All words beyond this introduction belong to Piper L. ’17 (who is no stranger to the blogs), and she has kindly allowed me to share them. I think they need to be heard by more people. Here is her original post.
This week has been really tough and really strange for everyone on campus, and she does a beautiful job trying to express the ineffable. No amount of words will be enough to completely address this topic, but her thoughts are a very good start.
good morning, MIT—i didn’t sleep last night. right now, it’s 8:30 AM.
hello. let me introduce myself. my name is Piper. i live in East Campus, on second east. i’m a sophomore. i’m from Indiana.
and if you read the Tech article, or if you read President Reif’s email, those were the same facts—name, year, dorm, hall, and home state—given about Matthew. if you hadn’t ever met him, that’s what you know now. name. year. dorm. hall. home state.
those things—they’re words on your laptop monitor, or on your phone. us EC residents—we were notified of his death before the rest of campus was, early Sunday morning, by a short and somber email from our housemaster. words on a screen.
there’ve now been social media posts and personal emails and public emails and text messages and news articles, about what happened. words on a screen.
last night, because i hadn’t read it yet, i searched for the Boston Globe article that i knew would have been written. i found it. i read it. and then i searched for the MIT admissions blog post that i knew would have been written. i didn’t find it. so now i’m writing something resembling it, about what happened. words on a screen.
screens are flat.
Matthew was a classmate of mine. in a class called Math for Computer Science, or 6.042, as most undergrads call it. here’s how 6.042 works—we’re put into “teams” of 7–8 students, and we stay in these teams the whole semester. it’s a discussion-based class. we work our way through in-class problems by talking with our teammates. inevitably, we get to know each other (a bit), because, well, we talk to each other.
section 1–2:30 PM, team D. that’s my team. that was also Matthew’s team. i usually sat next to him.
the Monday before he died, i borrowed his laptop to look up theorems i should have learned before coming to class, and i joked about being too lazy to bring my own laptop. i can’t remember if i thanked him.
the Monday after he died, i walked into class and sat in my usual chair, and thought about how a young mind—something with so much depth and dimension and complexity—could be flattened into words on a screen. and then i threw myself at the in-class problems, because i didn’t want to start crying at one in the afternoon for the second day in a row.
he was my teammate. i sat next to him three days a week. did i know him? i don’t think i did. i didn’t know enough about him to add anything new to everyone else’s descriptions of him. “tall, on the lanky side, short dark hair.” “quiet, nice, hard-working, and kept to himself.” name. year. dorm. hall. home state. what an absurdly insufficient representation of a person, isn’t it?
i’m lucky. in the wake of what happened, the immediate and tremendous support i’ve received from friends, classmates, counselors, mentors, and professors cannot be emphasized enough, and i’m beyond grateful. i’m back on my metaphorical feet because of them, and i think i’m okay. and now that i think i’m okay, this is how i’m trying to sort out my thoughts. typing words on a screen that i know are not enough and will never be enough.
my apologies that this is not a feel-good post. i do have many strong opinions on the immense values of friendship and human connection, the issues surrounding mental health and mental disorders, and other such important topics. but i don’t think they’d be properly explored and explained in this kind of post.
this is just me. i can try to say that i’m writing in remembrance of Matthew, but this is just me, writing about myself, which is kind of selfish, really. i’m writing about what i know, and i don’t feel as if i can fairly say that i knew Matthew; but i do feel as if i know myself (a bit), so this post—this is just me, and these are my disjointed, sprawling thoughts.
hello. you can call me Piper, but that’s not my legal name—Piper is a nickname some old friends gave me. my favorite type of candy is black licorice. i know how to make a lot of balloon animals and hats. sometimes when i run outside, i daydream that i have wings that help propel me along. i wish i knew my younger siblings better. i want to learn the piano, but i’m worried my hands are too small. i went through a phase in high school where i insisted on wearing mismatched socks.
good morning, MIT. if you’re reading this, you now know me (a bit). from the type of things i’ve told you, we could probably be considered friends.
so do me a favor, friend. recognize that the people that surround you are wonderfully strange and intricate and colorful characters that are so, so much more than a few flat words on a screen. marvel at this fact. and then talk to each other. maybe have a discussion, work through a problem or two together, and get to know each other (more than a bit). it’s easier than you think.
it’s almost noon, now. i think i’ll go and take a nap.
for those who need, here are some people you can talk with.
Call 24/7: 1–800–273–8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
Call 24/7: 877-870–4673 (Boston Samaritans’ Hotline)
Text 24/7: text “ANSWER” to 839863 (Crisis Call Center)