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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

cruel summer by Shuli J. '22, MEng '23

ok it's actually, like, fine i guess

Note to anyone who is confused: Cruel Summer is a Taylor Swift song. I’ve been listening to a lot of Lover lately 😛 There is also a Bananarama song called Cruel Summer, which is similarly pretty appropriate.

Summers between school years have always been inherently weird, liminal times. My normal routine is disrupted, the heat makes me lazy and slow, and I’ve left behind my past self but haven’t yet entered a new one — it’s a pupal stage.

This is probably the weirdest summer I’ve ever been in. (Coming in second would be the one between 8th and 9th grade when I slept for 14 hours a day and came out a mostly different person.) It’s liminal, but it’s not only me who is transitioning between selves; we’re moving from one world to a new, very different one. My routine is disrupted, but I can’t look ahead to its resumption: I have no idea what will come next.

So, I’ve just been… doing what I can. Getting through each day as it comes. Making it from moment to moment, from small thing to small thing.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Having a job

This summer was going to be my chance to experience a traditional industry CS internship and figure out if I liked it. Well, I’m certainly experiencing an industry CS internship. Traditional, it is not. I’m tuning in remotely from Toronto, on a corporate laptop overnighted to my house. Because of security concerns, none of us are allowed to work on my company’s actual codebase, so we’re writing our own websites instead. It’s… I don’t know. It’s not what I expected, but it’s so hard to tell how much of that is due to this year in particular. People can tell you what they like and dislike about a place, a culture, a way of working, but ultimately what I really wanted to know was, how does it make me feel? I think I’ll have to do another summer to find out.

A loaf of sourdough bread I baked. It's round and light golden brown, with a number of small slashes around the sides.

Last week’s delicious success.

2. Cooking food

You’ve already heard quite a bit from me on this subject. The short version is that I’m still going strong. My sourdough starter is doing very excellently and I’m baking every week. I spend more brainpower than you might imagine on how to improve my loaf, reading articles (which all contradict each other, of course) and making notes.

I have a whole small collection of invented and innovated recipes from this summer, scribbled on neon post-it notes. Cinnamon twist rolls, watermelon sorbet… I think maybe at the end of all this, I’ll write them up and post them somewhere (on my new swanky post-CS-internship personal website, perhaps).

3. Going to meetings

Oh, god. So many damn meetings. I’m in an MIT committee for this, and an MIT committee for that. I have a work standup, a sync, a training, a different training. Oh, and hey, would you have a moment to hop on a call?

Most of my meetings are for a purpose and manage to accomplish it, which is definitely better than having a ton of meetings that don’t do that. But it still gets to you after a while.

Sometimes it feels like this is my life:

A tweet posted by Phil Matarese (@philorphilip). It says: "wake up, little screen, medium screen, little screen, medium screen, medium screen, big screen, little screen, little screen, little screen, sleep. Which size screen are you on?"

4. Hanging with my fam

A succulent I saw on a walk with my mom. It has many layers; each leaf is light, dusty green on the inside and tipped with pink.

Seen on a walk.

This is what I fill the long stretches with, the weird time, when I really should be texting my friends back but taking any action at all seems impossible, and01 Update! After typing the word 'and', I felt so much guilt that I actually went and had nice conversations with several friends. Go me! all I can do is take the path of least resistance and try to empty my mind. My mom and I have been playing the NYT’s Spelling Bee game, where you try to spell words given a fixed set of letters and one letter that has to be included. It gets more fun the more you play, because you get to know the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the person who sets the word list. (“Really? They take that?!?“) We also go on at least one walk every day, and we’ve been aiming for two: one with our dog, who weighs 10 pounds and walks very slowly, and one with just us. We stop and look at every flower we pass, we judge people’s houses and architectural choices, we smile at babies. It’s keeping me sane.

Some days it feels like I’m in a whirlwind, jumping from meeting to meeting with no time for myself. Some days it feels like all I have is time, but I lack the strength to fill it, so all I can do is try to block it out. Like the world that never came to be is collapsing, an invisible weight on the world that is, crushing me between me them.

I don’t know. We’re getting by. Right now, that seems plenty good enough.

  1. Update! After typing the word 'and', I felt so much guilt that I actually went and had nice conversations with several friends. Go me! back to text