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MIT student blogger Yan Z. '12

Epilogue by Yan Z. '12

An open letter about blogging, growing up, and the end of my first year at MIT.

Dear reader:

It’s time that I confess one of the most soul-wrenching facts of the blogging profession. (Pardon me, did I just call it a profession? Sorry to those of you who have actual careers like car-washing and running lemonade stands. I’ll get a real job someday.) Moments of pain are mercifully scarce in a job that regularly involves glorifying the trivialities of college life, self-deprecation, making fun of Harvard, and (best of all!) fully enjoying the anonymity of the Internet as I subtly brainwash the latest tides of prefrosh, but nonetheless I do want to totally sound like Oprah’s novelist of the month right now. Here it is: every sentence I write, no matter how stupidly punctuated, is fraught with tightropes of joy and frustration. The two are inseparable, like most differential equations you will encounter. Joy is fluidly woven into the silk of human experience, gently tugging on the writer’s (aka, my) natural tendency to share with you all that I have felt and loved. Frustration frays the corners like loose threads, ceaselessly pulled into existence by the thick fingers of the writer’s (aka, my) own limitations. Words, no matter how deceptively suave, are nothing more than clumsy stunt doubles for the breathlessness of an unforgotten moment.

There’s an infinity of worlds that I can’t wrestle into the confines of language or photography. But I forget this and try anyway, occasionally tumbling into a tangled corner of half-meant sentences. Those translucent seconds into which I concentrate my love of language are the substanceless dragonflies that I chased after as a kid. I wish: to pluck the wings of a fleeting moment, spread it out in the sunlight, crystallize it in glass forever. Sometimes I succeed, but it’s never as beautiful as I would want.

And that is the story of my blog.

I could leave you here, but once again I have something to show you. Two nights ago, I cut across Killian Court on my way home from campus. It was around 6:30 PM, around 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and above me I could feel the evening sky slathered on the grey-blue brink of dusk. As I traipsed through the grass in the gentle, incandescent light echoing off the walls of the Infinite, I remembered running across the courtyard last August, dashing from Building 4 to Building 3 in a brief whirl of disorientation during Orientation. (Where was I going? I have no idea, but I was lost.) I had been at MIT for a week. I was comparatively oblivious to the importance of having friends. Last night, I had played Mafia with a large group of strangers at Random Hall, still feeling like I’d been displaced into someone else’s home. I was unsure about classes. I wondered whether I would need help with problem sets. I wanted to meet Noam Chomsky. I still thought Paul B. was at least 5 feet tall*.

*Actually, he might be over 5 feet tall. Paul, can you confirm this?

Time is strange. There, at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, I was eighteen hours away from finishing my first year at MIT. Realizing this was like downing a cocktail of haphazardly-mixed emotions, wincing at something that tastes like sadness buried within the burning thrill of untempered joy. Ten months ago, I couldn’t have imagined the conversations that I would have after midnight about the consequences of Maxwell’s equations. I couldn’t have imagined that I would cook for 30+ people on a regular basis, or that I would forget the existence of misery in the world as soon as I discovered the structural and thermodynamic properties of homemade bread. I couldn’t have imagined the strength of friendships forged in the heat of impassioned arguments with my classmates about Question #11 on the problem set due in 12 hours. I couldn’t have imagined the eye-watering clarity that fills your entire soul after you finally finish the last proof on an 8.223 assignment at 2 AM in the morning after realizing that the instructor had made (another) typo. I couldn’t have imagined making dumplings with my roommate and discovering far too late that neither of us knew how to thaw meat, or cook meat, or separate dumpling wrappers, or make dumplings. I couldn’t have imagined special relativity. I couldn’t have imagined that in the midst of relentless intellectual challenges, I would find a home.

As I write this now, life since August has become a continuum of brilliant, perspective-altering moments that glow in hindsight like stars glimpsed in an expanding universe. I watch the light reach me through unseen corridors of space and time, and I deeply wish that you could see it too.

So I do something that I have not done since August. I climb up to the roofdeck of Random Hall and I transcribe the sunset that plays over the Cambridge skyline. It’s a small gesture of remembrance, for you and for myself.

sunset09 002

sunset09 005

sunset09 008

sunset09 006

It’s not perfect, but I tried.

39 responses to “Epilogue”

  1. MaXweLL says:

    Great post, Yan!!! smile love your blogs!
    But there were no pictures of food on this one raspberry

  2. Sheila '13 says:

    Beautiful blog, Yan! :D :D

    I hope my freshman year at MIT will be more than I expect and better than I thought, as you said in your blog. smile smile smile

    Good luck and see you this fall! :D :D

  3. JB '13 says:

    I don’t know you yet, but I could hear your voice in this blog. It was so honest and heartfelt, I am getting the same warm-and-fuzzies I got on Pi Day, and again at CPW. I am so excited to be at MIT next year. Thanks Yan, and all the bloggers for making MIT shine so bright.


  4. shawn'11 says:

    …that’s not fair. I’m pretty sure your camera makes things look better than they do in real life. I wish my eyes saw things like your camera did raspberry.

  5. What kind of camera do you use??

  6. Yan says:

    @ Paul:

    We have to settle this once and for all. “Yan vs. Paul: a 3-round duel of height, intelligence, and good-lookingness.”

    @ JB:

    Thanks! Glad to hear.

    @ Camera:

    Canon G9.

  7. Sam says:

    Yan you have my favorite blog / life.

  8. Yan says:

    @ Sam:

    I think I’m going to go weep now.

  9. Yan, those sunset pictures are incredible. Did you crank up the color saturation, or is that as-taken?

    Additionally, there should be an official competition for “Best MIT Blogger” (considering all aspects). Everyone gets one entry to state his/her case. Judging can be done by the public or by Admissions staff (though I really think the latter should participate), and bribery for votes is strongly encouraged.

  10. Chris Praley says:

    “The two are inseparable, like most differential equations you will encounter.”

    You make me smile every time Yan.

  11. Sam says:

    Great blog as usual. Happy holidays.

  12. Someone says:

    @ Yan and Paul
    To everybody who said that MIT students are not silly?! raspberry

  13. Frank Attah says:

    i am ghanaian and my dream is to study in America but i am facing financial travel to states is another big blow to me.please help me out.

  14. Kristina '13 says:

    Thanks for the perspective. I can’t wait to see how my freshman year plays out.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Paul is short?

    I always imagined him as an average — if not slightly above average– in height.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Paul is short?

    I always imagined him as average — if not slightly above average– in height.

  17. Paul says:

    Beautifully written, Yan. smile Congratulations on a great year of blogging and surviving.

    P.S. I’m five foot five.

  18. Yan says:

    @ Paul:

    If you’re five foot five, that makes me, like, five foot seven. Or maybe five foot five point five.

  19. Paul says:

    @ Yan: I am not as tall as most people think from seeing my photo on the blogs, but I am totally taller than you. Not to mention more intelligent, better-looking, etc. wink

  20. @Sara D.

    Unfortunately, it seems you and Yan have another 98 days until you become sophomores. Conservation of frosh.

  21. Sara D. says:

    Yan, we are sophomores now.


  22. Anonymous says:

    so beautiful..
    i envy you

  23. Anon says:

    Nah, I bet you could’ve imagined special relativity.

  24. Anonymous says:

    im new to this site, but i read through all your blogs and i can honestly say that your diction is the best that ive ever read.. including that of professional authors.

  25. zahid says:

    its great to read ur blog i m also a student of MIT in pakistan through VIRTUAL UNI of PAKISTAN

  26. Anna says:

    Thanks for all of your writing! Keep up the great work and enjoy your summer. Love the pictures too!

  27. Yan says:

    Y’all are too nice.

    @ Nathan:

    I’m 5’1 last time I checked. Paul is probably lying to impress you guys.

    @ Ashish:


  28. Jacobi says:

    Yan, your blogs are purely amazing. Every seven days I check back here for a bountiful harvest of confusing wordplay and fantastic pictures. And yet, every time you manage to top yourself. You should write a book, and if it were only half as good as your blogs it would be on every best seller list in America. I thank you, and have the best summer ever.
    P.S. @Sam Range, there would be no point, as Yan would disintigrate the competition as skillfully as she does everything.

  29. NathanArce says:

    I’ll definitely continue to follow your blog no matter how pointless it will basically seem once I’m a student Q.Q Besides, you’ve had some amazing meal ideas in the past ^.^

    The sky is quite beautiful in those pictures~

    And I definitely think you’re shorter than 5’5″.

  30. Ashish says:

    e yan r u going home for holidays

  31. Anon says:


    Then what are you doing over the holidays? If you don’t mind me asking.

  32. Yan says:

    @ Anon:

    Right now, I’m UROP-ing full time with Group Sadoway on developing batteries for high temperature applications. I may get another job or project at some point.

  33. Vaibhav says:

    Courtesy of my own exams and start of 12th grade – I had fallen behind in reading your posts – but I’m delighted to say that your standard is just “OMG” level – the 1st para was just “Vintage Yan”, so to speak and the pictures are absolutely stupefyingly amazing!! (got any other better word for ‘amazing’ though??)
    Enjoy end of exam peace and serenity!!!:D

  34. NathanArce says:

    5’1″ puts you an inch taller than my mother. Damn. raspberry

  35. Ewan Ibrahim says:


  36. Lyla '11 says:

    @ Sam Range
    Why is it that even prefrosh.. I mean.. frosh are talking about the conservation of frosh? Do you not realize that you yourselves are the embodiment of the youngest generation of MIT. Just because you are not on campus does not mean that you do not exist. Also- the sophomores are no longer froshly and therefore cannot be frosh. AND the rest of the classes are considered the next level up at the end of the year- so we would essentially be missing the sophomore class were the conservation of frosh true. Why would the conservation of frosh be true, but not the conservation of sophomores? Just because sophomores are less interesting? Yan- as a sophomore- you should be outraged!

  37. @Lyla

    I certainly didn’t intend to create controversy, but it’s simply not acceptable for people to run around disregarding fundamental conservational laws.

    I, as a member of the Class of 2013, am indeed part of MIT’s youngest generation, the prefrosh. Allow me to prove this by contradiction.

    If MIT’s frosh were not conserved, then come commencement, seniors would cease to exist, juniors would be come seniors, sophomores juniors, and frosh sophomores, thus leaving a void of frosh. As explained in the Law of Conservation of Frosh, a prefrosh cannot be a frosh. We prefrosh are yet discombobulated whelps. Some will be high school students for as much as another month, while other have already graduated.

    This fuzzy boundary makes it impossible for prefrosh to become frosh at the beginning of summer. MIT gains and loses students only in discrete quanta (“classes”), not by individual pupils. MIT will not have a new class until there are a thousand new students scampering around campus, heads buried in maps and mouths inquiring where one could find building 36. Therefore, not until Orientation will the prefrosh transition to froshdom, leaving the former frosh to assume the title “sophomore.”

    So, for now I’m enjoying my life as a transient prefrosh, belonging neither to high school nor to MIT. Yet.

    As for the awkward gap left by the promoted sophomores, does it not seem right and proper that MIT would have a gaping wound left in its classes when the seniors graduate and leave forever? A void such as that requires a few months’ introspection before it is ready to be filled with a new class.

    Yan has no cause for outrage. She, along with the rest of the Class of 2012, is as wise and wizened as a frosh can become. When her replacements arrive, she is prepared to move onwards and upwards.

  38. Ana says:

    Yan, your writing seems so elegantly weaved by a truly resounding and mouth-opening gift of poetic and creative loquacity. As my mind trembles trying to take in such a volume of magnificent thought, detected by the sheer allocation of your words, I somehow randomly picture you as an equally gifted composer of poetry. (Though admittedly, your blogs produce the most thorough erasing of the line distinguishing poetry from prose.) Let me know if my oftentimes random intuition needs sharpening up, or to ease the contradiction, if my intuition is of any value whatsoever.

  39. Yan says:

    Shoot, my commenters should just go write their own books.

    Ana, thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m reticent around poetry. I’m flattered, but I don’t plan to start writing poems anytime soon.

    Good luck with your own writings.