Admittedly, I’m not the best at keeping up with people. I’m pretty introverted, and my social bandwidth is limited, even more so when it comes to virtual interactions. I can text one or two people regularly and be content, which is relatively okay pre-quarantine since it was balanced by daily face-to-face interactions in the hallways and classrooms. Obviously, this aspect of life has been stripped away owing to miss Rona. During the online spring semester, I regularly texted two people, and though I love them both dearly, I didn’t want to repeat this over the summer.
So, I made socializing a task I had to complete every day. I recognize that phrasing it this way makes it seem like a chore, but I needed a way to hold myself accountable. Setting it as a daily goal made it easy to see when I was becoming passive. Many times, I’ll feel too tired or socially drained to initiate conversations, but most, if not all, of the interactions I end up having brought so much joy to my day. Most days I ended up reaching out to people and texting them, and those conversations would span a few days. I also tried to schedule different video calls or online activities. This blog is a compilation of some of my favorite calls/interactions in the last few months. I struggled to find a way to categorize them, so the calls are categorized either by the technology used or the reason. In addition, I will only use the person’s first name’s initial to maintain privacy.
F: I found out about AskHole from Ankita’s blog. The first time I answered questions from AskHole was with fellow blogger Kathleen, and we had a blast. The questions range from “are you afraid of death?” to “if you could press a button that would instantly erase every single false belief you have, would you do it?” I reached out to another friend F because I thought she’d have interesting responses to those questions and that we would relate to some of our answers. And we did! I had such an interesting discussion with her, and we’re hoping to do it again sometime again this summer.
D: I watched Avatar: The Last Airbender with D on Netflix Party, a chrome extension that allows users to watch the same Netflix show with a chatroom. He grew up watching ATLA, so he knows what will happen. The show doesn’t have a really fast pace, so I felt comfortable texting in the chatroom while watching. I would try predicting what happens, and he would attempt to react as neutrally as possible as to not give away anything. We both share different thoughts and commentaries on the show, and it just makes watching this amazing show with another incredible person that much more fun.
D & A: I’m keeping the initials for consistency, but if you haven’t read my WISE blog, I interviewed Daymé and Asia about their time as a WISE attendee and Admissions Ambassador. I had a lot of fun talking to them and laughing with them as they recalled their WISE memories. It was really cool to learn more about the genesis of different friendships and how upperclassmen I now know have changed over the years. It was also a nice chance to catch up for a bit. I also interviewed three other people for another upcoming blog post, and I had such a great time talking to friends and alums about important experiences in their lives.
S: My mentor from my fellowship challenged me to reach out to someone in my cohort group and have a conversation. I was really hesitant to do it because this was totally out of my comfort zone, but I didn’t want to say no to her face, so I agreed. She gave me some names that I could reach out to, and S was one of them. I nervously texted her through Slack and honestly didn’t expect any response. But she did! She responded enthusiastically, and we set up a time for that weekend. I was so nervous about the call; I read her LinkedIn and brainstormed questions to ask in case there was an awkward silence. But the call couldn’t be further from awkward. Within the first fifteen minutes, we were talking about financial planning and goals out of nowhere. I think it was after talking about that topic that we exchanged the generic template of information about each other and our majors, colleges, and years. We ended up talking for two hours about hobbies, internships, LA, Ethiopia, black liberation, pan Africanism, governments, education, computer science, studying abroad, and so much more. I didn’t expect the conversation to flow so organically and cover as many topics. Pushing myself to do this gave me a lot of confidence to reach out to people I think are cool and just talk.
N: N was another person my mentor mentioned when she challenged me. She told me about him because I had mentioned to her my interests in altruism and Ethiopia. He is an alum of the fellowship and is also Ethiopian. I reached out to him on LinkedIn, and he immediately responded and we set up a time the next week. As I was before my call with S, I was really nervous but the conversation ended up being really great and insightful. We talked about startups, value-based activities, taking control of your time, quants, tithe, moving back to Ethiopia, and more. He knew some people at MIT that I knew as well. He gave me a lot of good advice, and I’m again happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone by reaching out to a random person and forming a meaningful connection.
K: Kathleen and I were planning on doing an embroidery project in the spring, but corona happened so we settled on FaceTime. We would call and essentially stitch ‘n bitch (check out Kathleen’s blog about this!). It’s really nice to have a companion in an activity I really love doing. In addition, we liked that we were making new memories. To clarify, I think it’s easy to make new memories on campus when you visit a new place or go to a restaurant whereas having a conversation is less of a distinctive memory if that makes sense. Doing an activity alongside the conversation adds a distinguishing element to the conversation and makes it more memorable. This is another small aspect of campus life I miss and try to recreate.
J: We had initially planned on calling during the zoom spring semester, but things got hectic on both our ends. When summer finally rolled around, I reached out again, and we set up a time to call and do art together as we caught up. I worked on my embroidery project while she painted and we talked about our spring semester struggles, summer plans, and internships.
The Bloggers: We have blogger meetings every other week, and it’s a fun way to see what people are working on and get to know what’s happening in each others’ lives. It’s also a nice space to talk about current events, MIT, why ATLA is amazing and every blogger especially Petey should watch it, and the world. Being on the same zoom call with many MIT students is as close to being on campus as I’ll get for a while now, so I’m enjoying the comfort while it lasts.
K: K and I went to the same high school and live in the same neighborhood though on opposite sides. One weekend we decided to meet at our neighborhood’s lake and catch up (safely, of course). We talked about our schools’ responses to COVID, extracurriculars, summer plans, and more. It was so refreshing to speak to a person outside of my immediate family face-to-face. I think a small part of me thought that the physical interactions that are currently impossible to virtualize such as shaking hands or hugging are the only things missing from virtual interactions. But as K and I talked and watched the sunset over the lake, I erased that thought. I miss coexisting in silence with other people.