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MIT student blogger Anthony R. '09

Another week? by Anthony R. '09

It's all in the name of pass/no record.

Well, look at that, the dawn of a new Monday. Light is gracing the East Campus courtyard and I am left to decide what happened to my weekend. Most everyone resolved to get some work done on these couple of days, but who actually works on weekends, anyway? :-)

[well, maybe one person. Greg, a bit exasperated after confronting an erstwhile chicken meal]

There are leaves all over the courtyard, various shades of green to yellow to reddish something-or-other. You can’t even make out the sidewalks from the beds of fallen foliage. Funny, I don’t remember this scene… but to my right (unmade bed), to my left (chemistry book), and behind me (dresser, bookshelf, more books), it’s all familiar again.

But another scene is familiar, too. Work late all week because nothing got done, sleep all weekend and wake up late in the day, then stay up late Sunday night because I’m not tired. And then Monday rolls around and I sleep half the day. Hey! Darn those morning classes. But 3.091 is videotaped! Oh, but there’s a math recitation. Eh, I can’t understand that guy’s accent anyway. And, huh, leaves are falling as I speak… type?

I would go take some pictures of random events around campus and give a running commentary of the sorts of things one can consume his evenings with, but on a grander level, we’re just living the routine student’s life. Yep, it’s MIT, and yep, I live with cool people, but when you zoom out a few notches, it’s wake up, play-work, play, work, play, sleep. And before I truly feel settled down, I’ll have a diploma in hand and some extra lines on my resume, and it’ll be out with the old routine and in with another. Already, some of us are realizing what it means to be in the center of all this vibrant activity with nowhere to go.

Sure, so maybe you’re facing different math problems in math class. Or different chemistry problems in chemistry class. But what does it mean when your entire life is a big routine, a predictable cycle — wake up, eat breakfast, playground, go to school, have lunch, go home, study for standardized tests, IM friends, get into college, graduate, grow up, ID badge around your neck, swipe-in-swipe-out, meetings and phone calls, cubicle walls, grow down, shorter but wiser than your kids now? Where did all the years and all that time and all those plans to see the world and take in the fresh air and ride that bike and surf that wave and savor those hugs go? Why am I sitting here copying down equations from a lifeless volume when I face the trees from before my courtyard window? I want to hear those leaves crunch and I’d like to feel the wind part my hair a little.

At least my chair is made of comfortable fabric.

Comfortable fabric?! But the comfortable fabric of a brilliant routine is what makes the darn thing so compelling to begin with!

Oh, boy.

Yes, these are the musings of someone who was out of school for a while, felt the air a little bit, and can’t find the joy of core classes under all the pages and books and leaves. If I could learn physics by shaking the branches, if I could learn chemistry by capturing drops of rain, well, that would be quite something. Maybe TEAL is really a step in the right direction after all.

What keeps me hanging on is the prospect of what’s in store beyond these lovely conveyors of the foundation they say I need in order to understand what’s in store. I dare to challenge comfortable fabric. I want to make train travel more efficient and enjoyable and reliable. I want to see it through on an international level (better learn a language or two and pursue some opportunities abroad). I want to board that train route with my improvements and feel them firsthand, to see the ease at which people are moving along and to hear their blissful lack of complaints. I want to watch the attendants board that train with the same vim and laughter as their faithful vacationers.

As soon as I work up the courage to wheel this cushy cloth seat out of here and replace it with a proper Institute-standard wooden chair. A hard one. As soon as…

11 responses to “Another week?”

  1. Anthony says:

    [At most schools, this transition would take a hefty toll on my GPA. At MIT, it’s all swept under the table, in the name of normal adjustment.] grin

  2. Jared says:

    Awesome entry… very poetic and slightly surrealist. Sounds like you’re having an awesome time even through the hellish core curriculum.

    See you soon? raspberry


  3. Christina says:

    Aha, I’m glad to see that you’ve learned the secret of uncomfortable chairs. Armchairs are for sleeping. Back-stabbing wooden chairs are for working =)

    And if you want to be outside so badly, take your work out there. Then you can copy down endless equations WHILE feeling the wind and hearing the leaves. Compromises are magical =P

  4. Catherine says:

    An uncomfortable chair can be a world of motivation. =)

  5. “Thou wilt find rest from vain fancies if thou doest every act in life as though it were thy last”. wink

  6. squallyre says:

    Chairs are for sitting. Get up and smell the roses!

  7. bz says:

    this was a really good post.

  8. Passion, Anthony, passion describes you best.

    What will you major in to help you achieve your passion?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Trying going to Japan and riding the Shinkansen express trains (bullet trains); A study in 2003 found that including all mechanical, human and other errors, the average arrival was +- 6 SECONDS from the scheduled, routine stops.

  10. Kathleen C. says:

    Oh man. Why can I relate to this…DARN YOU IB DIPLOMA!!

  11. Did you feel like this sometimes when you were in High School?

    I had the same “routine” mentality.” All that mattered was to keep doing the things I was “supposed” to do, keep getting perfect grades, and that would somehow give me fulfillment. I was wrong, of course. Now I see it’s not just turning in work for grades that counts. I do it for the joy of pursuing knowledge. Even more than that, I do it for the same reason as you: to apply the knowledge to the world around me.

    …and yes, the hard chair metaphor is perfect.