night with a mid-afternoon nap to boot, but sometimes, I don’t really have a choice and so I’ve gotten pretty good at chugging along and getting my work done despite drooping eyelids and an intense desire to cocoon myself in a swathe of green bedsheets.
But tonight is different.
Tonight I have a choice. I mean, school hasn’t even started yet so I have no psets, no exams, no pressing extracurricular obligations, and no one even awake with whom to have a deep, probing conversation about life, the universe, and everything. My roommate and I finished preliminary work on our ambitious wall-sized room decoration at midnight and after she went to sleep, I didn’t really have much else that required my immediate attention. Instead of sleeping, I watched some Spanish-language television dramas on Netflix to brush up on my Spanish, googled instructions for how to make a 3-D cardboard sculpture because I was bored, then settled down to write this blogpost. There is nothing concrete or urgent preventing me from going to sleep, but after some introspection, I have come to realize that there is indeed something else keeping me up:
Tonight is the last night before the last first day of my time here at MIT.
To put that in less words: tomorrow, I’ll officially be a senior. That means just one more year left at this esteemed institution that is now just as much my home as is my house back in California. I remember being gently startled the first time I referred to MIT as “home” freshman spring. At the time, it had felt too soon, almost as if I were betraying the sanctity of my “real home” with this transference of labels. But what does “home” really mean anyway? You might be thinking, how trite and cliché of you, Krystal, to be comparing your school to a home.
I have been thinking about this actually for the last few years, perhaps in an effort to alleviate the dissonance in my mind every time I accidentally referred to MIT as “home”, and I came to a conclusion of sorts after the discovery of one of my favorite quotes:
“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
As I began to better understand what it means for a place to be “home”, I came to use the word freely and surely and without hesitation when I talked about MIT.
But before I continue, I want to be clear about one thing: I have had some pretty miserable experiences here, and I will not pretend that I love everything about it. The truth is, there exists no home and no place and no thing that is perfect.
I love MIT in the way that you might love the gym. You go in all excited to be healthy and exercising and then you start working so hard you sometimes feel a little sick and your muscles are literally shredded up and everything hurts. But at the end of the day when you leave, even though your limbs still feel like Jello, you also feel pretty darn good about what you’ve achieved and you’re undoubtedly and indisputably leaving stronger than when you first came in. It's a time-dependent love-hate relationship; sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad.
It’s in that sort of way that I love the people and the campus and the classes that make up the whole MIT experience. I’ve poured my heart into building my life here at school and so there really can be no word for it other than “home”.
My mind has been wide-awake and buzzing now for quite some time with so many half-formed thoughts, some about the nuts and bolts of my upcoming class schedule, some about how terrible I’m going to feel tomorrow due to sleep deprivation, and some about my nebulous perspectives and thoughts on what it will be like to be a senior. Before I close my eyes and finally go to sleep, I can’t help but take another look around the place I have called home for the last two years (yup, this will be my third year living in the exact same dorm room and my fourth year living on the same floor).
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In the Maseeh floor 2 dorm room, there is a desk. And a lamp. And a carpet. And a pillow. And some glasses and cups. And a pile of snacks. And a blue backpack. And a west-ward facing window. And a ring.
Goodnight generic dormitory desk where I have worked and played and laughed and cried and eaten and lived these last three years.
Goodnight vaguely green fluorescent lamp that has dutifully illuminated my psets and cheat sheets and doodles in the wee hours of the night.
Goodnight teal area carpet that we bought last year to make the bare white floor of our room more home-y and that is great for lying on when you’re really pooped from life and just need a break.
Goodnight throw pillow with a polar bear wearing sunglasses on it that was a dorm-warming gift from an awesome friend and that has probably been sat upon by a great collection of butts belonging to the also awesome friends and visitors that hang out in our room.
Goodnight tiny collection of glasses and cups that I have hoarded over the years from different clubs and events (MedLinks, CSC Chinese new year banquet, Class of 2017 ring delivery, etc.) that I never actually use except for this one shot glass that I use to store loose rubber bands in.
Goodnight pile of snacks on the window sill that provide sustenance and amusement, some purchased here from Trader Joe’s or Shaw’s, some picked up for free at a random event on campus, and some sent in care packages from family that we miss every day.
Goodnight blue backpack that I may or may not have spilled hot chocolate on while I was rushing through the infinite on the way home last spring but that has never failed to carry all of my stuff, both the useful (e.g. notebooks and pens) and the entirely useless (e.g. an alpaca on a keychain and a used tram ticket from Hong Kong).
Goodnight sliver of Massachusetts Avenue that I can see out my window and that I have crossed every single day through sunshine and snowstorms for the last three years on my way to class.
Goodnight brass rat that spends most of its time in a box in my desk because I always forget to put it on but that I will carry with me always as a reminder of all of ups and downs and swirly-twisty bits that are all part of this four-year journey.
Goodnight night noises everywhere.
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When I wake up, it will officially by my last first day at MIT.
Maybe I’m not ready to say goodnight because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to it all. If I never go to sleep, then the last night before the last first day never has to end. And if the last night before the last first day never ends, then the last first day will never come and I will never have to face the beginning of the end.
Sigh. If only.
Apparently, in addition to getting really hungry, I also get really sappy and sentimental once I pass the 5am mark.
Anyway, I think I shall go curl myself up into a ball now and get at least a few hours of sleep. That’s better than nothing, right? Plus my writing is beginning to lose all sense of cohesion so I should probably stop while I'm ahead. Considering that, I apologize in advance if there are any typos. I’m planning on reviewing this all again tomorrow, but I wanted to get this rambling post out first at a chronologically relevant time.