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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

feeling grown up by CJ Q. '23

walking in adult clothing

one of the prompts i answered, when i applied to be a blogger (and this year’s apps are open) was “when was the first time you really felt like a grown up?” i’ve thought about this question on-and-off over the years, thinking about not only the first time, but when i felt like a grown up, in general. some thoughts:

  • these days when i’m in an uber, or a lyft, or the caltrain, i find myself sleeping. it’s not that i’m tired all the time, but naps are becoming appealing. at least, i tell myself i’m not tired all the time.
  • offices. having a desk to myself. going to onboarding meetings where people talk about company values. filling payroll forms, and talking to hr. signing ndas, calling someone my manager, lunch breaks. the 9 to 5. especially the 9 to 5. my work hours are in theory flexible, but in practice, it’s easier to align myself with the work day.
  • there’s never enough time. after work i get home and it’s evening. on the weekends, most of the time i’m too tired to organize things myself, so if i don’t get invited to anything, i stay at home and sleep, and play video games. not that playing video games is bad, but i miss the feeling of constant creation, of always writing or coding or doing homework, or going on walks or meeting people or going to parties.
  • my mentor’s always asking me, as soon as one project ends, what i’m thinking about doing next, because there’s always something to do next. here’s two feature requests, which sounds interesting? what’s something you want to learn this internship? and my manager asks me things like, what do you hope to do this summer? why did you choose to work here? i don’t know. thinking about these questions makes me feel old.
  • getting slack notifications on my phone. opening slack on instinct when i meant to open twitter. getting asked questions on slack. having to put out bugs as they come up.
  • weighing my time in money. learning more costs of things. measuring cost in hours of work needed to make the difference. how many hours of work, daily, does it take to pay my rent? how many minutes of work does it take to pay for an uber ride, or a dinner out? where am i between saving time and saving money? that target seems to shift every time i look at it.
  • feeling lost, in a world where others don’t seem to be. feeling reluctant to open up about my life and my stories, when i used to be cavalier. having these questions about how i don’t know what i want or what i’m doing or where i’m going, all on the tip of my tongue, with no one to talk to about. not because i’m scared, but because i don’t know what to say in the first place.
  • taking the long view. measuring features and tasks not in days or weeks, but months. setting goals for quarters and years, thinking beyond semesters. hearing people plan where they’ll be next year, or the year after that.
  • hearing people talk about marriage, and children, and families. seeing people’s children, and talking to them. being the youngest person in a room. explaining to a nine-year-old what an fmri is. seeing brass rats with years starting with 19. teaching for esp, and seeing all these middle schoolers and high schoolers. if seeing young people makes me feel grown up, and seeing old people makes me feel grown up, what doesn’t?
  • after work activities with coworkers. dinners, badminton, bouldering, volleyball, picnics, walks. having people that i call coworkers in the first place. daily or weekly traditions, like getting on a call with my friends every night to play the spelling bee, or watch people stream chess. routine. because even though it’s different, it’s all the same. next time it’ll be an escape room, or golf, or whatever, but it’s all the same. it’s all the same.