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MIT student blogger Phoebe C. '18

January Blues by Phoebe C. '18

living alone, daily grind, angsty music


  1. a feeling: walked home in 24-degree weather after spending 12 hours facing off with my own incompetence at work. ok computer was playing as it occurred to me that i have no friends in this city.
  2. a fragment: narratives as mnemonic devices
  3. a story: i spent last weekend eating photogenic desserts with a friend who thinks everything tastes sour and another friend whose chair is comfortable to sleep on.
  4. a fear: spending my life like i am this month, in a bubble of people who talk about money all the time, in a spotless glass enclosure that overlooks a city but is not quite part of the city
  5. a thought: my capacity to learn is infinitely more valuable than my existing skillset
  6. an action item: i am so, so bad at remembering finance terms–need to start taking notes. most are easy to intuit but difficult to remember and retrieve at the right times. right now i store pointers and not data–need to move to main memory (system 1).
  7. a work in progress: almost finished reading americanah. everyone in the book is a caricature and i love it.
  8. a question: “a year from now, how intact do you want your emotions to be?”–this is from a year ago, probably while contemplating the way that rationality is some people’s holy grail. emotions get in the way of reason but are the most powerful incentives, are what makes life worth living. also, what does it mean to be mentally healthy? at the lab where i UROPed this semester, i learned that people tend to overestimate themselves–unless they are clinically depressed. if you don’t assign any value to human pleasure, don’t you just become completely apathetic? i’m thinking of my brother, the most stubbornly rational person i know–but of course you can be rational and still choose to place value on emotion. the problem is that most people don’t know beforehand what they’re optimizing for/how to quantify all their choices, and there is a post hoc rationalization for pretty much anything. siiiigh. whatever. just live.
  9. a memory: mom talking at me about how the world is a constrained optimization problem (oh, my family) and me wondering, “what are the weights?”
  10. a final thought: keep walking past dead things like david bowie’s apartment and al jazeera america. keep finding out about suicides on facebook. shared tragedy is a powerful uniting force. the world keeps making its weight apparent.



My host is traveling this week–I’ve been living alone since Monday, struck by the mental pileup of inconsequential observations that comes with having no one to idly chat with. I talk to people on a daily basis at work, and I’m in regular contact with my friends, sending out dispatches about my job, the food I’ve tried, the biting cold–but I share my moments with no one. I’ll notice something about the room and discover there is no one to mention it to. Only then does it get lonely.



Work feels kind of like high school, in the sense that you show up early and on time, do your work for long hours, and hope to win the favor of the people around and above you. The internship is basically designed to be an extended job interview. I kind of appreciate that there are no frills, but I’m getting bored because I have a good grasp on my own project but not enough time left to make meaningful progress on anything bigger. For now, I guess it is nice to have created something that might actually be used in a meeting or a presentation. The work has been manageable and reasonably challenging but not particularly exciting or fulfilling; the best part is, I suppose, that my interest has been sufficiently piqued for me to want to learn more about investing. I’ll probably go to a bookstore and flip through some finance books this weekend, so that I can at the very least understand other people’s conversations. Like art history, finance uses lots of pretentious vocabulary to describe simple concepts. If this internship is improving me, it’s only because I am no longer intimidated.

I’m working at a big bank, so it’s very secure (read: insular). I miss free open-source software. The dress code makes me laugh at my own reflection. The pecking order is apparent–demeanor is strongly correlated with job security. As far as work environment goes, I appreciate the presence of both strats (people working mostly on code) and sales (chatty businesspeople) teams in the vicinity of where I sit. I’ve met a lot of interesting people but want to be none of them. There are other comments I could make, but my opinions are too premmature for the Internet.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the pace–I like that it is demanding (particularly for people who are not interns staying for a month) and there is never any shortage of work, but I dislike the way that information is often outdated after just a few hours and one cannot even hope to get to the bottom of anything. I get the impression that no one is really gaining any concrete knowledge–but man, are there a lot of charts and reports and analyses everywhere. The image of a hamster wheel, or a dog chasing its own tail, comes to mind.

These are not new concerns. I say, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t like it, but that’s not true and I don’t know what is.

I wanted to spend today reading but then I accidentally woke up in the afternoon, did someone else’s laundry, and wrote this blog post instead. Even when working, I feel like I am wasting time. I miss the manic energy of MIT, people creating things out of love and curiosity, the relative lack of bureaucracy. I miss the lucency of hopeful young people, living with others not already firmly rooted in their own families and routines, all these things I took for granted.

“Fitter Happier”

Daily Grind

7:45 am — wake up, put on makeup and a suit, eat yogurt

8:30 am — leave home, walk to PATH station, commute, walk to office

9:00 am — arrive at office, maybe talk to someone about what they are working on, start working on my project

1:00 pm — usually by this point i’ve completed something or have run into a technical difficulty and needed to call the help desk or have met with my supervisor about next steps. anyway, lunch at the cafeteria feat. a large coffee, brought back to the desk so i can eat and work at the same time, #productivity, halleujah

7:30 pm — leave office, usually after having met with supervisor a few more times. possibly after sitting in on meeting where i introduce myself and explain my project. more senior people have more meetings and take more calls.

after — traipse around new york city, decide to eat or shop somewhere–or that i don’t actually want to eat or shop. read novel while eating dinner, take the (most likely delayed) PATH back to jersey city, maybe skype or talk to a friend.

too late — sleep

The atmosphere is different from a lot of other internships because there is not really a cohesive intern program–there are quite a lot of us, but we all work in separate areas and rarely see each other, besides at networking events, and we take care of our own housing. It’s stringently corporate. On the other hand, a finance firm that advertises itself as “basically a tech company” is likely to have a more casual work environment and intern program.

Anyway. I hope you all are well.