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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

just vibing by Shuli J. '22

tough times out here

One of the things that MIT teaches you really well (among many others) is the value of time. In high school I thought I was learning this lesson: I felt like there was never enough time to commute, do extracurriculars, get my homework done and still sleep at night. And it was true, but MIT is different. Here there’s not just too many things; there are many, many too many things. By several orders of magnitude, I cannot do everything I want to.01 The Toast once said 'For the first time I genuinely comprehend that there is not enough time to have all the lives I wanted.' and I really felt that.

And this teaches you how to manage your time, certainly, that crucial skill you can show off in a job interview; you know how to prioritize, triage, get stuff done. But it teaches you something else: how many things you never knew take time. You won’t be surprised to hear that writing an essay or studying for a midterm takes time; also hanging out with your friends, or cooking dinner — but you need time to do so much more than that. When all your time has been taken up already, you’ll be surprised to find that without time you, and by you I mean of course me, can’t enjoy music the way you used to. Can’t think about what you want to do with your life. Can’t consider your mistakes, and decide how you’ll try to improve and be better next time. Can’t walk quietly through a room in the early morning, think about how precious life is and feel grateful that you have it. Time is a currency that pays for so much, and at MIT, one day you may overspend, go broke, and finally understand.

It’s obvious that this is not an understanding that comes lightly. This understanding comes on the backs of painful nights, of the wrong side of IHTFP, of crying over work until it’s finally done, and then crying over what you missed while you were doing it. But I think it is a lesson that many of the people who get admitted to MIT would have had to learn anyway, at some point along the way: so many of us are so passionate, so excited, so driven. It’s too easy to give and give and give until you realize you’ve given yourself away. I think I’m grateful to have learned that here, and this early, and I hope I don’t forget it as I go.

This semester, I’ve experienced the flip side of this difficult coin. I spent my first two years learning that if you do too many things, you won’t have enough time to be alive. This year, I’m learning that if you’re spending a lot of time dealing with living, you won’t have enough time to do anything else. Same lesson, I guess, but it hits a little different.

That’s all that I’ve been up to in this blink-of-an-eye of time that has lasted forever: trying to live. Trying to not go crazy. Trying to cope. The psets aren’t what’s getting me this semester (and I’m very grateful to my past self for making the Registration Day choices that led to that). Instead, it’s trying to keep up with friends and care for family, to feel several different kinds of grief all at once, to pay even 10% attention in endless zoom classes and to not lose my shit for no reason all the time because frankly, that’s the season that we’re in.

I go on walks outside when the sun comes out. I hug my housemates. I go to therapy02 highly recommend for everyone !! you don't have to be Really In Trouble to get a little helping hand. plus *all* mit undergrads are covered for free and my therapist tells me to be nice to myself. I try to be nice to myself. And it works, mostly; and the days are lighter now and the sun is stronger, and it seems like things are only going to get better.

I’ve been doing some cool stuff that I hope to blog about soon: taking interesting classes, going on long walks, building furniture and teaching people to build furniture (!). Life is hard, but it has good things; and every day we take the small steps that we can, and enjoy what joy we can from the place where we find ourselves. That’s what I’m trying to do lately. I hope you can try it too.

A calm blue lake and a cloudless blue sky. Pine trees cover the horizon.

A serene view from my Middlesex Fells hike this past student holiday/long weekend (RIP spring break).

A rock sits inside the hollow of a fallen tree. The rock has a cute anthropomorphic avocado painted on it.

Happy avocado!!! Happy avocado loves you!

  1. The Toast once said 'For the first time I genuinely comprehend that there is not enough time to have all the lives I wanted.' and I really felt that. back to text
  2. highly recommend for everyone !! you don't have to be Really In Trouble to get a little helping hand. plus *all* mit undergrads are covered for free back to text