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Why I do too much stuff at MIT by Keri G. '10

1)My mom doesn't have a problem with it.

January 13, 2008

Near the end of winter break, I was sitting in an uncomfortable pleather chair in my dentist’s office waiting for a cleaning while reading the latest issue of Blender magazine (Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley in the top 25 albums of 2007?! Come on, Blender.), when it occurred to me that it would be a really good idea to write a post. My dentist doesn’t actually have anything to do with MIT, although I do constantly feel like the two are out to get me. You’ll never get my wisdom teeth! Neither of you!

Wait, what was I saying?

Ah. Yes. Right. I was about to embark on a discussion that may sound all too familiar to regular readers of the blogs, since Laura just wrote a version of it a couple of weeks ago: sometimes, you will hate this place. And when you do, you’ll really hate it. Trying to get through MIT is hard, and you’ll often wonder whether or not the struggle is worth it.

This is how I felt during the entirety of November and December. Finals week (“I hate everything and everyone, including you”) was just the point when I reached a less-than-uplifting epiphany: I’d spent an entire semester working harder than I had ever thought possible, and my GPA was actually going down.

Behold, the ultimate demotivator.

I choose to live a full life outside of academics, albeit one filled with too many extracurriculars. Ask anyone; being on the executive board for MedLinks, producing the IAP show for the Musical Theatre Guild, doing a UROP full-time, having a show at WMBR (you can listen to streams of everyone’s shows! Do it!), picking up photography on the side, blogging here (albeit sucking at it sometimes), and planning to run for president of Senior House is definitely too much stuff at a time. Some people are able to do all of this and still have amazing grades – I’m pretty sure Mollie survived off the energy from magical unicorns or something (narwhals? Other mythical horned animals?) while she was here. (Hi, Mollie.) I am not one of these people (as Jake ’10 just said ten minutes ago, “Oh! You do stuff! No wonder your grades suck!”), but that’s something I can and do accept. If you’re wondering why I haven’t been blogging, this is why. It isn’t that I don’t have anything to blog about, just a lack of time in which I can do so. (I am placing a statement in parentheses here because there’s one in or after every other sentence in this paragraph.^_^) As I stated above, I occasionally wonder if doing all of this is really worth it.

Here’s the important thing, though: I’m happy this way. There are a ton of opportunities to take advantage of here; if I didn’t do so, I’d go absolutely insane. Granted, I still complain about my grades at the end of every term and tell acquaintances from high school lies of omission about how school is going, since saying “I have a 4.0 at MIT!” and not explaining the 5.0 scale is far easier than listening to people who barely know me prattle on about how I “used to be so smart!” Perhaps I haven’t completely adjusted. Or maybe I just have no patience.

College is the one time in your life where you’ll be relatively independent and your primary responsibility will be to learn things, and not just the material in your classes. Why would you ever want to squander that chance? There are tons of people who do so and regret it afterwards. I don’t plan on becoming one of them. If that means that my grades are less than stellar, then so be it.

And hey, the upside to it all is that it gives me no shortage of things to blog about over IAP.

25 responses to “Why I do too much stuff at MIT”

  1. Edgar says:

    I’m glad we are seeing so many great posts more often! =)

  2. Karen says:

    Life is boring without extracurriculars smile It’s always nice to hear about life outside of classes – I guess that I assume you bloggers are all good students because they’d kick you out or something if you weren’t, but you guys give me faith that I can have it all if I lower my standards on what grades are acceptable a little bit! I’m glad to hear that MIT doesn’t expect all work and no play smile

  3. Julie says:

    What are some of your favorite albums of 2007? I think if I listened to more that came out, I probably wouldn’t place Rilo Kiley very high (one of the maybe 7 ’07 releases I listened to), but I’m never able to stay on top of stuff when it comes out; I’m always off in my own world having whatever phases. I didn’t really listen to the Bright Eyes.

  4. Laura says:

    OMG, story of my life…

  5. Julie says:

    Wow, I totally failed miserably in linking to my last.fm (which I tried to do because of the music related comment). Oh welll…

  6. Piper says:

    Ahh, I hope I can find that balance. Or at the very least, learn to function without any sleep for semesters at a time. Of course, this makes me worried about the possibility of being premed, ’cause they’re all UBERGRADENESS.

    Oh well.

  7. Keri says:

    Julie –

    I fixed the link to your last.fm. ^_^

    Anyway, my favorite album from 2007 by far is Friend and Foe by Menomena. I saw them in November, and it was the best show I’ve ever seen. It even beats the Mars Volta last night, and their shows are notoriously fantastic. Alive 2007 by Daft Punk is a close second, because come on, it’s DAFT PUNK MASHUPS OF DAFT PUNK SONGS. Nothing on the face of the earth could possibly be better, except maybe pie.

    I still haven’t come up with a definite top 10, since I really enjoyed most of the new stuff I heard last year. Here are a few of those:
    Battles – Mirrored
    Enon – Grass Geysers…Carbon Clouds
    The Octopus Project – Hello, Avalanche
    M.I.A. – Kala
    Justice – Cross
    O’Death – Head Home
    Devendra Banhart – Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon
    Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (I almost forgot about this, since it came out in January)
    CocoRosie – The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn
    Apparat – Walls

    (Okay, there are far more albums here than I intended to list. What can I say? There was a lot of good music this year.)

  8. Sam says:

    If I had a choice between never being able to listen to Alive 2007 — or — being blind for the rest of my life, I’d would gladly listen to Alive 2007 in the dark for the rest of my years.

    Well, not really. But Around The World/Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is still a work of beauty.

  9. Nina says:

    “I’d spent an entire semester working harder than I had ever thought possible, and my GPA was actually going down.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA FUNNY YOU SHOULD MENTION THAT. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. BECAUSE THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN IN EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY FIVE SEMESTERS HERE.

    Ahem. I guess my point was, you’re not alone. smile

    “I am placing a statement in parentheses here because there’s one in or after every other sentence in this paragraph.”

    Oh, Keri. You are so precious. <3

    I’m so glad you posted! And that also you thumbed your nose in the face of anyone who might have anything mean to say about your grades. Dude, you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. You’re as amazing as ever.

  10. Nina says:

    Oh, and P.S. — You can’t POSSIBLY put Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley in the same paragraph, let alone group — GOD, Keri, you do me grave insult. Me and Jenny Lewis. raspberry

  11. Keri says:

    Come on, Nina. You know that Under the Blacklight was the worst thing on the face of the earth. (And I like Jenny Lewis. Rilo Kiley still kills.)

  12. Mollie says:

    Definitely narwhal horn, although I won’t promise that mermaid scales and satyr hooves didn’t also play a part. wink

    (Actually, the secret is to pick up a course 16 significant other, thus ensuring that you will peer-pressured into doing homework in order to spend time with said significant other.)

  13. Paul says:

    …the alums come out of hiding? ^_^

  14. Taylor says:

    Ugh. Yes. I’ve loved every single one of Rilo Kiley’s albums, so I expected Under the Blacklight to be awesome. Unfortunately, it was not. (Tegan and Sara’s new ablum, The Con, however is a totally different story. You should all listen.)

    It’s awesome that you’re doing stuff. A perfect GPA is totally overrated. (Ha. This is actually subliminal messaging to my future self in college. I could completely see myself as someone who becomes far too obsessed with grades.)

    (Additionally, I am also a fan of parentheses.)

  15. PS says:

    Last year I had an “extracurricular” that really ate my first semester (and part of the second one). It was called Student Goverment.

    @Sam: Before going blind and listen Alive 2007 for ever, you should have go to a Daft Punk concert, and decide after that =P.

  16. Paul says:

    True. Sexy never left either.

    (It had to be said.)

  17. milena '11 says:

    Ah, Saturday night’s Mars Volta concert.

    Bleeping amazing, seriously, I am still blown away.

  18. Mollie says:

    The alums never left, and sexy never left, not that you have to say the second once you’ve said the first, of course.

  19. liberty says:

    Hi – reading this post has really made me think about MIT and the ‘pressure cooker’ learning environment there. I’ve heard that MIT has a high suicide rate. I never thought anything academic would lead one to entertain thoughts about suicide. That is definitely scary for prospective students.

    What I’m getting at is this: everyone says MIT is unbelievably difficult. So, how do students cope with the stress? By that I mean not doing other activities like UROP and student govt, but mentally. How do students mentally cope with the fact that they’re constantly studying and cooped up in their dorms?

    Thanks!

  20. Keri says:

    Liberty –

    Out of curiosity, why aren’t you counting doing other activities as a way of coping with stress? Some of the things I do – the radio show, running around taking pictures of everything – are precisely how I handle the environment at MIT. The activities students take up outside of their course loads (not counting UROPs, since those are often taken for credit and can really be considered extra classes) are how they deal with stress here; said activities are often time-consuming, but they’re also ways to keep your priorities in check and to unwind by getting involved in something for the sake of enjoyment.

    Theoretically, you’ll be “cooped up in your dorm studying” (or cooped up somewhere else; I almost never study in Senior House, since it’s hard for me to treat my living space like my working space) at any college you go to, since the decision to go to college comes with an acceptance of the fact that you’re going to have to spend a good amount of your time studying. Even so, I know very few people who are studying all of the time. That’s not to say people don’t work extremely hard here. I’ll use my friends and me as examples: when we all have a lot of work to do, we’ll go out somewhere where we can eat and hang out before or while getting stuff done. (Trident on Newbury Street, which has free Wi-Fi, is a popular choice.) We’ll sometimes spend hours sitting at tables in the corner studying for a final or completing a problem set, but so will students at many other colleges. The difficulty of the coursework here really only causes a lot of pressure if you let it; whether or not academics take over your life is up to you. It’s a matter of finding a balance that works well for you. (I’m sorry if I sound like I’m repeating myself. This really is the case, though.)

    As for the perceived high suicide rate at MIT, I’ll refer you to an entry Mollie made a couple of years ago. I looked up old articles on the subject, and most of them come to the same conclusion as this post did.

    I feel like this may not completely answer your question. If it doesn’t, feel free to tell me so or to email me at keri-lee (at) mit (dot) edu.

  21. Akshay says:

    I totally agree with you. I mean college isn’t about only studying but also about getting involved in the community. And this is the time when you can and should learn work/play balance. You took very good extracurriculars which is not possible for me but yes I would definitely like to do the UROP, learn some sport and some other things to add to my cart for extracurriculars.

    And the main thing is that you enjoy your time than letting yourself cut on things and feel terrible afterwards.

  22. I know what that’s like. You think it’d be better if you’re not busy, but you just get bored and end up doing things anyways. Keep up the good work!

  23. E. Rosser says:

    “You’ll never get my wisdom teeth! Neither of you!” lol, that made my day. That could seriously be a bumper sticker.
    But hear, hear–your post had a message as well as admonishments of dental professionals. College is so much more than classes, and the worst way to spend a college career is by ignoring what’s going on outside of the classroom. For example, I was considering joining the Corps of Cadets at V Tech, but after hearing some crazy stories about how they get up at 5AM, march through the drill grounds while everyone else has fun, dorm together, spend their sumemrs training together, etc., etc., I just thought, not even a college education is worth that. No thanks–life is enough of an assignment at the moment!
    And, DonaldGuy, I agree: senioritis is a bear.

  24. Having now entered senioritis mode major and having my midterms next week .. I too feel the existential school angst of is it all worth it? I don’t have quite the demotivation, since somehow, against the odds I am maintaining most of my commitments (our team went undefeated at our district quizbowl tournament/playoff, partially due to my efforts) and maintain most work…. still .. I know how you feel .. *tired* *angst*!

    Now back to work …

    ~Donald