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MIT blogger Sabrina M. '21

I’m Still Standing by Sabrina M. '21

after all this time at MIT

tl;dr I made a music video to commemorate graduation happening in a few days. I have spent many stressful, agonizing hours discovering that film making is one of the hardest things you can do, even when you’re just riffing off of someone else’s idea. But I hope you all enjoy it as much as I had fun01 when i wasn't, you know... incredibly stressed making this!

One night, in the middle of my time away from MIT, I watched Rocketman with two of my roommates. Out of seven people living in the house, only the three of us remained that night as everyone else went out of town for one reason or another. We sat together in our cozy living room, sipping homemade sangria that was filled with fresh fruit and was much, much stronger than any of us anticipated, and watched as a dramatized version of Elton John’s life unfolded on our shared TV.

I’d never known much about Elton John, except that he was old, he was gay, and that he made the song Tiny Dancer, which I could belt out and get close to 50% of the lyrics right. The movie was good and filled in the gaps of knowledge I was missing about his life, though I mostly remember singing along to songs I didn’t even realize I knew and admiring the outfits. The scene that really stuck with me was the last scene in the filmafter spiraling into a drug addiction and isolating himself, Taron Egerton as Elton John decides to turn his life around and go into rehab. He spends a lot of time worrying about his career and ability to make art, and wonders if he’ll ever be able to write the way he did before. Finally, the film closes with him coming up with I’m Still Standing, where it shows him singing defiantly in the group session before cutting to clips from the original video (with Taron Egerton superimposed into it).

After we finished the movie, a friend of ours came to the house right before her flight out of Boston. We blasted the song over and over again in the living room and shut the windows tightly so our neighbors couldn’t hear us and mistake our four person party for a 1AM rager. We cleared the coffee table so we could dance on it, jumping from couch to table to floor and back, singing our hearts out and feeling joy.

At that time, I was preparing to return to MIT, wrapping up my work at Nervous System and trying to mentally transition myself from worker to student. I wasn’t, and have never been, a male British pop sensation, but the words and the theme of this one scene and song really resonated with me that night as I went hoarse from yelling. I was afraid of what was to come—I was just beginning to pick up the pieces of my life, and I suddenly had to go back and finish what I had started. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be at MIT again, especially an MIT that had changed so much while I had been gone, and deep down a part of me truly feared that going back would finally kill me. 

That night, I didn’t envision bright hospital walls or sneakers without shoelaces. Instead, I imagined myself graduating, far off at the time but comforting nonetheless, and finally ending my chapter at MIT. After that, I listened to the song over and over again—on walks to and from work, at my desk while writing, and lying in bed like I was a character in a movie. I watched the original music video and on a whim pictured myself making one, too.

The more I listened the more I felt the lyrics deeply, and the more I watched the more I felt my desire to recreate it grow. It came to life in my head: myself in a cap and gown and silly little sunglasses, colorful dancers at iconic MIT locations, and every shot nailed down, frame by frame. I wrote the words I’d post with it in my head, an ever changing mental blog post that signified my goodbye from the Institute I’d called home for so long. The thought remained in the back of my head until that fall semester in 2019, when I took a film class that gave me the tools to make my vision a reality. 

It wasn’t until this past January when I began to seriously plan this project. I went through and watched the video probably a few hundred times, and made a list of every single scene in the roughly 3 minute music video. I tallied the dancers and tried to come up with a list of friends and acquaintances who could be swayed into filming with me. I bought props and a cap and gown02 no thanks to mit! using money I’d gotten from being a part of a vaccine trial03 thank you novavax . This was going to happen as surely as I was going to graduate.

Now, graduation is in just a few days. On Friday, I will officially be done with MIT.04 i flirted with the idea of staying for grad school for a while, but ultimately decided otherwise Today marks the end of what would’ve been our Senior Week. In the fall, I’ll be over at Harvard to start my Masters, close enough to this place but still very much apart. I feel relieved, and also nothing at all. Of course, the last year has been filled with incredibly atypical semesters, and with a virtual graduation this year, a lot of the normal fanfare is pretty much nonexistent. I feel both proud of myself for finishing and like I’ve been done ages ago. MIT has taken up more of my life than I ever planned, and in a few days, it’ll be over, just like that. Every sleepless night, tear shed, anxiety inducing exam, murals on my freshman year wall that only exist in my memory now, gone and in the past. My name will get read off of the screen, my parents will cheer for me in my Cambridge apartment, and my life will move on the way it has been moving on—continuously, and whether or not I am ready. At least I can say I’ve made it this far, after all this time.

So, here’s to singing “I’m still standing” softly to myself and loudly to a friend, to hating this fucking place and still somehow finding a kind of paradise, to starting new chapters, to Premiere Pro’s easy to use effects, to a DSLR camera’s ability to hold up through not one, but four unexpectedly rainy shoots, to Elton John for writing the song that got me through my last two years, and to Dominik,05 literally the best director a girl could ask for. for always knowing how to frame my shots and get a perfect zoom Hansa, Liora, Yanisa, Sarah, Robert, Brandon, Rodrigo, Elliot, Sienna, Alan, Amber,06 hello bloggers! Maya, Andy, Sam, Marlo, Sahana, Anne, Sam,07 different Sam! and anyone else who I have roped into my production, for their patience in learning 80s dance moves, standing in the rain to shoot even when I had nothing to offer but my company, and for being unafraid to be a fool in public with me.

It’s been a good run here. More than anything, I’m proud of myself for, well… still standing here today. And that’s the end of it. I’ll see you all on the other side of Cambridge.

  1. when i wasn't, you know... incredibly stressed back to text
  2. no thanks to mit! back to text
  3. thank you novavax back to text
  4. i flirted with the idea of staying for grad school for a while, but ultimately decided otherwise back to text
  5. literally the best director a girl could ask for. for always knowing how to frame my shots and get a perfect zoom back to text
  6. hello bloggers! back to text
  7. different Sam! back to text