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How Are You? by Afeefah K. '21

because it's not just a simple question

November 19, 2017

Life is busy at MIT. Most of the time, our schedules and motivation go from midterm to midterm. If we’re lucky, they go from pset to pset. And amidst all of this constant work and running around, we see people that we know. We see our roommates. We see floormates. We see pset buddies. We see friends we know from high school. We see friends we’ve made through student organizations and extracurriculars. We see TAs that save our lives. We see that one kid that sits behind us in lecture. And to all of these people we ask one quick question as we hustle on in our lives.

In the past few months, I feel like we’ve really gotten to know each other. So let me ask you, how are you?

How are you really?

Because I genuinely want to know. I want to know if things are rough. I want to know if things are going great. I want to hear about that essay you finally finished. I want to hear about how the semester’s been tough. Heck yes I want to hear about the cool thing you did this week. Physics doesn’t make sense? Same. I want to hear about how you’re afraid of growing up. I want to hear about the spontaneous adventure you took today. You’re worried that life is unpredictable and confusing and will shatter into millions of little pieces? Me too. I want to hear how you’re actually, really, truthfully doing.

Because I have come to a realization. We spend every single minute of our lives surrounded by people. People that we unfortunately never really fully get to know. Because while small talk and conversations take place, we never make it a priority to sit down and really understand how a person is doing. “How are you” is asked quickly and instinctively, not in anticipation of a meaningful answer. More so, we’re inclined to respond with a simple “good.” Nothing more and nothing less. But so much happens in a person’s life that “good” doesn’t quite cut it. It doesn’t even scratch the surface. And frankly speaking, there’s no bigger tragedy than failing to know how the people around you are really doing.

In the past few weeks, as the semester has built up, the value of checking up on people and being checked upon has hit me. I’m incredibly guilty of throwing in a “how’s it going?” But more so than ever, I’m trying to make the effort to really sit down with people and talk about their lives. To talk about why they’re here, at MIT. To talk about their dreams and aspirations. To talk about how failure sucks, but it’s also how we grow. To talk about how 18.02 distributions have drastically shifted to the left. To talk about how Thanksgiving couldn’t come any sooner.

Because there’s nothing better than having a true heart-to-heart with the people around you.

So tell me, how are you? How are you really?