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bday burnout by Mel N. '24

no more spiders please

Some numbers from this semester:

  • Academic week: 5
  • Age: 19.0
  • Times I’ve cried over classes: 2 (surprisingly)
  • Smoothies made: 12
  • COVID tests taken: 11
  • Times I’ve been locked out: 3
  • (Unique) cats petted: 4
  • Sevlev01 seven eleven runs: 2
  • Spiders seen: 2
  • Classes I’m taking: 5
  • Classes I’ve thought about dropping: 3
  • All nighters pulled: 2.5

This week has been really bad. The week before it was bad, too, and also the week before that, but it’s officially Midterms Week™, and I feel like I’ve barely been keeping my head above the water.

Last Friday I finished my work for the week and the weather was absolutely stunning–it was sunny, it was warm, it was an instant mood booster. My podmate asked if I wanted to attend our 18.02 lecture outside, so we grabbed a blanket from the pod lounge and headed over to Killian Court.

We set up next to some trees on the right and figured out how to create shade so that we could actually see our screens. I got my first actual dome picture, if you don’t count the one from 2018 where I’m…t-posing with the rest of my bio summer camp on Killian, because it was 2018. We went to Starbucks and Hmart. The vibes were great.

After Friday night, my general okayness levels started looking like the graph of 1/x in quadrant 1. For no good reason, either–I was doing fine, glowing from my time spent out in the sun, and then all of a sudden I was antsy. Friday turned into Saturday and I was staring up at the underside of my loft for hours, feeling exhaustion settle deep into my bones as I thought about taking a shower, but it was like I was glued to my bed. Just thinking about getting up, grabbing my bathrobe, and gathering everything I needed drained every last ounce of energy out of me.

At some point, I stopped trying to convince myself to shower and I wandered down the hall to the kitchen to get ingredients for a smoothie. I pulled the fridge door open and stared inside like a Sim for a solid minute before deciding that I didn’t want a smoothie after all, then went off in search of the floor cats02 since first east is a cat hall, we have four cats living here for the semester: zelda, kiko, chiquitín, and echo. they are all VERY cute and very serotonin boosting for some late night pet therapy. I spent a few minutes sitting in the middle of the hallway playing with a hyper Kiko before I went back to my room.

At 3 AM, Nghiem asked if anyone wanted to go for a Sevlev run.03 seven eleven runs are, apparently, a longstanding tradition of ec culture--when q week ended, they took a bunch of the frosh out for their first visit, and i actually got to meet nisha & the person who lived in my room before me which was really cool A few minutes later, I was walking down to the Goodale lounge to meet up with them.

The streets were quiet. It was also very windy, and I’d lost my glasses04 i ended finding them rolled out in my blanket, which is really weird because i swear i checked my blanket at some point so I couldn’t see anything, and dust kept blowing into my eyes. I hadn’t realized how much my glasses shielded me from dust and other minuscule flying debris. Still, the chill of the night breeze kept me wide awake and alert. We crossed the train tracks and walked into the store. I didn’t exactly have anything specific I wanted to buy, so I grabbed stuff at random, which turned out to be Tostitos chips and salsa and a Toblerone bar.

Once I got back, I was planning to go to sleep, but instead I started cleaning my room, throwing out old wrappers that had accumulated over the past few days. I grabbed my hairbrush and spent fifteen minutes cleaning the gunk off of each individual bristle. I picked up the bubble wrap lying on the floor from an earlier package and started popping it so I could shove it into a plastic bag. Then I decided that I was going to clean my loft, which I’d previously been using as storage for all of my cardboard boxes.

The thing about the way my room is set up is that I can’t open my window because the loft blocks the grate from opening all the way, and I also don’t have blinds for some reason so I hung up a bedsheet but it’s too much of a hassle to put it up and take it down every time I want daylight. Cleaning my loft was a way for me to get more natural light.

A few minutes later I spotted a spider crawling along the edge of the wood. I scrambled down the ladder. This was the first bug I’d seen all semester–my friends had spotted cockroaches and ants in various places, but I’d gotten lucky so far. Apparently my luck had run out, though.

I heard someone outside, and I assumed it was one of my neighbors, so my arachnophobia-riddled brain hurried out to ask them if they could take care of it, but it turned out to be Sarah stealing snacks from the pod lounge. When she came out, I was standing in the hallway like the 🧍‍♂️ emoji and I think I nearly scared the life out of her. She was up psetting, apparently, and tried to help me find the spider but it had disappeared.

It reappeared in my closet a few minutes after Sarah left. It crawled behind a box on my shelf and I was frantically texting Sarah, who told me that I should get eucalyptus to prevent spider bites, which then reminded me that my shampoo was eucalyptus-scented, so I tried squirting a line of it along the shelf to discourage the spider from crawling out, but then I saw that it had gone the other way and was halfway down the wall–dangerously close to my clothes. I discovered that spiders can hear people scream, because I let out some awfully bloodcurdling sounds and it would freeze in its tracks every time–long enough for me to send Sarah a series of extremely panicked texts begging her to come back.

The spider was disposed of and I finally went to bed.

I woke up a few hours later and saw Abe and Nghiem in the hall when I went to take a shower.

“I’m so sorry if you heard me screaming last night,” I told them.

“Oh, you’re fine. I live right across from you and I didn’t hear anything,” Abe said.

“That’s good. I also really hope you didn’t hear me vacuuming.”

“That I did hear.”

“Oh god. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry. No one here sleeps,” Nghiem said.

“Yeah, it was mid-day for me. You’re fine,” Abe said.

I spent Saturday working on the 6.0001 pset with my partner. I ordered soup dumplings except when I was eating one I forgot that it had soup in it, so it exploded on me. Otherwise, the pset session went fairly well, up until the last part, where we both got stuck. Then I saw another spider crawling along my wall. I got someone to take it outside, but it did nothing to help my psyche.

Sunday I got a bloody nose in the shower and I had to take care of it as “I Want to Break Free” by Queen blasted in the background. After that I made a smoothie but discovered that I had apparently purchased yellow plantains at Hmart instead of bananas–it still tasted alright, though.

For the next few hours I was trying to finish up the 6.0001 pset, and thankfully, around 4 pm I passed all of my test cases. I had to go to a meeting with my 8.02 mentor (who’s great by the way, she’s saved my life so many times) after that, and then it was 5 pm and decisions were happening in an hour and a half and I really wanted to welcome prefrosh but the exhaustion from two restless nights was setting in and all I could do was crawl into my bed and pass out.

I dreamed about spiders.

Monday began the grind of a new week. I camped out in the 8.02 pset night held by TSR^2, as usual. TSR^2 has been another lifesaver–I don’t know what I would do without all their help. That was the first time I went for all four hours.

I was listening to a playlist I made for when I’m at my most stressed. What all these songs have in common is a harsh edge and a sense of desperation.

Talking with prefrosh was a break from the unending stress, though. Their enthusiasm reminded me why I’m here.

Tuesday was my worst day. Tuesday I had to get up early and finish my readings for 21H.34305 bookmaking in the renaissance because I was not in the right mindset to do them the night before. I was so sleep deprived I was shaking like a Chihuahua. Right after my 9:30 class I had my 18.02 midterm. It was awful. After that I had my 5.111 recitation, where it was a review for the midterm on Wednesday. I sat through about fifteen minutes of it before I couldn’t do it and left.

On Tuesday I broke. Tuesday I blasted my burnout playlist at full volume, singing along at the top of my lungs. I didn’t care if my neighbors could hear me. They probably could. It wasn’t about sounding good. It was about screaming along to Mitski repeating the word “nobody” over and over again. It was about letting my voice crack and break as much as it wanted to. When “Class of 2013” started playing, I barely got through singing “Mom, I’m tired” before I was weeping. I sobbed through the rest of the song and when it ended my throat was raw and I felt my teeth buzzing from the vibrations of my voice. I stared at my screen in the silence afterward. I took some crying selfies because obviously that’s what you have to do after a good cry.

And then I took a nap and passed out.

I woke up in time for my 8.02 lecture and after that it was the 5.111 TSR^2 exam review session and an hour after that was the YouTube live for the prefrosh. And again, talking to them with all their excitement for MIT was like a balm for my soul.

Slowly, I healed. I went and found Zelda lying under a table by the kitchen. She crawled into my lap and purred, a warm weight on my thighs, digging her claws into the fabric of my jeans but I couldn’t care less.

I went to bed early.

Wednesday I got up at 8 to watch the 6.0001 lectures that I’d missed. I slept for a bit in the afternoon and studied for 5.111, which actually went pretty well (at least I think so). 5.111 is one of my favorite classes this semester, even though I failed the ASE for it earlier this year–I absolutely adore Prof. McGuire’s teaching style and all of the ways that he makes lectures fun and engaging.

At midnight I turned 19.

me getting bonked by midterms

Tiffany came back from a late night trip to Hmart and got me ice cream and also a McDonald’s apple pie. We ate it in the pod lounge as I did my 6.0001 microquiz, which I didn’t do well on, but I was past the point of caring.

I went to 21H.343 again this morning where we spent the class period carving designs into linoleum blocks and printing it onto paper with an ink roller. It was nice to do something manual that didn’t require me to stare at my computer for once. I took yet another nap, went to 8.02, and now I’m sitting here typing this out.

I always end up crying on my birthday, for one reason or another. Last year it was because of COVID. The year before that was because it was spring break but I had to prepare for AP Calc. Can’t remember the year before that, but I’m sure it was something along those lines. And I mean, I came into the world crying on my birthday, so I’m really just going back to my roots.

I’m not sure if I’m going to be crying on this birthday, though. There are six hours left and a lot can happen in six hours, but I’m in a better place than I was last year for sure–a lot less lonely, too. I have people who love me and whom I love.

I still feel burned out, stretched to my limits, a ghost wandering the halls of First East. But the long weekend will be a welcome change. We’re all too hosed to celebrate today, but my pod’ll be having a birthday dinner tomorrow night, and later on in the weekend we’re all going to dye our hair too–a rite of passage for college, honestly.

For now, I think I just have to hang on tight and keep surviving.

  1. seven eleven back to text
  2. since first east is a cat hall, we have four cats living here for the semester: zelda, kiko, chiquitín, and echo. they are all VERY cute and very serotonin boosting back to text
  3. seven eleven runs are, apparently, a longstanding tradition of ec culture--when q week ended, they took a bunch of the frosh out for their first visit, and i actually got to meet nisha & the person who lived in my room before me which was really cool back to text
  4. i ended finding them rolled out in my blanket, which is really weird because i swear i checked my blanket back to text
  5. bookmaking in the renaissance back to text