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I Hate the First by Paige D. '24

or at least, I used to

It’s 7:59am. The natural lighting fills the room– every square inch of a pink shag rug, and every piece of laundry that I still need to do– but none of that is important right now. It’s the first day of Junior year, and then, after a complete 60 seconds of awkward silence as the camera pans around the dorm room, it’s 8am, and an alarm goes off. A hand slams against it, and the beginning notes to The Middle by Jimmy Eat World [0:00]01 to be clear this is the time stamp in the song, I will use these this post begins.

I used to hate the first week of classes, especially in high school. I hated how boring it was. The droning on of teachers talking about academic integrity02 yes this is important I know but still , and a cheesy ice breaker which somehow takes up the remaining 40 minutes of the class period. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Six times for six classes, for (what feels like) the first three days of school.

But then,03 to repeat a phrase that is in almost every conversation about high school memories I came to MIT.

And MIT… is anything but boring.

[0:35] The front door of Next House swings open, and the trek from Where the Sidewalk Ends to Where the Sidewalk Begins begins. 

But then again, everyone has their own subjective view of what boring is. For instance, some find the 10 minute walk (or dead sprint, tomato tomato) from Next House to campus boring. I find it just long enough for a good conversation with a friend on the way to classes, and the perfect amount of time to let the mind wander and daydream before coming down to Earth and having to “be an MIT student”.

The first day of classes had a daydreaming sort of walk. I was wondering about the narrative arcs of my life that had ended with summer, the arcs in progress, and those that are just beginning. I find it peaceful to think like this at times. Growing up, I used to imagine my life as some sort of TV show where the live studio audience was my consciousness and the executive producer was some form of a higher power. Some of my friends think this sort of framework may not be the most healthy– something something “Life doesn’t work out like a satisfying story.”– but I think that is what makes the story interesting.

In life there are any number of times when a friendship randomly ends, or when a person you cared deeply about sadly passes away. But I think it is helpful, to me at least, to think about the idea of this being a part of some story. And with the new year comes a new season. 

So, the walk from Next House to campus was a daydreaming one.

[1:35] The camera pans upwards towards the sky, and then quickly smash cuts to a hallway filled with students, some in a rush, some catching up with friends, and some, like Paige, with their headphones on listening to music and imagining what this scene would look like if it was a part of a 2007~ teenage coming of age film while they walk to class.

One narrative arc that ended was Sophomore Year! Oh my god I am somehow on the latter half of my MIT undergraduate experience, and yet here I am still not knowing where Building 26 is.04 spoiler alert, it’s the one with 26-100, which in hindsight, I should’ve remembered

The last two years were pretty alright. I mean sure, the first year was remote, but if nothing else the last year was really something. I tried new things. Joined clubs. Learned so much math. I invested a lot of time into academics (and writing), but I didn’t really invest time in my social life? The life I have after I throw my backpack onto the floor and feel the (literal and physical) weight be lifted off of my shoulders. I didn’t buy dorm decor and didn’t spend much time in my room as it was. I packed my backpack in the morning, went to campus, and when I came back in the evening I was ready to go to bed.

But near the end of the semester, I found myself doing more in a way that didn’t feel extra. It was just fun. Like, during finals week my friends and I watched Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, and then05 after a brief crying session a few of us walked around Boston. Stargazing in Boston is a very different experience than in the suburbs of a relatively small quiet town in California. My friends and I found ourselves at the Boston Harbor, where the high tide caused the water to overflow onto the sidewalk, which was more than enough to tempt the four of us to take off our shoes and socks and wade into the water. One senior even jumped in. And for the first time during finals week, I wasn’t stressed about chemistry anymore.

I thought I would be stressed– I thought I would spend the entire night worrying over whether or not hanging out with friends would be my undoing. But of course it wasn’t.06 and even if it was I could’ve put it on PNR Instead, it was just nice to be with friends. And I started to realize that this feeling of relief and calm when I kicked my feet in the water was one I needed to start exploring in the narrative arc that is Junior Year.

[1:59] The Middle starts to fade out, being completely silent at [2:20]. The camera smash cuts again to a classroom, probably a math one, in which the professor says some profound thing whose importance will only be understood by the end of the semester (or at least the end of some arc I can’t see yet). Paige takes a note to revisit this blog later to see if some profound thing like that comes to light.

So what awaits in the Junior Year arc? Well for one thing, being a blogger. I’ve applied a few times (three to be exact), but have been writing around campus for a while on a personal blog and for The Tech, and I’m glad to be *gestures vaguely to the World Wide Web* here.

On a more general note, I think this is really the year of settling into whatever “role” I play at MIT. For instance, since moving into my room at Next,07 where I am going to stay next year as well, love squatting rights  I’ve started decorating. I got a fuzzy pink rug, and lofted my bed, and bought a rolly cart to store various mugs for when friends come over in the winter and drink hot cocoa or tea (or COFFEE!!). I got a sunset lamp that changes colors– perfect for adjusting to any vibe– and a simple clip-on lamp– perfect for late night reading, cramming, or blogging.

And now, when I look around my room, I see a Home: A place I want to be, and a place I want others to experience, and a place I want to make memories. So I’m starting/trying to step into some role of “chill Next 2East” upperclassman.

But I’m also trying to figure out who I want to be with math. There are so many things I want to do, and we only have four, short, short years here and there is never enough time.

(No music playing.) Quick smash cut to every time the word “PSET due” was said in a class during the first two days of school, with a graphic visual of an insane Google calendar starting to fill.08 Not that I use Google Calendar. I should. But also. I like writing things down physically. So. The scene transitions to dialogue (that I won’t write out as dialogue) between Paige and friends around campus.

I don’t dislike the things I have to do for MIT. After all, the reason I hated the first week of school was because it used to be boring. But all this means is that I need to decide what activities are important to me. For instance, I’m definitely continuing to edit notes for classes. It was something I started a few semesters ago, when I reached out to the professor of a class I was taking and asked if I could give feedback on the lecture notes. He said yes, and surprise surprise reading the notes actually helped me better understand the material. And I started working with professors more! Win win. That being said, this year I’m being paid for it a little. As much as I would love to do things for free, what isn’t free is the coffee that I drink while doing them. I also want to teach a class again over IAP– god that was so cool more on that in a later blog– but in any case that requires time to set up during the Fall. And I want to continue my math research I started this summer. And I also– You get the point.

I am excited to keep doing things, both in math and in my social life, but it all comes down to choices. What do I want, and how can I achieve that? What is weird about MIT is that the “how” of that question never feels impossible, just, difficult.

Wake Me up When September Ends (written by Green Day, covered by AcousticTrench) [0:00] starts to play in the background softly as Paige makes the walk back to Next after an exciting but reflective first day of school. Internal monologue continues.

MIT is the perfect place to daydream. There are so many things you can just do, or at least try to. At first, I was hesitant of this idea. For instance, one of the main reasons I came to MIT was because of OCW (OpenCourseWare): a website full of open educational resources from MIT, online, for free. And I thought to myself: if I do cool education stuff, this was the place to do it. One semester and a short email later, I started working with OCW!

One. Email. Talking to people who know more than you about what you’re passionate about can be so powerful here. The people you talk to can be just the right connection, and the next thing you know your dream is a tangible reality, or at the very least it’s more tangible than the concept in your brain and nowhere else.

In the same way though, reality starts to feel like a dream. Which is a great thing! I love getting to exist in a weird liminal space where everyone is just (as Cami perfectly put it in and they’re going to better places) “absolutely, [and] unabashedly themselves.”

Still, the reality is, that reality isn’t always like MIT. I’m glad I’ve been having cool experiences at MIT, and I hope these will continue to exist for me after I graduate, but at some point these experiences will end. But for now, I think this will have to be an issue for future Paige.

Because as much as I hate the first, future Paige will certainly hate the last more.

[1:16] The final guitar lick in the Wake Me up When September Ends cover plays.
A Glee-esque outro theme plays.09 I was debating rickrolling y'all here but against my better judgement, didn't lol

  1. to be clear this is the time stamp in the song, I will use these this post back to text
  2. yes this is important I know but still back to text
  3. to repeat a phrase that is in almost every conversation about high school memories back to text
  4. spoiler alert, it’s the one with 26-100, which in hindsight, I should’ve remembered back to text
  5. after a brief crying session back to text
  6. and even if it was I could’ve put it on PNR back to text
  7. where I am going to stay next year as well, love squatting rights back to text
  8. Not that I use Google Calendar. I should. But also. I like writing things down physically. So. back to text
  9. I was debating rickrolling y'all here but against my better judgement, didn't lol back to text