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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

hazy mid-semester days by Shuli J. '22

what i've been up to lately (mostly, psets...)

It’s that point in the semester when days and weeks blur together in a haze of pset after pset, lecture after lecture, and a midterm always just on the horizon. I wanted to share what my daily life looks like, in this time when no one’s life looks like it used to or like they expected it to. Here’s a muddled average of all the things I’ve been up to these past couple months, as temperatures have dropped, sunset moves earlier, and we all01 Those of us in cold climates, anyway. The rest of you are lucky ducks. prepare to hunker down for winter.

I had a lot of trouble figuring out which day to start on, because of course, weeks are a Social Construct, and really every day is just some mixed-up combination of reactions to things that happened the day before and preparation for things that will happen the day after. After some thought, I decided Saturday makes the most sense.

Saturday

Saturday is my start point because Saturday is the day of the week, out of all of them, where my mistakes of the previous day don’t seem to matter as much. No matter how I procrastinated or fooled around on Friday, I wake up on Saturday with two full days to myself, feeling confident that I’ll get through my to-do list with time to spare. ((Spoiler alert: I don’t even have to say the punchline, ’cause I’m sure you already know what it will be.)) I wake up around 9.30 am; it’s a little earlier than I’d like, but it lets me call my parents from 10 to 11 before my house gathers for our weekly house clean-up from 11 to 12. After that, I settle in to work. I’ll start with the things I know I can finish in one sitting – usually my 6.00402 'Computation Structures', aka Assembly, processors, etc. pset and Ancient Greek homework. I often cook a big batch of food Friday night so that I can eat it all weekend, and spend my Saturday afternoon and evening just working away.

Sunday

Inevitably, Sunday, I have more work left over than I thought. I also often have something scheduled – a club meeting, an outdoor visit with one of my friends also in the area, and/or a fun house event. By now, my Saturday calm has disappeared, and I’m mostly just feeling the low-grade stress of the normal week as I triage and prioritize what I’ll actually be able to get done.

Sunday is also Bread Day around here!!!! In addition to friend visits, making sourdough is my other weekend respite from work. It’s a long process, with breaks in between each step; I’ll do homework in the living room and pop into the kitchen every half-hour to tend to my baby. Usually, by 5 pm, there’s a loaf on the table and that toasty bread smell in the air, and I eat it with leftovers for dinner. For the rest of the week, I’ll eat homemade bread for breakfast.

A slice from my bread.
One of my bread loaves from the side. It's scored with a slash.
One of my bread loaves from the side. It's scored with a slash and has an
One of my bread loaves from above. It's scored in an X pattern.
Some recent successes -- I've really improved with practice!

Monday

I’m lucky that Monday is a slower class day for me, so it eases me into the week. In the mornings, I’ll usually tell myself I’m going to do the work for my classes that I thought I would do on Sunday, and instead I’ll do absolutely nothing until lunchtime. If I’m feeling up to it, at lunch I’ll cook a new batch of something to last me a few meals – maybe some pasta, or a chickpea stew, or curry. If not, I’ll eat a bagel and a piece of fruit. After lunch all my Zooming begins in earnest. I go to a class, a meeting, a different meeting, and two more classes. By the time I’m done with class at 8:30 pm, I’m zoomed out, but I’m also ready to get back into the rhythm of the week, and I’ll work alongside my rooomates (mostly on things due Tuesday, like my UROP since I meet with my supervisor Tuesdays) until I go to bed around midnight.

Tuesday

Tuesday and Thursday are the worst. I zoom from 10 to 5, and my single one-hour break for lunch is obtained by skipping a recorded lecture and watching it to catch up on Wednesday & Friday mornings. And then I’m all zoomed out, but I eat a quick dinner and go to another meeting, and after the meeting I pset all night, because at this point, I have three psets03 Some combination of 6.004, 18.404/Theory of Computation, 6.02/Communication Networks, and 6.S084/Linear Algebra and Optimization due Thursday, and Thursday is 48 hours away, and I have not finished any of these psets and probably not even started at least one of them. By the end of the night, hopefully I’ll have started them all and made significant progress on a couple.

The only saving grace of Tuesdays is that, because I am so dead, I usually buy lunch. (And, because I am a short human being, lunch can also be dinner if I buy something big.) My area has some nice food places nearby; often on Tuesday I’ll get a cheap burrito bowl, and on Thursday I’ll spring for poke or something yummy.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning I breathe a sigh of relief, and briefly forget I am hosed as hell, and spend half an hour doing nothing on my phone in bed. Then I remember I have class, and I scramble out of bed, and go to class and meeting and meeting and pset, and somewhere in there I cook and eat an object, and I pset all night and go to bed feeling stressed as hell about everything I have to turn in. The week is very hazy at this midpoint, and looking back I have zero clue what I do on most Wednesdays other than pset. Apparently not a lot ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Thursday

My room. It is pretty clean, a substantial part of the floor is visible, and sunlight is streaming through the windows.

The cleanest my room has been so far this semester! (catch me trying to figure out if i’ve doxxed myself with this photo of almost every object i own)

The aforementioned haziness is really just a defining characteristic of Wednesday, which I guess means that the week isn’t hazy at all. Because by Thursday, I’ve realized that actually, I am going to turn in all of these psets with no problem! I zoom all day, mostly finishing off my psets in the background of my meetings, and eat something yummy04 that I didn't have to cook, unlike the rest of the days when I eat something yummy that I did have to cook for lunch. Despite all my meetings, I’m almost done psetting, and when I finish them off and turn them in, usually around 11 pm, I feel exhilarated. I could do anything! I am a free man!! I’ll sit around talking to my roommates for an hour before I head to bed; since I’m a free man now, I often stay up a bit later and clean my room (which has become messier over the past few days) before I sleep.

Friday

Friday is the real day of freedom.  I don’t even bother to lie to myself that I’ll get ahead on work; I just bask in the lack of guilt and psets hanging over my head. I have an 11 am class, and I’ll often get up a little early and go grocery shopping beforehand – it’s always too crowded on the weekend, and this is my only real free time during the week. After I hit the store, I’ll go to my couple hours of class and meetings, and then the real good time begins.

Friday is also Bread Day, albeit a less involved one – after my 2 pm class ends, I get started making fresh challah for Shabbat dinner. The combination of extra free time, grocery shopping, and Shabbat make Friday a perfect time to try a new recipe, so once the bread is rising on its own, I’ll cook a big batch of something new. Sometimes I cook with one of my roommates, and we might make a dessert together too. Then I light the candles for Shabbat and we tear into my (freaking delicious) challah. After dinner, we sit around talking in the living room. I might make pretend swipes at starting one of my psets for the next week, but really we just chat, until late into the night…

Chickpea and cauliflower masala.
Cinnamon scones on a baking sheet.
Chickpea and tomato stew inside a Dutch oven.
Two Shabbat candles half-burned down in a dark kitchen.
Some of my and my roommates' Friday creations. And candles!

And the next morning, on Saturday, it all begins again.

 

I’ve been pretty hosed this semester, a lot more than I’d like, and I think you can really tell reading this post. Slipped in among all those hours of psetting are a few stolen hours of fun per week: an hour trying out digital art on my MIT-issued iPad, or doing a cryptic crossword with a friend (I like these ones), or going for a walk when the sun is shining too hard to resist. But mostly, I’ve just been working, and I think I’m pretty damn tired of it. Next semester I’m going to take some time to myself. I want to get better at art, and at texting my friends back. I want to go outside more, breathe fresh air, and see my community. I want to feel unhurried and free most days, instead of one or two days a week. And I want to learn and be challenged and grow, too, like I’m doing now, of course! But I think I’ll take one fewer class, and take care of myself instead. I’m really looking forward to that.

The updated academic calendar starts two weeks later than normal, meaning that our winter break is now like 8 weeks long if you include IAP. I am e x t r e m e l y ready for this. So hold onto your hats for all of my delighted lazy couch potato do-nothing IAP-blogging! It’s gonna be grrrrreat.

  1. Those of us in cold climates, anyway. The rest of you are lucky ducks. back to text
  2. 'Computation Structures', aka Assembly, processors, etc. back to text
  3. Some combination of 6.004, 18.404/Theory of Computation, 6.02/Communication Networks, and 6.S084/Linear Algebra and Optimization back to text
  4. that I didn't have to cook, unlike the rest of the days when I eat something yummy that I did have to cook back to text