Well, I’m 45.6 smoots of the way across this bridge we call MIT. The end of this first semester aligned perfectly with the holiday break and the upcoming new year, a time when I’m even more reflective than usual. I spent the first four days of break doing absolutely, very delicious, nothing – and on the fifth day, my drive, which had been in sleep mode, woke back up without me pressing start. I replied to emails, Which I got!! More on this later, I'm sure :) and started sorting out spring semester things. I tried to begin this blog post, but something just wasn’t right… So I waited, and on the eighth day, my self-reflection woke up. Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I learned this semester and what I’d like to work on for the next go-around. Here’s my list (man do I love lists):
- I learned how to cook! Or it might be more accurate to say I learned how to learn how to cook. It turns out that cooking, unlike baking (where I had far more prior experience), is not about exactingly following a recipe and then waiting 40-55 minutes for your final product. It is about knowing a) approximately how to deal with different classes of foodstuff and b) how to combine them for tasty results. With this revelation in hand, I’ve gotten really into adding ingredients to my repertoire (ground meat with sauce; rice; vegetable stirfry) and trying out combinations, and cooking has gone from scary to super manageable. I’m looking forward to learning more next semester!
- I learned about the importance of sleep. Oh, boy did I learn about the importance of sleep. For me at least, those eight hours a night are paramount – and eight hours of sleep doesn’t mean “start brushing your teeth eight hours before class starts.” In high school, I survived on less because there was nothing else I could do. Now, I can’t even seem to get through a day on seven and a half. Knowing that eight hours of sleep is a crucial part of keeping myself happy and healthy, I can start figuring out how to help myself achieve it every night.
- I got into the schedule of an MIT day. Of course, there’s lots of different MIT days; I can use my experience first semester to figure out what kind works best for me. 9 am classes? Maybe not (see point 2 above). But 7 pm classes aren’t great either; I like to go to school and then come home and be able to work through the night. I work in my room, on my floor, and I’ve noticed that there’s definitely a cycle: from 2ish to 7 pm, hall is super quiet, so it’s a great time for doing difficult readings or listening to videos. At 7 pm everyone wants dinner, so if I’m looking for company, it’s a good time to eat. Afterwards, people hang around and talk – so it’s best to attempt more unimportant work, or at least things I can do with distractions. Planning my time like this helps me be more productive, and feel more satisfied and less frustrated at the end of the day.
- I started, but definitely didn’t come anywhere near to finishing, learning how to fail and bounce back from it. This is one of the big reasons I came to MIT, and I know I’m only on the first step of this path. I had a few rough times this semester, struggling my way through physics psets and a cappella harmonies, and from what the upperclassmen tell me, it’s not going to get any easier. This semester, the key was You know who you are <3 who tried tons of approaches on those tricky problems with me and sang the other parts to help me learn my own. I shed a few tears at times, but managed to pull things together – not always perfectly, but good enough (and I got much better at being okay with good enough!). I’m scared, but excited, for the bigger challenges I’m sure lie ahead.
I have some pretty lofty goals for next semester and 2019, I will admit. I think these are the kinds of things you don’t master, but are always trying to improve, so I should remember not to beat myself up if I’m not exactly where I want to be in a few months. I have three and a half more years to keep trying!
- Bite my nails less! This is a practical resolution, in one sense, and something I know I can do (I’ve succeeded once before, then fell off the wagon this fall). But it also means more than that, because among other reasons, I bite my nails when I’m nervous. I had a lot to be nervous about these past few months, and a lot of firsts: my first time living alone, and also my first time living with a lot of people; first time taking university classes, making university friends, and writing university finals. I like to know what’s going on, and all of these unknowns pushed my planning urge into overdrive. But you know what? It all (even the things I didn’t anticipate) turned out juuuuuust fine. I’m hopeful I can carry this reassurance with me into next semester and chill out a little bit more; it will definitely do me good.
- Skip class more. OK, OK, so this one comes with a huge caveat: if you’re not the kind of person who never skips class, skipping class more is probably not a great idea. But if you know me, it might not be a surprise to hear that I neeeeever skip class. And this semester, I noticed that that’s not always the best policy! I ended up sitting through classes of material I knew, or review taught in ways that weren’t helpful to me, because I didn’t have enough faith in my own ability to decide whether or not attending a class was worth it. My gut feeling said skip, but I ignored it – and regretted doing so. Next semester, I want to work on becoming confident enough to look at the syllabus for a given day and decide that it’s not for me. And if it turns out later that I’ve decided wrong? Then I’ll adjust my predictions in the other direction next time. Never letting myself take this data prevents me from making sure I’m calibrated correctly (and similarly, if you never go to your classes, you’re preventing yourself from doing so as well).
- Be kinder. Maybe a cliché resolution? But compassion is something that’s very important to me, and like everyone, when I’m stressed or nervous, it can fall down my priorities list. In the spring semester, I want to remember to reach out to people when it looks like they need help, to always assume good intentions from those around me, and also to be kind to myself, too, and remember that I am just as important as anyone else.
- Lastly, I want to make more friends, and to become closer with the ones I already have. I met a lot of wonderful people fall semester, but as I reconnect with my high school friends over the break, I’m realizing that (of course) my MIT friends and I don’t have the same level of connection as the people I’ve known for the past 4-6 years. I’m looking forwards to spending more time with my friends, to becoming closer, and to meeting more cool people :)
- Which I got!! More on this later, I'm sure :) back to text ↑
- You know who you are <3 back to text ↑