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Kirsten L. '15

Apr 8, 2016

Grey and Other Colors

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Miscellaneous

For those of you curious about life after MIT, I recently wrote this blog to share some of my thoughts. I've gotten lots of love and feedback from fellow alums who have felt similar things. It's a reminder that MIT truely is a special place- alive at all hours with people tinkering and filled with some of the most passionate people you'll ever have the pleasure of getting to know. Hope it provides some perspective from life on the other side of the beaver (we flip our brass rats around after graduation). 

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A couple weeks ago, my friend pointed out that I had finally hit the 6 month mark at my job. Wow. Well here we are. 6 months of moving to a new place, falling in and out of love with SF, trying to stay afloat in the deep end that is my job, and connecting with polar opposites that become your closest friends. This is life- it’s messy, unexpected, and beautiful all at the same time.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about time and how I’ve been spending it. Happiness and how people think about it. Where I am and where I want to be. Sometimes things happen in life that shock you into the reality of the situation, and you wake up at 3 AM in a cold sweat that things have to change. This is an attempt at verbalizing the thoughts in my mind. My words don’t feel refined, eloquent, or polished at this point, but everyone has to start somewhere.

Life is grey.

Life isn’t always black or white. It’s some murky combination of many things: things that make you smile, things that make you want to crawl under a rock, things you’re too naive about, things that perplex you. I’ve never felt that more than now.

Having just graduated from school, I’ve felt restless thinking about one question: “What’s next?” When you’re a student, you’re driven by the mentality of getting into a good school, completing your degree, landing a great job, etc. Now that I’m out on my own own, I thought this would be it. I’d have my own life, pursue my hobbies frequently, and be happy with my work. Turns out the answer isn’t that simple. I often find myself trying to find an optimal solution, when in fact there are very different solutions which can’t be compared on the same scale. People ask where I see myself next if now isn’t desirable. Honestly, I have no idea. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and I’m still searching for a direction. For now, I’m just trying to embrace the unknown and let the chance experiences and adventures serve as a guide for what’s next.

Live in colors.

Life may be grey. But that doesn’t mean you should live your life grey — emotionless, thoughtless, passionless, and complacent.

My job has been an interesting experience to say the least. I have many thoughts about it, but at the heart of the issue, I think it’s quite simple: I don’t believe in the impact of my work, and I’m not challenged in the same sense I was at school. I’m fortunate to be at one of the world’s best technology companies, but one can only get so excited about making technology for technology’s sake. Perhaps there are avenues to challenge myself in new ways, but as it stands, I am a project manager who doesn’t ever get to touch the skills and knowledge that I spent 4 years cultivating at MIT. Additionally, my job has completely monopolized my individual freedom at night. Turns out working with people on the other side of the world means you have conference calls at every hour of the day, making planning things after work virtually impossible.

For a while, I accepted this as my reality, letting my work define who I was. I stopped doing the things I used to find joy in: running, taking photos, cooking, wandering around the city, meeting new people. I don’t think I realized this until I gained some perspective from an uncomfortable discovery. When did I become so boring? I felt stripped of all the personality I had from doing the things that made me happy. (Interestingly, many of my friends from MIT felt the same way about post-graduation life.) What was stopping me?

On some level, it was burnout. Working 2 shifts leaves you in a numbing state where you want to work on mindless activities like TV or browsing aimlessly on the web. But on a deeper level, I realized it was myself. Drive was never something I felt like I missed at MIT. I’d stay up late consistently to finish things to the best of my ability while making time for the activities that I enjoyed. Why did that have to change here? I needed to get over my inertia and get out the door.

You’re as boring as you let yourself be. I realized that if I didn’t make time for these things, I’d let all the negative things in my life win. I started biking and running in the morning. I lived in the moment when spending time out with friends. Taking conference calls in transit to events that I was going to make work regardless of work. Work will always be there. Don’t let it define you. Life will always impose constraints which are beyond your control. It’s up to you to make time to do the things you want to do. My work often has me working at night, so I’ve started going into work later to use the mornings to work on my own projects and exercise.

Comfortable is dangerous, but well… comfortable.

Everyone talks about how this is the point of our lives where we should go out and dare to do something different. Going outside of your comfort zone is hard. Especially if you’re the kind of person who feels like they have to be prepared for Situation A, B, C, and the 0.001% chance of D.

The other day, I was out with a friend (living life dangerously at a ramen shop in the Tenderloin) when he asked me why I hadn’t travelled more if it was something I enjoyed. Honestly, I didn’t have a good answer. Always reflecting I suppose. On my bike ride home, I realized it was because I live my life too safely. Within my comfort zone. I talk myself out of things I want to try because it’s easier. I’ll take the same route instead of exploring a new part of my neighborhood. I wouldn’t take advantage of time I had abroad because it seemed like planning a trip would take so much time and energy. I didn’t start conversations with people because it would be a hassle to find a mutual time that worked.

But that’s a bad way to live life. The best experiences, I’ve had so far have been because I’ve taken a risk: picnicking on Dolores as midnight, breaking out my spiralizer (my mom insisted this was something I needed…), having an awkward conversation with my manager, impulse buying a nice road bike. These experiences have opened doors and connections to new areas of my post-grad life that I’m looking forward to help me get to somewhere new and exciting.

So here’s to stepping outside my bubble a little more. Saying yes more on an impulse. Wandering for the sake of exploring. Being up for a good challenge. Embracing the awkward. Having more confidence. Adding more color to my life.

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