Epilogue by Yan Z. '12
An open letter about blogging, growing up, and the end of my first year at MIT.
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.
It’s not perfect, but I tried.