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MIT student blogger Phoebe C. '18

Short Thoughts by Phoebe C. '18

Girlhood, editing, iPhone notes.

I’ve spent the better part of a day trying to blog about my semester, but I can’t think of a pithy way to put everything together, so I wrote this instead. There’s frankly not too much to say because I’ve been struggling with bouts of illness for the past month or so. I’m not sure what’s wrong. I keep thinking I’ve recovered only to wake up with a sore throat or to find myself shivering in a heated room; I often go to sleep with a headache and wake up still with a headache. It’s the first time in my MIT experience that I’ve been sick for more than a few days. I’m tired. The last time I blogged about classes, I was enrolled in six; I have since dropped to four.

Besides that, there are a few things that have been on my mind.

Thing One

On Wednesday, I published an article about girlhood and math competitions–it’s under my full name, and it’s more personal than anything I’m usually willing to write. I’m linking to it here because I imagine that MIT Admissions attracts high-school girls who compete in math (and their peers); if you fit that bill (or not) or can relate to it and want to talk about your experiences and/or struggles, email me!

Thing Two

I wrote it on Odyssey, an online publication that recruits teams of writers at thousands of different universities. I’m editing for the MIT chapter. We’ve been live for only two weeks, but I’m pretty fond of some of the articles we’ve released: this one‘s about being first-generation at MIT, and this one‘s about being a student-athlete.

The job has been trying in the cases when I’ve had to edit work that is antithetical to my personal/political views. It makes me feel like I’m complicit in releasing work that I think is wrong, and it’s a little painful reading an article that I disagree with and thinking, “Some of these words are my words.” But I worry that expressing disagreement (even on a personal account) would make all future editorial decisions seem questionable; I’m also wary of involving myself in arguments on social media. I’m not sure yet what I think the correct course of action is.

Also: we’re recruiting, so if you’re going to be at MIT in the fall and are interested in writing things weekly over the summer/during the semester, email me or apply here (under “Local Opportunities,” with MIT as your school).

Thing Three

Classes ended yesterday, and I cleaned up the notes on my iPhone today–deleted a list of songs I discovered in Iceland, the Athena cluster code, the definition of the word “supplication,” my Hong Kong phone number.

I keep notes inconsistently (and almost never on my phone), but here are a few interesting items I’d forgotten about:

  1. “By the way, do you know the difference between the optimist and the pessimist? No? They both get it wrong, but the optimist is happier.”
    –Mme Christine Lagarde, at the Spring 2016 Compton Lecture
  2. “people who participate in fiction”
    –Shariann Lewitt, in 21W.755
  3. “writing code for the greatest processor ever”
    –Shariann Lewitt, in 21W.755 (She was referring to writing fiction; the processor is the brain. She encouraged us to leave out parts that the processor can take care of–for instance, dialogue does not need to be conversation, not word-for-word, because the reader can intuit and fill in the gaps.
  4. your sense of self will change substantially over your life because many things you thought were purely mental are actually based in physical structures
    Robert Shiller spoke at MIT in October; I don’t remember too much of his talk but I think it had to do with behavioral economics and his book Phishing for Phools and policy (?) (my memory is unreliable). Anyway, I think this quote refers to the idea that we do not exercise as much control over our thoughts as we imagine. I’m pretty sure he gave evidence of this.
    This is the poem “The Conditional” by Ada Limón.

I’m sitting in Starbucks now, shivering. I meant to leave a few minutes ago, but then they started playing a Fugees song, so I’m still here. I have one final on Monday, and then I’m done, and then I go home.