Today, Friday, April 17th, is the first day of Campus Preview Weekend: MIT's admitted students weekend 2020, except it isn’t. It’s the first day of CP*, a virtual answer to challenge of social distancing. Let me tell you: MIT’s dorms, student groups, departments, administration, and admissions office have worked tirelessly on this event. We’ve all done our best to pick of the pieces of a scattered MIT, glue then back together, and show you this amazing institution from a million different corners of the world. Personally, I think we’ve done a pretty bang-up job. We’ve got TONS of fun and interesting events filled with all kinds of MIT students in the line up! I think I can speak for the MIT community when I say this: I really hope we do right by all of you this weekend.
Tonight at 8 PM, we have an event called “Meet the Bloggers”. It’s a CPW staple, a truly iconic event. I missed it during my own CPW, so I have absolutely no clue how this event’s supposed to go, even in person. I’ve been looking forward to being a Blogger at the “Meet the Bloggers” event for months. The blogs meant everything to me as an MIT prefrosh; they made me feel like I had a place at MIT when I was convinced I could never fit in. I wanted to shake your hands, give you hugs, offer advice, joke around, and tell all of you, face to face, that if I can belong at MIT, so can you. I’m good at all of that! Over the years I’ve learned to embrace my sort-of-awkward communication style, and now I feel mostly at ease talking to strangers in-person. But now we have “Meet the Bloggers” CP*-style, and I’m absolutely terrified.
I’ve never been good at communicating virtually. As a little kid, calling a friend’s house to ask for a playdate filled me with unbearable dread. When I got into middle school, I remember crying to my mom because I felt like I couldn’t connect to my friends, even with my new smart phone. Receiving a text from anyone but my most trusted inner-circle made my stomach do flips, and don’t even mention trying to contact someone out-of-the-blue; the anxiety was so overwhelming that I would let hundreds of messages go unanswered. When high school hit, social media was the language every girl at my new school spoke… except for me. Other friend groups would talk about FaceTiming each other on school nights, or having a constant stream of group chat messages for sharing inside jokes or figuring out where they were getting together that weekend. I wanted to do those things so badly, but whenever I got the rare shot, I blew it. Talking to people virtually made sense to me about 10% of the time, and when it did it felt great! Keeping up with the chatter, the *gossip*, the funny pictures: It made me feel like I was normal. But that other 90% of the time? I spent it sitting in my room, heart beating out of my chest as I tried to figure out how to reach out to someone through the void of the internet. I wanted to be a part of this thing, this vibrant virtual world, more than anything, but I just couldn’t.
When I got into MIT, joining the Facebook page was an absolutely harrowing experience. I posted some truly cringy stuff a few times because how would I ever make friends in college if I didn’t meet people online before I got there!?! But even those two-sentence blurbs took me hours to compose. I couldn’t join the group chats, I could barely talk on the Slack. I didn’t know why –I’ve never known why– but it just wasn’t possible for me. I thought I was absolutely screwed: I would never fit in at MIT, I would never make friends, and I would never be a blogger, because bloggers have to be able to do all the things that I was completely useless at. Some friends offered to help me “fix my instagram so I could look cool to people”, but I could never go through with it. Pictures and captions? No. Way.
It took me a long time to truly accept three things: 1) my brain is just like this, for whatever reason, 2) I will have to do some virtual stuff that makes me nervous in order to function in the real world, and -most importantly- 3) It’s okay to be this way. I am not doomed to isolation and misery because of the way that I am. You know what? I came to MIT, I made the most amazing friends in the entire world, and I AM A BLOGGER. Even during social isolation in a global pandemic, I’m pushing myself little by little to stay connected to the friends I’m not living with. To my surprise, it’s a little easier than it used to be. Maybe it’s because I trust the people I’ve surrounded myself with more than ever.
If I was handed CP* as a pre-frosh, I would have been crushed. I would have been completely handicapped by an entirely virtual experience. Some of you might actually feel more comfortable online. Most of you probably wish there was an in-person CPW, but can still navigate CP* pretty easily. But some of you feel the exact same way that I do, and I’m so, so sorry that things have gone the way they have. The world is online for the time being, which means this is a pretty lonely time for you. I want you to know that someone understands, that you’re normal, and that whatever way you end up “doing CP*” is an okay way to “do CP*”. No matter the type or level of engagement you choose, MIT wants you. Hell, I want you so we can talk about how dumb Facebook is! And if you decide, despite it all, that MIT is the place for you, I will give you the biggest non-virtual hug when we’re finally both on campus (and it’s safe to do so).
But for now, we have virtual “Meet the Bloggers” today, and I’m still me. You know when you’re scared of a spider and then your mom or someone says “be nice, that spider is more scared of you than you are of it”? At 8 PM tonight, I am your spider. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also ridiculously excited to interact with the class of 2024. I’ve heard wonderful things about all of you, and I love meeting new people! I’m filled with a mix of anxiety and hype and soft-squishy feelings, a mix that probably isn’t too different from what a lot of you are feeling right now. And although I’ll probably be pacing around the house for a solid hour before the event, I have the upmost faith that we’ll be able to not only get through it together, but have a really fun time in the process. I just have to remind myself that you prefrosh are spiders, too, just like me.
So in the face of a world changing at break-neck speed, let’s do as much as we can to connect through the *web*, even if it’s really hard for some of us.
(Get it? Web? It’s a spider pun :D)
To the class of 2024: Happy CP*. Let’s make the most of it!
- Campus Preview Weekend: MIT's admitted students weekend back to text ↑