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MIT student blogger twins Danny and Allan G. '20

Making Decisions by Danny and Allan G. '20

“I don’t know”

For this blog, we are going to try something new with format. Instead of writing in one collective voice, as we have done for our past blogs, we are going to… well, you’ll see.

Danny: “Now, I don’t know” is how the musical we’re currently listening to, Ghost Quartet, starts, and it’s also how most of our conversations for the past two weeks have started.

Allan: Wow, this is actually super apt. I literally just turned on Ghost Quartet because it’s the musical we are currently obsessing over, not even realizing that the first song is LITERALLY describing how we feel.

Danny: These “I dont know” conversations have been about both of our indecisiveness about dropping 6.042, Math for Computer Science.

Allan: So let’s start from the first time we began thinking about dropping the class — as soon as we got our results from exam 2. This was the exam we both did w o r s t on so far in our entire time here. Besides being a punch in the face, because of the fact that we spent ~12 hours studying during our long weekend, it was very nerve racking because we really wanted to pass this class.

Danny: At this point in the semester, we knew that we’d need to do well on the next two exams, final, and psets for us to pass the class. So I proposed the plan to stay in the class until we take the third exam. See how we do. And based on that, make a decision on whether we should stay in the class or not.

Allan: I was initially very opposed to this plan, because I thought that regardless of how we do on exam 3, exam 4 and the final (which are after drop date) could go really badly. So for a week before exam 3, we constantly argued about this.

Danny: My reasoning for wanting to take the third exam, despite knowing that it would be another 10+ hour pursuit, was just not wanting to make a rash decision. “I don’t know”, what if I end up really liking the material for the third exam, and doing so well that I’d be confident enough with my standing in the class that I’d be pretty sure that I’d pass. And if I do just as badly as I did on the second exam, I’d know that I’d be in a position where I probably wouldn’t be able to pass and should just drop it. I think Allan’s fear was that we’d do somewhere between really well and really badly on the third exam, in which case, our fate of passing or failing would greatly be determined by our fourth exam score and final, and hence we’d need to make a decision as opposed to having our decision be guided by a test grade.

Allan: And my fear is exactly what happened! We both did better on the third exam than on the second exam, but not nearly well enough to be confident that we’d definitely pass. Much frustration. “I don’t know;” this mindset where an exam grade will decide my fate is honestly kind of silly. Because I know that I would be a lot happier and be able to dedicate more time to the classes that I actually am enjoying if I drop this class. And because of the flexibility of my major, I can replace this class with any other course 6 class in a future semester!

Danny: I agree, but it’s so hard for me to take the easy way out. Why is it so difficult for me to allow myself to be happy? Why do I feel like if I’m not in some capacity struggling, I’m doing this whole college thing wrong?
I guess because challenging yourself is a pretty important thing to do. But I think there’s a fine line between challenging yourself and being miserable. Because of the stress and consistent lack of sleep I’d been getting, I got a cold from the first to third week of October, and then another cold from the end of October to now; I still have a cough. I think I might have crossed that line this semester.

Allan: I think that’s one of the bad things about the MIT environment. It seems like everyone is struggling to some degree, so you feel like if you aren’t, then you’re doing something wrong? But regardless, I agree that we did cross the line this semester. I’ve honestly been a proponent of choosing our current happiness this semester over anything else, and dropping the class sooner. But besides all this stress about passing exams, there are a couple more aspects of our discussions, which is neither of us even really like the material of the class.

Danny: This class covers material such as different types of proofs, predicate logic, infinite cardinality, and much more. A lot of people here really enjoy that kind of stuff. And I honestly thought I would too. Throughout my entire K-12 education, math was by far my favorite subject. I loved how concrete it was. There was always an answer. Doing a math problem felt like ice skating: smooth, crisp, and beautiful. But honestly, when I came to MIT, that changed. I generally liked my first math class here, 18.02 multivariable calculus, but it felt more like ice-skating on ice that had not been zambonied in a week. The concepts were much less concrete to me, took a lot longer for me to wrap my head around. But, eventually with enough office hours and studying, I felt like I got a grasp of it. 6.042 is the second math class I’m taking at MIT, and it’s a much different story. The ice rink melted, turned into mud, and my ice skates became tennis rackets. Every concept felt so vague and confusing. And regardless of how many TA’s explained it to me, and how many hours I would put into studying, I would never feel like I fully grasped a lot of the material.

Allan: Yes^^^ to everything Danny just said. Also, I LOL’ed at “my ice skates became tennis rackets” because of how accurately that describes how this material makes me feel. Anyways, I also had a very similar transition in my feelings about math (shocker!). In high school, I really liked learning about cool math things, either by studying for math competitions, or by watching a lot of math youtubers, like Vi Hart or Numberphile, or by taking extra math classes. I almost felt pride in having math be my favorite subject. I formed one aspect of my identity around it, essentially thinking of myself as “a-nerd-who-likes-learning-math-and-watches-cool-math-videos-and-goes-to-competitions”. But after coming here, that part of my identity started to change. After working countless hours a week, week after week, on math psets and trying to do the questions with the same enthusiasm I had in highschool, I noticed I was just not enjoying myself nearly as much. Pretty early on last year, I just realized I don’t love math anymore. I still really liked it, just not as much anymore to call it my “passion” or my “favorite subject” and definitely not enough to declare it as my major. Something that definitely changed was the difficulty level — MIT math is way harder than any math I ever did. And I also felt the gap in my abilities compared to my peers’ significantly increase from highschool to here, and that shock sucked. So it may sound like I loved math in highschool because it was easy and I was good at it, but I no longer do since it no longer is and I no longer am. But that’s not the case. I still found math really difficult in high school. And I was never the best at it in my school either. My interest in the subject, while maybe partially, was definitely never fully dependent on how good I was at it, not in general and not in comparison to others. With that said, I knew this shift was happening, but couldn’t figure out why. All I knew is people change all the time, and this is one of the ways that I’ve changed at MIT. So, for most of freshman year, I played around with being course 4 or 2 or 2A-4 because I knew I liked making things in highschool, and that interest didn’t seem to shift upon coming to MIT. But after taking classes in both 2 and 4, I realized I didn’t want to major in either, and declared the flexible joint major I’m still currently in.

Danny: I feel like this whole semester has been a very revelatory one, and the thoughts that have resulted from this semester are a culmination of thoughts that have been brewing for a few years. It all started when we first explored something we had always wanted to do during highschool but never got the opportunity to — animation. Over around a 2 week period, Allan and I made a 2-minute paper animation. Over our freshman fall, we joined animation club, but weren’t able to actually learn much, because of technical difficulties with downloading animation softwares and them being glitchy when we would be able to download them. But in spring semester, when we became involved in the Borderline Project, we learned that Photoshop has a very user friendly animation timeline. So we both made our first digital animations. And over the summer after freshman year, we made another animation, this time almost entirely digitally on Photoshop. And it was honestly sooooooo much fun. This time we spent close to 2 months working on it, multiple hours every day. This semester, we decided to take Animation 1 in MassArt. The absolutely stark contrast between our animation class which we both LOVE and 6.042 which we really don’t like really made it clear what makes us happy and what doesn’t. It’s really funny. The conversations we’ve had that start with “I dont know” about trying to decide whether to drop this class or not have ALWAYS lead to conversations about how we wish we would be able to do more animation and art and have that be a job. So we both do, in fact, now “know.” We’ve just took a while to figure it out.

Allan: Danny just articulated the whole reason in my shift of interest in the beginning of freshman year with math and my indecisiveness about my major at the end of freshman year. It was basically that I began to dip my toes in something that I knew I liked more than any of the majors I was considering.

Danny: So to wrap up, what’s our current plan and how are our academic studies helping us achieve our future goals of going into the animation industry? We’re going to take writing and storytelling classes through the CMS department and Animation classes at MassArt to figure out if we want to do more of a storyboarding/art-development/writing job. And we are going to work our way up to computer graphics for the course 6 part of our major to figure out if we want to do a more technical job in animation.

Allan: Wow this blog was kind of all over the place.

Danny: Well so are our actual conversations in real life.

Allan: True. Okay, I think your wrap up wasn’t “wrap up-py” enough. Let’s try a different one.

As we walked down the hallway to our room today, we heard our GRT say “hey guys! Want some chocolate pretzels?”

Danny: “Awwww yes! Thank you!”

And our GRT continued, “How are you guys doing? You guys look happier?”

Allan: “Yeah haha. We dropped a class.”

She immediately high fives us, and says “Good job guys! I’m proud of ya’ll.”

Danny: “Thank you for the positive affirmation.”

She then says, “You know you really just gotta put your health and well being above anything else.”

Allan: “Yeah you really do.”

Danny: Okay third time’s a charm… this is the last wrap up attempt (also really just wanted to insert some steven universe in here)

Allan: happy super duper belated halloween! (this is the definitely the wrap up-piest wrap up of them all)