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contradictions by Mel N. '24

too much, not enough

(taps mic) is this thing working? hello? okay, great. that’s cool.

it’s been a while since i wrote a sad post here. well, not sad exactly, but like, a deep post. something that’s a little more reflective and less funny, or witty, or whatever.

it’s not like i haven’t been sad. i guess it’s just that i’ve been busy with classes, and my urop, and there’s a lot going on, you know? and also, overall, i’m a lot happier these days than i was before. which is a good thing!

i’m writing this directly from my brain, minimal editing, stream of consciousness — just my raw unfiltered thoughts. which may or may not be a good thing.

what have i been up to? good question. right now, i’m sitting on my chair in a weird position, typing this out. i just made a bunch of heart-shaped cookies with chris and tiramisu for a hall birthday.

it’s the first day of the long weekend. i’ve got lots of fun things planned! like whale watching tomorrow with grace, and apple picking on tuesday organized by dormcon, which sounds really cool. chris and i went strawberry picking over the summer and that was a dream. something about being on a farm just activates my midwestern genes. and it’s really cool to look at a basket of fruit and be like, “yeah! i did that! i picked all of those :)”


but it’s all kind of stressful, at the same time. i’m taking 48 units this semester, and when i describe my courseload to people their eyes kind of widen and they’re like, “please love yourself,” and i’m like, “well, i’m in it already and i feel too stubborn to drop anything, so there’s nothing that can be done ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

maybe you can be the judge of that. i’m taking 5.12 (organic chemistry i), which hasn’t been that bad, but we just had our first exam and it was a little rough. i did okay, though. not great, but okay, which i’ll take. i don’t know, i kind of like organic chemistry, and i like the professor. he’s got a very animated way of speaking, and he looks like he could be in a 70s band or something. it’s just that the exams suck.

i’m also taking 6.1010 (formerly 6.009, fundamentals of programming) and it’s…fine. i like coding. when i get in the testing-debugging zone, it’s like i’m in a whole other world. it’s just that the labs take a really long time, and i’ve developed a bad habit of starting them a little too late in the week, and then staying up really late on thursday night and going to friday morning office hours to beg for help before it’s due at 5 pm. but it’s been okay so far. the labs are fun, despite being intense, and i like their approach to teaching — because it does feel like i’m actually learning things.

and then there’s my hass, sts.060/21a.303 (anthropology of biology), and even though the prospect of sitting down for a three-hour lecture on wednesdays with back-to-back classes beforehand seemed sort of terrifying, it’s actually been really chill. and my professor gives us breaks, which is good. we watch a lot of…interesting videos in lecture.

last class, he showed us a documentary about scientists taking dna samples from indigenous people all over the world, which already raises a lot of red flags, and what made it worse is that they would straight up lie to people about what they were doing — using the pretense of disease testing in order to collect blood. and then it flashed to a shot of lobby 7.

the collective reaction: hey, that’s mit!

and then: oh no. it’s mit. (synchronized groaning.)

because generally when mit shows up in media like this, it’s like……ohhhhhh noooo……..this isn’t a very good sign…

it cut to a classroom where some guy was talking to students about informed consent and what i thought was kind of funny was that you could see cups with the toscanini’s01 an ice cream place in central, and pretty famous around campus logo on the table. i guess it’s been around for a while.


and then there’s 6.1220 (formerly 6.046, and everyone still calls it that).

it kind of feels like is 046 holding me hostage. i originally wasn’t going to take it until senior year, and then i found out that a bunch of my friends are taking it this semester, and bryson was like, “please take it with us we will carry you it will be fine,” so i was like, “okay,” and added it to my registration.

most of the people i know are just trying to pass the class and put it on pnr, since 046 is notoriously hard. like, to the point where you mention 046 to an alum and they immediately wince from all the flashbacks.

i keep telling myself and other people that i’m just taking it because my friends are, and that i’ll drop it if it gets too hard because i want to prioritize my other classes and my urop and my work as a member of the banana lounge design team, but at the same time i really don’t want to drop it. i feel like i’m in far enough and that i’ve done enough work that dropping it feels like i’ve wasted my time. and i know that sort of thinking is the textbook definition of the sunk cost fallacy, but like, i’ve made it this far! i don’t want to give up now!! but god, it’s so hard!!!


so yeah — after the long weekend, i’ve got a 6.009 quiz on wednesday, a 6.046 exam on thursday, a 5.12 pset due on thursday too, and i originally had a 1500-1800 word paper for my hass due on wednesday as well before i emailed the professor a couple weeks in advance to be like, “hey dude, i don’t think i can turn it in on wednesday.” the good thing about hass professors is that they’re pretty generous about extensions, so i’m probably turning it in on saturday or sunday.

but those looming responsibilities are still on my mind, preventing me from fully relaxing, which feels like it defeats the purpose of having a long weekend. like, what the heck??

sometimes i question whether i’m able to handle all of this. it’s not just my classes — my urop at the broad institute is also a lot of work, something my mentor made very clear. and being part of the banana lounge is really fun and enjoyable, but it’s also a lot of effort. and let’s not even talk about looking for internships. i don’t feel remotely qualified for most of the positions i’ve applied to, honestly, but i guess i’m still trying.

it’s just — god, i feel like i’m doing too much. at the same time, i feel like i’m not doing enough.

i think that’s a contradiction that has followed me through all aspects of my life, and i’ve never been able to shake it off. a quote from a post back in march:

What am I doing? It doesn’t feel like I’m doing much at all, but I’m also doing so much at the same time. How is that even possible? And that’s not even considering all of the weird social stuff I’ve been trying to navigate this semester, and also juggling my mental and physical health.

because i feel so behind sometimes. 5.12 and 6.009 both seem like sophomore-level classes, with some precocious freshmen in the mix, and it’s not like i’m out of place as a junior, but i think almost all of my friends who have those two classes as major requirements have taken them already. and i wasn’t doing an internship over the summer, and i’ve never had a coding interview before — although i have a couple coding assessments i have to do over the next few weeks, and i’ve never done any of those before, either, and i’m really nervous about them.

and no matter how much people try to reassure me that being at mit is already a huge achievement, i feel like…

…well, i kind of feel like i peaked in high school. it’s not a great feeling, and maybe it’s also not true — i’m definitely more confident and capable than i was in high school, but being surrounded by people who are doing really cool things and have had really cool internships and also probably have really good jobs lined up after graduation, i just feel like i’m not enough!

but i’m doing so much!!!

but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough!!

what is enough? does anyone here ever feel like they’re enough? does anyone in general ever feel like they’re enough?

god, it’s just like the fig tree from plath’s the bell jar.

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.


i think that maybe in the next few months i will have to make some difficult decisions. best case scenario: i’m able to handle everything and anything life throws at me. woohoo!

worst case02 i can't see the words 'worst case' without thinking of complexity analysis in 6.046 honestly scenario: i’ll drop a few things. i’ll feel bad about them for a while.

…and then life will go on.

it’s not the end of the world if i can’t keep up with certain things, or if i didn’t take a few classes as a sophomore. i have people who love me and want to support me and it’s okay to take things at my own pace. and it’ll be okay. probably. hopefully. maybe.

i guess i have to just keep chugging along.

  1. an ice cream place in central, and pretty famous around campus back to text
  2. i can't see the words 'worst case' without thinking of complexity analysis in 6.046 honestly back to text