“Afeefah, do you still write for the blogs?”
I’ve gotten this question a lot over the last few weeks. And rightfully so, it’s really been a while you guys. I’m happy to report that I’m alive and I’m actually doing well! I’ve just been ridiculously busy (that’s shouldn’t be an excuse tho).
I’m not sure if this is something I picked up from others or if it’s something that I’ve simply convinced myself to be true, but MIT in fact does not get easier through the years. Here I am, a junior (crazily enough) and it still doesn’t feel like I quite have the grip on how to navigate this place. My semester has been a literal oscillation between weeks of a few doable psets to weeks filled with midterms/essay/presentations. But if there’s anything I’ve realized it’s that MIT really truly does not get better. Rather, you get better at being at MIT.
It’s the little shifts in perspective that make a huge difference in the way you feel:
- Midterms really don’t equate too much in the grand scheme of things. Work hard, make all the cheatsheets, do the practice tests, go to office hours, get a good night’s sleep the night before. What happens afterwards is beyond your doing. You’ve given it your all so if you do well, celebrate with something sweet. And if you don’t, still celebrate with something sweet because you’ve learned a lot. And that’s a win in the Afeefah book.
- Don’t waste time trying to prove to yourself that you can finish a PSET without office hours or the help of others. You’ll end up spending twelve hours on something that you could have easily completed in two.
- Understand your weaknesses. You really will end up taking a nap if you work in bed. So don’t work in bed, there’s a whole campus full of great study spots. Go explore.
- Take breaks when you’re studying. No one can work at max capacity for seven hours straight. Change study locations often, leave your books behind to talk to an actual face every now and then. It’s good for your productivity.
- Eat your meals in the dining hall. A day without a shared meal is a sad one.
- Clean your room every day. Returning to an organized, clutter-free space is a huge boost to your mood.
- Even when you have somewhere you need to be, spend the extra 30 seconds catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in along time.
- Write often. Because writing let’s you put a stop on the clock to reflect what is and what was. And that’s invigorating.
These realizations might seem obvious, but it’s taken me exactly this long to really truly grasp them. I want to put a big emphasis on #8. Write often. In between learning to be better at being at MIT, I’ve lost my grip on writing. I used to end a long day by scribbling some reflections into a journal. If I’m lucky, I’ve been ending my days with 30 min on Netflix. I get ideas for blog posts often, and suddenly it becomes a bullet point on a to do list. Slowly it makes its way to the back burner. And it’s unfortunate. Because writing is how I think. How I make sense of the things that are happening in my life. How I make sense of fleeting thoughts. How I make sense of what is important to me. Writing is literally how I process the world as I see it. Without writing, I’ve been a little lost.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a classroom with the other bloggers. In our biweekly meetings, we go around the room and share what we are currently working on, what our ideas are for our next blog posts. Somewhere between being frustrated with campus issues and feeling like I don’t have anything revolutionary to say, I found myself (for the very first time), completely idealess. I didn’t know what I wanted to write next. I hadn’t found myself with the time to think about what I was going to write next. Because every “free second” I had was being dedicated to internal debates and assignments that needed to be pumped out. In that very same meeting, Jeremy brought up something that’s made me view it all differently. At the essence of what he was saying was the idea of perspective-shifting. How, even if it’s hard to believe in something, taking a positive perspective on it can subconsciously change the way you feel about said thing. “Don’t think to yourself that you have to blog, think that you get to blog.”
I still remember my walk back to campus after that meeting. The world felt really really quite as I found myself pondering on those words. I get to blog today? I get to blog today!
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. From the letters I would write for my grandparents overseas in elementary school to the argumentative essay I just finished writing about the role of executive order in healthcare reform. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.
Writing for the blogs has been the first time I’ve ever written publicly. And if I’m going to be honest with you, it’s every bit terrifying. To think that what you write and put out on the internet can be read, critiqued, analyzed, enjoyed by so many people. Is my post elaborate enough? Unique enough? Relatable enough? How many people have read my post? Oh no, are those grammatical errors? Are people going to interpret this the wrong way? How many comments am I getting? What if it’s not good enough? Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.
But, I get to blog today! A perspective shift: I get to wake up every single morning and walk through Killian Court. I get to look towards the right and soak in the beautiful Boston skyline that reflects over the Charles River. I get to learn from professors that are trailblazers in the field. I learn from textbooks that they themselves wrote. And on top of all of that, I get to write. Not just little scribbles in my journal, but to the world. I get to share the blessing I have in this corner of the universe with anyone who chooses to listen in. And that’s not scary at all, it’s empowering. Because I get to blog today. I get to be bold in choosing what to write about. I get to be truthfully honest about how sometimes life can collectively suck. I get to make others feel just how exciting it is to try my very first apple cider donut. Because there’s not such thing as imperfect writing. It’s all perfectly imperfect.
With this realization comes a promise in moving forward. To be daring in the things I choose to write about. To be honest in how I write. To worry less about how my writing is perceived and focus more on what I want to convey in the first place. To writing more often. Because this too is a blessing.
p.s: Let’s be real, team work makes the dream work. So help a girl out, what are some things you’d like me to write about?