I’ve been putting off writing. I have half-baked blogs with lists like books I’ve read this year, events I organized, art I made, and even longer lists of the books I want to read and the places I want to go, and things I want to build. I have more ideas than I have time to execute and I hate picking so I try to do everything and finish some things and not others so the perfect blog detailing everything I’ve done is never completed.
I’ve been putting off writing. It feels like once I’ve put pen to paper to publish I’m tied to the person I was or the beliefs I had when I wrote that. This is why for the most part my past blogs aren’t deeply personal though sometimes hints of my life find their way in. And if the past year has shown me anything, it is that I have changed. The idea of authority over my life gave me tearful breakdowns freshman year. Now, though I’m still unclear about my path ahead, I have peace in my confidence that I can and will figure it out. Despite my fears of losing community, I’ve been learning to let go of those I loved that have hurt me. And I’ve been putting my pride aside to acknowledge my faults where I’ve hurt the people I love. I’ve had to confront the parts of myself that I want to leave behind me, and though those moments are ugly, they have been the most significant. And I’m not sure if I should share it with the public.
I’ve been putting off writing. This was meant to be at least three blogs. The classes I took fall and spring as two blogs to be published at the end of the respective semesters, the programs I did over IAP to be published at the end of IAP, a blog on how I’m not graduating this year to be published the day of graduation, and maybe one or two process blogs on a few things I’ve made. I had a plan for how and when I’d finish writing. The perfectionist in me wants to abandon it all. Why write about something that happened months ago? A ridiculous question to everyone but those with an all-or-nothing mindset. But this too, perfectionism, is something I’m trying to shed. I’ve done the first step of identifying the problem, so this blog is me reducing the points of resistance like worrying about the publishing window or length. So here it is, an amalgamation of little posts, something over nothing.
Fall 2021 Classes
- 4.053: Visual Communication Fundamentals
When I signed up for this class, courseroad marked it as virtual, which helped push me past my hesitations about a 9 AM class (I am NOT a morning girlie despite my efforts). Come lecture day though, I learned that only the recitations, held Thursdays from 7-10 pm, were virtual while the lectures were not only in the morning but in the old MIT museum, an almost 25-minute walk from my dorm. I was a mess Tuesday mornings, but I’m glad I committed to the class. I learned a lot about graphic design, specifically typography, grid systems, and iteration. It opened my eyes to creative places to tap into for inspiration, and I became a lot more comfortable with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
- 6.070: Electronics Project Laboratory
I’ve always felt a gap in my computer science knowledge regarding the electrical engineering side of course 6. 6-9 doesn’t require any hardware classes, but I decided to take this course that covered the basics of circuitry. Honestly, the content was challenging for me even though the class was a half-unit course primarily for freshmen. I think I’m more of a bottom-up learner that tries to get to the root of the lesson and build up. But with topics like electricity, current, or voltage, I’ve found that the definitions are either circular or analogy-based which leaves me without a concrete understanding. I had to learn to put that desire aside and focus on the more hands-on aspects like wiring up breadboards each class. At the very least, this repetition helped me become more comfortable with looking at drawn circuits and translating to the breadboard. And the information I learned in this class become useful in my other classes in both the fall and spring.
- 9.72: Vision in Art and Neuroscience
This is by far one of my favorite classes. The tagline of the course was ~perceiving perception~. The course was a critical investigation on the role of vision on a neural, computational, and artistic level. We discussed color, depth perception, visual processing, motion perception, and so much more. I have so many takeaways from this course but one of the main epiphanies is viewing experience as the object which has given me a new perspective on art and life. Watch the video below for a great profile of the course!
- 21W.755: Writng & Reading Short Stories
The syllabus for this class was suspiciously chill. The professor told us that we weren’t required to share our work with him. In fact, he didn’t have any writing assignments besides short readings before class, and sending him an email with questions once during the semester. At first, I thought it was a gimmick or that he was just trying too hard to be a ~cool~ professor. Surprisingly, he kept his word, and even more surprising was seeing how even without strict rules and deadlines the class had purpose and structure. I grew to appreciate the trust the professor had for students to find their own motivations while also being a source of help should the need arise. I was hoping to take this class again the next semester, but we learned towards the end of the semester that this was his last term teaching, so I’m glad I happened to catch the last time I could take this class with him.
- 21W.771: Advanced Poetry Workshop
This was actually the second time I took this class. I grew a lot as a poet and writer the first time I took it and wanted to continue that in the fall. Though the class structure remains the same, write a new poem for weekly workshops, the experience of this class is shaped entirely by your fellow classmates. I’m fortunate to have been surrounded by people with different perspectives and styles who have inspired and challenged me both times I took this class. We also read a couple of poetry collections and one book–Obit by Victoria Chang–immediately became one of my favorites. The book is an exploration of grief and is written in the form of a newspaper obituary. It’s inventive, moving, full of life and death. You must read it.
I’m not graduating this year
When I was courseroading junior year, I realized that I had frontloaded most of my humanities classes and had a lot of my technical courses remaining. On paper, it was doable; I would take three technicals and one humanities course. Realistically, all semesters where I had taken more than two technicals I struggled to balance my work, and I’d either drop a class or have it marked as incomplete. We were also almost a year into the pandemic, and frankly, I was bitter that I had lost a year of college to virtual schooling. I knew people who were able to live together with their friends through the pandemic, and I felt so stagnant in comparison.
I knew upperclassmen who had taken an extra semester or more, and after speaking with a few, the idea of taking an additional semester or two started to seem like a reality. I spoke with my S3 dean, and she encouraged me to pursue it. Even my parents, who I thought would be against the idea, were supportive. I finally spoke with my financial aid officer, and she told me I had a good case.
I definitely made the right decision for myself. I have the time to take some cool elective classes while completing my major at a rate that best suits me. I’ve developed many new friendships that I want to nurture before we go our separate ways after MIT. I’ve become more involved in various organizations at MIT. Still, I had many mixed feelings seeing my original class walk the stage at graduation. Shame that I wasn’t graduating ‘on time’. Sadness that many of my friends are leaving with no guarantee I’ll ever see them again. Happiness to see the most deserving people cross the finish line. Doubt that I made the right decision.
It’s been over a month since graduation, and I’ve calmed down. I’ve been asking our new alums their plans for maintaining friendships or community so I can inform my own. I’m surprised to report that many don’t have any. It’s inspired me to spend the last year wisely and intentionally to both develop long-lasting relationships as well as enjoy the ones I have for this season in my life. I want to spend the next year doing the things I wanted to do coming into MIT and told myself I couldn’t. More than anything I feel grateful that I have an additional chance to make the most out of MIT.
I heavily underestimated my commitments this IAP. I was one of six MIT students participating in the MITandFIT program, an advanced fibers and fabrics two-week-long workshop. I also received a BCAP grant to work on a zine that features local POC-owned restaurants. My plan was as follows: the first two weeks of IAP I would spend the mornings and afternoons attending the MITandFIT workshops and the evenings taking photos of the food of the restaurants. Then the last two weeks of IAP would be spent editing photos and compiling the zine.
Little did I know the intensity of the workshop. The program is a collaborative effort that brings six students from MIT and six from FIT to work on interdisciplinary projects that incorporate design, tech, and fashion. We had lectures and workshops in the mornings through the afternoon and office hours in the evenings where we were expected to make progress on our project every day. My team and I would finish meetings past midnight and have presentations on our updates at 10 am the next day. It was like a two-week-long hackathon with an unbelievable amount of information squeezed in. I learned about fashion forecasting, textile properties, knitting and weaving techniques, conductive embroidery, 3D modeling, sensors, wearable tech, and SO much more. It opened a whole new world of what I can pursue as a career or interest.
So, for the first two weeks of IAP, my waking hours were almost entirely taken up by this program and I didn’t work on my zine. I was panic-calling restaurants entering the third week of IAP and had thankfully taken pictures of all the restaurants by the end of IAP. But that was only the beginning of the work; I still had to go through the photos, edit them, go through the interviews, compile the photos and text into a zine, and publish it. I enlisted the help of one of my friends for the layout and graphic design of the zine. But at this point, the spring semester had started, and after a few weeks, I struggled with balancing my coursework, club commitments, and this project. I decided to complete it over the summer and publish it in the fall.
Besides these two programs, one of the few memorable things I did was watch Euphoria with friends in my living group. We finished the first season in time for the release of the second and continued our weekly routine of dramatically reacting to each scene of every episode through the spring semester. Though season two doesn’t hold a candle to the first, I just loved taking a break and coming together every week.
Moments of creativity
My most important takeaway from the virtual semesters was that I am happiest when I’m releasing my creative energy in some way alongside working on classes. So my senior year I made a conscious effort to incorporate that at different levels. I took classes such as 9.72 and 3.173 where I had the chance to work on hands-on projects in art and textiles, 21W.755 and 21W.771 where I wrote poetry and prose, and 4.032 and 4.053 where I learned more about graphic and information design.
I sought out creative endeavors in student organizations. I volunteered to host creative events such as a jewelry-making workshop and a fashion show for a banquet for the Black Women’s Alliance. I worked on multiple spreads for Infinite Magazine.
Finally, I tried to be artistic in how I expressed myself through my clothes or makeup if not every day then at least on special occasions. I tried new things with my hair. I sewed my dress for senior ball. I started going thrifting more frequently.
Spring 2022 Classes
- 3.173: Computing Fabrics
When someone I knew told me about this class they were taking, I immediately dropped one class and replaced it with 3.173. The class was so enlightening in terms of the possibilities of integrating tech with fabrics. We learned how to use a knitting bed as well as various weaving techniques. We explored capacitive sensing and different ways to integrate wires into the fabric. And I got more practice with Arduino! A part of me is mad that I found out about the fashion and tech space at MIT so late in my time at MIT, but I’m at least grateful that I did. Like 9.72, the MIT News Office also did a profile of the class; take a look at all the cool things we did in class!
- 6.819: Advances in Computer Vision
26-100 is one of MIT’s biggest lecture halls, and I had never seen it packed to the brim as it was during the first lecture of the class. Admittedly, after the first few weeks, I stopped consistently attending lectures and just worked on the psets, so I don’t have as much to say about the experience of the class.
- 8.02: Physics II
I put off taking 8.02 for the longest time because I failed 8.01 my freshman year and had a lot of fears about that. But taking 8.02 in the spring really proved to me how much I had grown as a student in terms of predicting where I would struggle and asking for help. And I found the content a lot more interesting than 8.01. The most important difference though was Mohammed and his legendary reviews. God Himself must have breathed the gift of teaching into his soul because I have never had any teacher explain concepts so clearly and succinctly. I grasped weeks of content within three hours. If it weren’t for him and his reviews, I would’ve failed 8.02 without a doubt.
- 4.032: Design: Info and Visualization
I’ve always been interested in data visualizations, and the class was a great introduction to it. I got a lot of exposure to p5.js and processing, a graphical library for electronic art, design, and more. Everyone in the class came from different backgrounds and varying skill sets, so even just watching the different projects students worked on was informative. The assignments were simple and specific but with so much room for creativity, such as making a clock or a weather app. It encouraged me to look at the objects I interact with every day and reimagine them.
I’m working remotely as a developer living in NYC this summer. I’m not in concrete-jungle Manhattan; my block won the greenest block in Brooklyn a few years ago, and I see my landlady hard at work gardening every day to win again this year. I didn’t expect calm in NYC. Most days I’m coding at my desk in this tranquil quiet interrupted by the welcome sounds of rustling trees or cars blasting dancehall music. There are at least two beauty supply stores and even more Caribbean restaurants on my street. Being around people who look like me makes me feel like I’m back home. Weekends in Manhattan are a refreshing change of pace. Everything feels faster; people, time, subway. Something is always moving at any point in your periphery. It’s exciting and exhilarating, feels like a coming-of-age movie (though I’m always happy to return to the stillness of my apartment at the end of the night).
The best and worst part of NYC is that there’s always something to do, somewhere to be, someone to see. It hasn’t helped that I ended up on the side of TikTok that shares (what’s probably only a fraction of) exhibit openings, pop-up markets, and the best brunch spots every weekend. Decision paralysis is real. And sometimes I just want to read a book or paint or sew. If there are a thousand alternate worlds where I spend a summer in NYC in a thousand different ways, I’m sure all versions of me would still be left wishing I’d done more. But I’m learning to accept that what will need to get done or be seen or be experienced will happen. That is what I’m doing this summer: finding peace.