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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

Hold your breath by CJ Q. '23

my first CPW

Breathe in. Keep breathing.

The prefrosh I was hosting, or my prefrosh, as so many hosts refer to theirs, arrived on Thursday morning. We talked about logistics; this is how you get to East Campus, this is the couch you’ll sleep in, I’m gonna head to class now.

The first class I had that morning was 6.UAT, Oral Communication. We play some improv games, which we do in 6.UAT to learn about things like recovery. What do you do when things don’t go as planned? You slip up, you forget a sentence, the projector doesn’t work, the power goes out. The key idea is that no matter what happens, the show must go on. You have to maintain composure and keep going, even if you have to improv.

Class ends early, so we stick around for a few minutes. We talk about CPW, and when our prefrosh are arriving. People are excited.

My second and last class that day was 6.033 Computer Systems Engineering. We talk about databases, and how they work in the event of a crash. Most databases use a steal/no-force design, which performs the fastest, but has the most work to do during recovery. The database design trade-off always seems to be like this: the faster you drive, the harder you crash.

Back in East Campus, people are grilling burgers and dyeing hair. The grills are hot! as the saying goes. EC denizens step out of their slumber and into the courtyard. I put a patty on the grills, then toast buns, then cheese. It’s good. I missed this.

I head to Talbot, the lounge next to EC’s front desk, and set up the projector. I was going to run a Python spelling bee, one of EC’s traditional bad ideas weekend events. It takes maybe half an hour for all the prefrosh to arrive. Was Talbot that hard to find? It’s been too long since I was new to campus that I no longer remembered.

The Python bee happens, and it is as silly as ever. Contestants write programs that accidentally work, that almost work, that barely work, and that don’t work. Indents are forgotten, sort and sorted are confused, and a plethora of other mistakes are made. The event goes well, though lasts a little long; I should figure out how to make it shorter next year.

Upstairs I try to take a nap, but am distracted by my prefrosh. We play a game of Funny Game: Penguin Jrap Activate, while we talk about decisions. What are you looking for? What are your apprehensions about MIT? Why do you value so-and-so attribute over so-and-so other attribute?

He then told me that he forgot to bring a phone charger, so I told him he could probably borrow one from someone on hall. I find that one of the coolest things on East Campus; that my neighbors are so kind. He leaves. I put on rain clothes and walk to the admitted student welcome in Rockwell Cage.

I see a friend in the crowd. I tell him that I’m trying to vicariously experience CPW this weekend. Speeches are given. The Logs perform, ADT performs.

It ends. I run to the sixth floor of Building 24, where ESG is, and where Firehose would happen, an event run by MIT ESP. I taught my class. I taught several classes. By the time I was done teaching, I noticed it was already two AM. It’s like motion blur: if you’re not paying attention to the moving object that is time, it just whizzes past you.

That was just Thursday. That was my least busy day of CPW.

Friday. Grilled burgers for lunch. More classes. A board game event. The ESP office, hanging out with people. An event in ET, with pizza. A meeting with my teammates for 6.033. Meet the Bloggers. A trivia bee in the SIPB office. Going on a walk with prefrosh.

Conversations. “Have you ever thought about how you’re going to die?” Or, “How much sleep do people get?” Or, “Why MIT?” Indeed, why MIT? Some days I don’t know the answer myself.

I sleep at five in the morning, exhausted from a day of CPW. Saturday. Grilled burgers for lunch. The Activities Midway, in which I run between five different booths, calling people to show up. Rain.

There was a Puzzle Club event after the Midway I was supposed to go to, but I didn’t go. I was too tired. My back was aching, my legs were aching. It was raining. I tell the other officers in the club that I’m too tired to go. I don’t. I take a nap in the ESP office instead.

I wake up and head to Building 34 to clean up after an Assassins Guild event, another one I couldn’t go to, as I was too tired. I head back to the ESP office to pick some things up. I see Matthew C. ’23, lying on the couch, having woken up from a nap, the same place I took mine.

CPW, huh? I ask.

Yeah, he replies.

Words didn’t need to be spoken. I run to my next event in McCormick for the Filipino Students Association. We fry some lumpia. We talk about MIT again. Then I run to the SIPB office. I breathe. Hang out a bit before the next event, that evening, where we had a small party. Pizza, soda, prefrosh. Talking, talking, more talking.

On Sunday morning my prefrosh and I woke up at around the same time. He leaves. I see him off.

Are you still breathing? Good. It wouldn’t do to have you running out of breath, not this early, not yet.

On Sunday afternoon I mill about the EC courtyard. I see people walking around aimlessly, almost dazed. In Talbot, the scene is similar. People sitting down in couches, staring into space. I could understand. I could understand so, so well.

And as much as I wanted to stare into space and reflect on the weekend, as much as I wanted to write this blog post, and put some more effort into it so it doesn’t end up feeling like a ball of mud, as much as I want to go to sleep and take a break, I needed to keep moving.

Because I had a meeting that afternoon, and I had office hours that evening. I had homework due the next day, the next day, the next day. I had midterms this week. I had group projects to work on. No time to stop for breaths; sleep my only respite as I bounce from activity to activity.

I need to do less things.

Why? Why do I want to do less things?

So I can do more things.

Of course. Of course. Of course.

Have you taken your breath yet? Because I’m still holding mine.

I closed my eyes on Thursday morning and now it is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I find myself marching, once again, to the relentless beat of weekdays. What does it say about MIT, for CPW to be such a large, grand event in the midst of a busy time in the semester? What does it say to the prefrosh, several of whom are deciding between MIT and elsewhere, to see MIT shine and sparkle so much during CPW, but not stick around to see the fallout?

I wish I knew. I wish I could write something better. I wish I had more to show for a weekend I poured my heart and soul into. But all I have is a mouthful of dust that I am trying to breathe, breathe out.