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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

i ran out of social energy by CJ Q. '23

and other great ways to say no

just gonna talk about things i’ve been up to lately.

fall is already coming so quickly. we’ve been planning for rush since the spring, of course, but right now it feels so close. east campus always builds things in the courtyard for rush, and this year is no different. in fact, i signed up to be a build lead, despite having zero experience with mechanical engineering type things. i just thought i’d help out with writing and administrative things and stuff. and there’s a decent amount of that, like writing safety plans and looking up materials online.

well it turns out being a build lead involves more than that oops. thank goodness the other build lead on the project i’m working on knows how to cad and do physics and plan and stuff because i sure as hell don’t. the build leads have been having lots of meetings recently and we already have a schedule and stuff, so it’s just a reminder of how close rush is. it’s exciting, of course, to see so many people and have things in-person again, but at the same time, there’s the question of, will it work? will it be the same?

i’ve talked before about how i do mystery hunt with galactic. well galactic also runs a yearly puzzle hunt, called the galactic puzzle hunt. as a galactic member, this year i had the great opportunity to help write for the hunt.i can’t talk about it too much because spoilers, of course. the hunt is happening this friday evening, so it’s another thing that’s coming up pretty quickly. it’s kind of been something that’s occupied, maybe four to eight hours of my time each week for the past few weeks. it’s one of those things that’s like, why are we doing this? we’re doing it because it’s fun. we’re not getting paid for any of this. we just like it. at times, it’s stressful. those times, i wonder, am i still having fun?

speaking of volunteering, summer hssp is happening again this year. i talked about directing last year, so i know how much work is involved in directing a program of such a large scale, sheerly because you’re interested in doing so. at times i wonder whether the motivation is really just for the joy of teaching and learning, or the free food, or becoming better at handling logistics, or from the pressure of other people in esp in making sure the program continues year to year.

i’m also teaching for hssp this year. first time i’m teaching for a multi-week program. i’m teaching a crypto class that’s specifically designed to get lots of sign-ups, kinda like search engine optimization but for class descriptions? and then i’m also observing for a type theory class taught by a friend. it’s not too much work, but wow are my saturday afternoons filled.

i am not directing this year, but i am working closely with the program to make sure things go well. things probably aren’t as complicated as they were last year. but esp’s insatiable urge to innovate and expand means that this year’s hssp introduced almost as many new things as last year’s, honestly. this kinda makes me worried about the fall. we’ll probably run our first in-person program in two years; are we going to try new things or try to recover old knowledge?

i’m an sra for macgregor this summer, which is kind of like a gra except i’m not a grad student, and a gra is like, i think other schools call them tutors or something, which is a grad student that lives along with undergrads and is there to be like a first point of contact for help and helps run things and stuff.

it was kinda a struggle at first. presumably i was selected for the position because, you know, i’m supposed to be good at getting to know people and being friendly and stuff. but it took a number of weeks before i got to know everyone in my floor. somehow after a year of not seeing people in-person much i lost all capability for making friends. having the energy to talk to people used to be something i had all the time, and now it feels so depleted.

i’m gonna be the hall chair of floorpi for the next year, which feels like an important position because i’m gonna have to work to make sure people get integrated with our floor, after two years of our culture not functioning in full throttle. and it’s scary to think that i might mess up meeting new people again and make half the floor feel left out from everything.

promys, a high school math camp that i went to when i was in high school, is happening online again this summer. last year i was a counselor and this year i’m a head counselor, which is like a counselor but with more logistic work. i’m no stranger to making sure programs run smoothly; after all, didn’t i learn that from directing summer hssp?

i want to say i love my job. i do! i do love my job. talking to students is great, managing a dozen spreadsheets is great, coming up with schemes to make sure people socialize is great. this is why i wrote the cfish app i talked about last blog post; i wanted to play fish with people from promys, and i got to, and that was all swell.

but when i look at this list of things that i love about promys, i worry. none of them are math-related. and yes, i do math. i’m doing math with students, i’m teaching math, i’m studying my own math. i’m a math major, after all. it’s just that the math isn’t the highlight of the summer for me. which is once again distressing, because i am again surrounded by many people who are better than me at math in their own ways, and it makes me doubt whether i’m really a math person.

last sunday i took a train to salem with some friends and we ate dinner and walked around. there was really good fancy bread that i wish i had more of, and then pizza with mushrooms and i like mushrooms. then we window shopped for a few minutes, looking at random touristy things and not-buying-ice-cream and realizing that a store that sold rocks also played rock music. it also rained towards the end. so we had to walk to the train station in the middle of the rain. it was a lot of fun.

last thursday i took a bus to new york to renew my passport at the philippine consulate. i left boston at six in the morning and arrived shortly before noon. i had soylent for lunch. i window shopped at a bookstore, a clothing store, the lego store, the moma shop. the passport renewal went way faster than i expected. i went to this spy museum, which isn’t among the best museums i’ve ever been to but it’s decent. i ate dinner. i left new york at six in the evening and arrived in boston shortly before midnight.

traveling alone is such a different experience than traveling with other people. being alone feels so liberating, especially in a big unfamiliar city like new york, because i knew that i wasn’t going to bump into anyone i know, no one knows me, and i’ll never see the people i saw ever again. yet from time to time i kept thinking, wow, it’d be great if so-and-so person were here with me. being alone on a bus for six hours isn’t the best thing in the world.

last friday night i ate dinner with some promys counselors who were also here in boston, at this great thai place called nud pob. there were three of us: one of us is going to grad school in the fall, and another one of us was in the process of applying to grad schools, and then there was me.

there was a decent amount of talk about math grad school, which made sense. i expressed my cluelessness as to whether i wanted to go to grad school, and got advice that if i wanted to i should start preparing now. kinda scary. i was also asked why i was at promys if a lot of the things i’ve been doing recently were software development things. i said i got rejected a bunch. they were like, but your resume’s so good! but you’ve done a lot of great work! you’re so qualified, etc., etc., etc.

even if this was true, it doesn’t change the fact that my track record for applying to internships is really bad. and maybe the more likely explanation is that this isn’t true, that i’m not actually hot stuff when it comes to writing code.

yesterday a friend said he was visiting boston and asked if i was free to meet up and maybe eat a meal together. i said no, with the reason, i quote, “im socially kinda pouring my efforts into promys rn not leaving much elsewhere”. my limitless well of energy has now become very limited. i’m afraid that it’ll stay this way.