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MIT blogger Rona W. '21

is everyone growing up without me? by Rona W. '23

we're only getting older

The other day, my friend sent me photos of herself trying on potential wedding dresses. She recently got engaged to her boyfriend on their third anniversary. I liked looking at the dresses, which were gorgeous, dreamy ball gowns. I liked thinking about her wedding, which is happening next autumn. But it also reminded me that she had met her fiancé months after I’d started dating my ex, Chris, who I was also together with for three years; we broke up this past January. Even though I’m still young in the grand scheme of things, it felt odd to see a couple that had met later than us get engaged already.

What happened to my Facebook feed? It feels like no time has passed since we were posting updates like “like my status for a truth is” and videos of ourselves upending a bucket of ice water over our heads. Now, in the past year, at least a dozen engagement and wedding announcements have appeared. Several of my middle school classmates are married now. An acquaintance gave birth several weeks ago. 

People are conquering professional milestones, too. Another middle school classmate who graduated early from college recently finished law school. One of my best friends from MIT finished his two-year fellowship in the United Kingdom and started medical school at Stanford. Sometimes I think this was a good life hack; by befriending people my age (which is easier for me to do than befriending older people), but then taking time away from college, I now have a network of people whom I connect well with on a personal level, but who are further along in their careers and thus can offer guidance. But sometimes I’ll see a Linkedin update about someone my age getting a new promotion, moving up in the world, and have a mini-crisis about what the hell I’m doing with my own life.

It’s my birthday today. Starting in 2019, I’ve always thrown a birthday party for myself, mostly because my birthday always falls at the start of the school year and it’s a good chance to see everybody before the semester begins to kick our asses. But this year, I wasn’t sure what I would do, because many of my closest friends from MIT are no longer in the area. Sam has graduated and is working in Wisconsin, Izzy has graduated and is working in California, Jude has graduated and is visiting Norway, Chris H. has graduated and is in graduate school in Georgia, Chris X. has graduated and is in graduate school in California, Tiffany has graduated and is working in New York, Gilbert dropped out and is working in New York, Michelle has graduated and is in graduate school in California, Steven has graduated and is in graduate school in California, Ivy has graduated and is in graduate school in Texas, Agni has graduated and is working in California . . . Listing all this out, I’m struck not so much by sadness or emptiness but by gratitude, that I had the luck to meet so many amazing people and that we are still friends, even if we don’t see each other on a regular basis. All my friends scattered to the winds, isn’t that what Lin-Manuel Miranda said? But I’m not sure that’s the best description, actually. It seems to suggest that my friends are stray leaves adrift in the breeze, caught by forces larger than themselves. To me, they feel more like rockets launching into the air, aiming at different patches of sky.

Sometimes, a friend will come back to Boston and ask to meet up. They usually want to know where I’m living now. My answer is always the same. I’ve lived in the same house since September 2018, barring for July 2019 when I was teaching in Jerusalem and March 2020 through September 2021 when the pandemic sank its fingers into the world. 

The planet has spun and spun and here I am, standing in the same place.

Yesterday, I saw an elderly couple dining al fresco at Starbucks, sparrows hopping around near their feet. I watched them watch the birds. It made me happy. 

I like small moments. I like sitting in Hayden Library as the raindrops race down the windows. I like debugging my code. I like sending the pleading-face emoji, the one with the big teary eyes. I like amusing myself with my own jokes. I like walking through the Infinite at three a.m., exhausted from finishing up an assignment. I like throwing snowballs indoors. I like everything that cannot be shared on social media, that does not count as a life accomplishment, yet is what has built the life I have.

From a poem by Yena Sharma Purmasir: I wish I invented something./Is it too late? I waited for my life and the bus drove on./The whole sky changed

Sometimes I get scared that the bus is long gone, but that’s not quite right, is it? I’m the one behind the wheel. I always have been.