Even in classical mechanics, physics tells us about relativity, where things as seemingly objective as motion or time are influenced by how one observes one’s surroundings. Even if you’re circling the globe in a plane 20,000 feet in the air, you feel deceptively little motion; you’d only know it by looking out the window.
As long as you’re sitting, you’re stationary with respect to the plane. But it goes without saying that, relative to some fixed point on Earth, you’re all moving – and fast.
It’s all about the frame of reference that you use. When studying relative motion, you learn that any reference frame, with the right calculations and considerations, can get you the right answer. However, some definitely help more than others. If your work is getting frustrating, sometimes all you have to do is shift your point of view, and things will feel much better – even easier – than before.
With that in mind, I invite you to investigate where your frame of reference lies. No, put away the calculators and stop drawing free body diagrams; this is an exercise in introspection. No matter whether you were accepted, wait-listed, not admitted, or even if you’ve yet to apply, this will help you out.
Go back in time to your earliest memory. Set a reference frame there for now. What do you see? In one of my earliest memories, I’m climbing the steps to where I used to live and heading to the front door, but before I’m halfway there, I trip and skid my knee against the stairway’s coarse corners.
(Yeah, my earliest memories involve an embarrassing, toddler-y lack of coordination. Moving on.)
Now, go forward in time a little. As you go, collect your experiences, both positive and negative, and see what was constructive. Relive your memories, and see if you can tie your dreams to them. Do that, and then repeat that step. Do this a lot. As you go, notice how those dreams morphed; notice how your situation changed. Remember times in which you ran into adversity, and then notice the success you ran into thereafter.
Now, set one here, at this moment in time. Do you know how hard you’ve worked up until now? Do you know what you’ve seen, what you did, how far you’ve come, and how much you’ve grown as a result? If you were admitted, you might be thinking, “Yes, and it paid off.” If you weren’t, you might respond, “Well, what good was it for?” If you’re on the waitlist, you might not even know.
I’m here to challenge all three of those positions.
Being accepted, rejected, or waitlisted isn’t the end of anything but a phase, which will ultimately pale in comparison to what awaits. It’s not a time to grow complacent after being admitted somewhere, or to become disconsolate if you didn’t. It’s a time to speculate on what you’ll do next, and to continue dreaming big when you do.
Just remember: every one of you worked hard, and you were all exceptional at what you loved to do. That’s why you applied here, why you were seriously considered. You’ve touched the hearts and souls of more than one admissions officer here at MIT. If you can do that to just a handful of people, imagine what you can do for the world.
You’d know this much better than what I would. Your lives embody persistence, resilience, curiosity, boldness, and hard work. You’ve faced moments of uncertainty, and yet you’ve found great opportunities in them. You’ve met challenges, setbacks, and resistance, and in spite of that, you’ve still achieved in many ways. That’s why I suggested setting those reference frames: so that you’ll have them to remember the strength and worth of your diligence.
And it’ll show you that there’s still so much to be done.
That drive to achieve and make the most of any situation will always remain inside of all of you. Just ask your family, your friends, your peers, your mentors, your coaches, everyone who has helped you come this far. They’re all rooting for you, and believe it or not, I am, too.
So seize the future. Let this be the day where you set out to prove all of us right.