I just had the busiest, craziest summer of my life.
I remember a high school teacher who had high hopes for us. She owned not a small fraction of the most difficult course at my school. A course on American History and Literature– interdisciplinary and brutal like we’d never seen. For 35 ambitious Juniors in an average high school, this was our first taste of academic rigor. We learned with assembly-line urgency; papers, essays, tests, revisions– to and fro like clockwork. When the bell sounded for the end of the period no one stood up; instead, heads bent to clear desks- packed with papers, binders- to gather pens and notes, to close the open textbooks on our laps and shove them into our backpacks. We were fighting a war we couldn’t win. The Seniors watched with satisfaction.
But the end of the year found our numbers strong. We had suffered the losses of only 6 of our classmates, who now marched proudly in the ranks of Honors History and Honors Literature. We were tired, but we were changed. Some of us had sensed our limits, run up against them, and pushed to the bitter end; but more than a few who had found no resistance where they expected a wall, now wondered what they were capable of.
It was in this setting, deep and breathless in the end-of-the-year shuffle, that we received her advice. I folded the unassuming piece of advice once the long way, then once again, and pushed it into a pocket of my notebook.
Years later I discover it in a box under my bed. I don’t remember putting it there. Yellow paper with a poem. Desiderata.
I guess I bring it up because here I am. MIT. And my classes have begun their downhill roll, hitting bumps, gaining momentum, always just a lurch away from breaking free of my grip, getting out of control. And you, whoever you are, reading this, you, too, are here, or belong here, one of us, walking at a running pace, trying to appear casual playing with fire, juggling more responsibility than is reasonable. And that’s how you like it. Contentment with exactly the way we are is not what brings us to MIT. Pushing to find your limits is not masochism. We understand.
We do this, too.
But a finer point is sometimes lost along the way and only after many trials can be rediscovered. Here is the one I’m thinking of: Please, please, please, don’t forget to be happy. Don’t make time your enemy. Sure, take 8 classes, but don’t skip out on going out for ice cream; don’t work through your favorite TV show (no, really). If you’re here, don’t miss out on Boston. Get a bike (and a lock that could pass for a tank), get out often, it’s 5 minutes to Central and 15 minutes to Harvard Square. Pick the room with two windows ;), find a scenic route to class. Create things, collect things. Even nobel prize winners have hobbies.
My blogging duties are such: talk about my life here– what I do and how I feel and what I learn. This is what I’ve learned.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.