MIT Gothic by Lydia K. '14, MEng '16
You are reading an admissions blog post. You are reading tumblr.
I am doing end of semester things and also reading Hemingway in dramatic black and white. There is perhaps my favorite meme that has been going around tumblr and finally found its way into our corner: MIT Gothic. I think it paints a very concrete picture of life at MIT, especially around this time of the semester. The rest of this blog post is by MIT tumblr users of varying anonymity. I hope it gives you a sense of our dramatic lives and a break from your own.
(You are reading Hemingway. You are reading tumblr. You are reading an information theory textbook. You are reading tumblr. You are reading an admissions blog post. You are reading tumblr. You are reading tumblr. You are reading tumblr.)
- You lay down for a 15-minute nap, and wake up a day later. You’re still tired. You’re always tired. You slept all day. You haven’t slept in weeks.
- You arrive late to lecture. The chalkboard is already covered in equations. The desks are covered in equations. The walls are covered in equations. Your notebook is covered in equations. They don’t look familiar.
- You try to find your professor’s office in the Stata Center. You go up the elevator. You’re in the wrong tower. You return to the first floor and walk to the other tower. You’re still in the wrong tower. You walk down the stairs, and exit on the top floor. You don’t know how to get back down.
- You finish a problem set. There are two more to take its place. Each one has more problems than the last.
- You’re walking back from Boston across the Harvard Bridge. You look down and see the scrawled marker: “Halfway to Hell.” You turn and look back the way you came. Boston is miles away. This is much more than halfway.
- The administration has announced changes to the dining plans. The administration has announced new security procedures. The administration has announced that all GRTs will be replaced with ravenous bears. You write an opinion piece in The Tech to complain.
- You get your Brass Rat. You joke that you can drop out now. But you know it’s not true. You can’t leave. They won’t let you. You’re not sure who ‘they’ are, but you know you’re stuck here. Your friends can’t tell if you’re laughing or crying.
- You help take down a hack. It’s back the next morning. It wasn’t ready to leave yet.
- The poster on the bulletin board says ‘IHTFP.’ Every poster says ‘IHTFP.’ You find yourself whispering ‘IHTFP’ at random moments. You can’t remember what it stands for anymore, but still you whisper it. IHTFP.
- You ask your bio major friend for some help with taxonomy. They draw out a tree. Kingdom Animalia only has one line coming out of it: Pisces. One of the branches coming off that is Felidae. You copy it down.
- You tell the freshmen at the sailing pavilion that the river water is perfectly safe, but they must never disturb the mud of the riverbed. You tell them it’s because of residual pollution and chemicals in the mud.
- Your best friend is Course 6. All their friends are Course 6. Everyone you know is Course 6. You’re pretty sure your resume has a different number on it, but the only companies that will talk to you at Career Fair are software firms so maybe you’re wrong.
- The classmate you’re talking to says he’s a HASS major. You blink. There’s nobody there.
- You wake up to your alarm in bed and go to your first class. You take notes. Your second class is having an exam, and it seems to be going well. You sit back in your chair after problem 3 to stretch. You wake up to your alarm in bed. You have just crossed the boundary between sleeping and waking but you don’t know in which direction.
- Your professor makes a joke about “that place downriver from here”; you laugh because you know that nothing exists off campus.
- One of your friends says that the biometric for the Guest Indemnity changes every time they visit your dorm: last week it was a piece of hair, this time an ounce of blood. Neither of you decide to question why this is being collected.
- You keep getting cryptic emails from a mailing list, and no matter how hard you try you cannot seem to unsubscribe from it. You think that you’re on the list because of the Activities Fair back in Freshman year, but when you look up the group that the list is affiliated with you discover that the student group was disbanded in 1967.
- It is the end of term, and every posting space is filled with ads for various student performing groups—you hear that someone you know will be in two of them, so you look the shows up. They’re occuring at the same time.
- There is an email about Boba sales in your inbox, and every time you delete it a new one gets sent out.
- When asked about how much sleep you get from night to night, you shrug and say one to ten hours, muttering something about a scaling approximation.
- The windows of the Green Building flicker in your peripheral vision. You can’t tell if it was the lights turning off, or something falling from the roof.
- You drift asleep on Saferide. The same gaggle of Asian women in shiny dresses and heels gets on and off at each stop. There’s a solitary girl from Random in the back, leaning against the window. You hear someone throw up. The wheelchair contraption in the rear rattles loudly. You hear glass shatter. The lights of the Harvard Bridge roll past.
- Someone’s practicing with glowing poi in the courtyard. The rainy night turns the lights into a whirling blur of red and blue. The music sounds like a siren.
- The roof of the Stata Center leaks continually, even when it’s not raining. They use some of the water to flush the toilets. The rest spills down onto the sidewalks and into storm drains. You suspect the drains connect directly back to the roof.
- Your parents call. They’re driving into town. They want to take a photo in The Alchemist. There’s an endless line of parents and tourists waiting to take photos in The Alchemist. A convoy of Korean tour buses waits eternally along Mass Ave.
- A passing duck tour points out the buses. The Koreans wave back and take photos. The tourists are themselves attractions for other tourists.
- You swear the trees move around when you aren’t looking, especially the ones near the course 20 buildings.
- There’s a bike locked to a lamppost, surrounded by flowers. It’s painted white and seems to be melting into the ground. In the morning a Hubway station has sprouted in its place.
- There was a video showing the Great Dome opening up and swarms of drones flying out of it. That was CGI, right? Some nights you aren’t sure.
- There’s a scale model of Building 7 outside Steam Cafe. Somewhere inside it, there’s a scale model of you, and a scale model of the model. If the course 4 students have fractal armies of homunculi helping them, maybe they won’t have to work so hard.
- Some days, there’s a car in your reserved parking spot. A few times, it was a police car; once, an Airgas truck. Every once in a while, the spot just isn’t there at all. The other spaces are unchanged, but occupied by unfamiliar cars whose makes and models you don’t recognize. You sigh and pull around to another lot.
- Residential Life starts offering a new dining plan, in which you are paid money in exchange for agreeing to be dined on. Residential Life doesn’t specify what will be doing the dining. It does note that freshmen are tastiest, and will be paid the most.
- People rush past you in small knots, clutching phones and laptops and chattering excitedly about minute details of the hallways. You assume it’s a Mystery Hunt thing. It’s probably a Mystery Hunt thing.
- The SIPB office is out of staples, but it never runs out of staplers. Wanking spontaneously generates staplers, as well as useless cables and bottles of juice. SIPB sells the juice to ESP in exchange for fresh souls, which they keep in an applesauce jar.
- You look up an advanced course 8 class and discover that its units are listed as 20/4/-12. Past students have rated it as taking more than 168 hours a week. When you try to add it to your schedule, your Athena workstation crashes. You should probably be taking jlab instead.
- The class shows up on your registration anyway. It’s listed not as Listener, but as Taster. You do notice a distinct flavor in your Anna’s burrito that evening. You can’t really place it, but it makes you think of dark matter, or maybe quarks.
- A cluster printer is producing reams of color printouts, covered in patterns that hurt your eyes to look at. No one else is around. You thought Pharos was supposed to keep this kind of thing from happening, but the touchscreen tells you the print job is owned by Pharos itself. Later, when you leave, the printer’s trays are empty and its display shows PAPER JAM, but the pages are still coming out. They flutter to the floor in a heap.
- The Milk arrives on campus for orientation. All the other frosh take it in stride, because this must be what MIT is like, right? No one would say The Milk doesn’t belong.
- After an all-nighter on campus, you try to make your way home through the basements, but after a few wrong turns you no longer recognize where you are. The GetFit maps on the walls continue to appear every so often, but they’re marked with letters that aren’t from any alphabet you know. There’s a continuous slow breeze at your back, and it smells of cinnamon and ozone.
- You see a door labeled “DANGER: Keep Door Shut” standing propped open. It seems to compel you to walk through it. You emerge into a secret courtyard you didn’t know existed. It’s wonderful here, under the predawn sky, but you know you can’t stay.
- Under building 36 you come across a LARPer trapped in a temporal prison. His frozen mouth seems to be forming a word, but you can’t make it out. The next time you pass by, someone has carted the prison outside and tossed it into a dumpster.
- Dorm security has been upgraded and now requires a spectral identity holomatrix from all visitors, although no one can tell you where you might procure one. Despite the policies, deskworkers continue to let visitors in, but the process visibly wears them out, draining their vital energy, until they leave at the end of their shifts stooped and hobbling. A fragment of the self is required in payment for passage, and if the guest cannot provide it, an equivalent must be given by another.
- You go to TEAL and start working on a group problem. Lights flicker on and off in the classroom, and the table shakes. You have awoken Ba’al, the elder demon, by chanting in Greek while sitting in a circle of six. He leaves because he doesn’t want to be in 8.02 either.
- One of your friends replied to an email sent to eecs-jobs-announce looking for a “technical cofounder.” She returned from Harvard two weeks later, pale, drawn and silent with dark circles under their eyes. She doesn’t speak or smile anymore, but some nights when the moon is full you see her staggering down Amherst Ave to the Sloan School, whispering “diiiisruuupt” under her breath.
- You try to tell your friend about your terrible, terrible day, but all that comes out is a correctness proof of Dijkstra’s Algorithm. You try again. This time, you recite a uniqueness proof for a minimum spanning tree provided all edge weights are unique. A few days later, all your friends have forgotten you and all your dreams are of algorithms and invariants. You’re not even sure the proofs are correct.
- You go to your HASS class, and someone complains about the “soft” ideas and the lack of upstanding, reliable numbers under their breath. The professor, who has suffered this stoically for years, begins to weep. Her tears are acid. The floor begins to melt. You wish you hadn’t left your NaOH at home, but it’s too late now.
- As the semester has worn on, the lecture hall you return to each morning has become more and more empty. You ask the kid sitting in front of you where they’ve all gone. His eyes go round with fear. “They are dead to us now,” he chants, monotone. “We are all that remain.”