First of all, I give you an excerpt from my personal blog, written way back in early September (yeah, remember that?)
Imagine you’re working on your first 18.02 pset.
Okay, say you’re me, and you’re working on your first 18.02 pset. And by “working,” I mean “staring blankly at the problems, quickly growing frustrated at the fact that none of it makes even a bit of sense, and throwing out various swear words every two and a half seconds.” You’ve always loved math, but you’re not exactly good at learning it – it takes forever and a day to understand everything, but once you do get it, you can fly through the problems with ease and dexterity. A fair amount of time in which you could slowly begin to understand everything, along with an excellent teacher, is what got you through AP Calc AB and BC.
A fair amount of time is definitely not what you have right now. Your excellent teacher is back home in sunny, hurricane-prone South Florida teaching L’Hopital’s Rule to confused high school juniors and seniors. You do, however, have a book that you’re returning to the Coop tomorrow (since you finally found a decently priced used copy on the Internet) and a stack of paper that is the approximate size and weight of a baby dolphin. The stack of paper is your course notes. They were written by your professor. You don’t understand a single thing in the notes or the book.
In short, you’re screwed. Ease and dexterity won’t be showing up anytime soon. Here. Have a collective emo tear.
But then your good friend Kris calls you. Behold, a godsend! Kris knows math! Kris can help you with 18.02!
So you skip off to Burton-Conner and attempt to learn 18.02 and do your pset. Kris gets what’s going on, but his explanations are making absolutely no sense to you. Perhaps he’s speaking in another language – Esperanto, maybe? Every time he says, “It’s so easy! Here, let me show you,” you want to say, “NO. YOU DON’T GET IT. I CAN’T LEARN MATH AND I’M STUPID AND MIT MADE A MISTAKE WITH ME IF I CAN’T EVEN UNDERSTAND A BASIC MATH CLASS HOW WILL I EVER END UP GRADUATING AND FORGET THE DOUBLE MAJOR I SHOULDN’T BE HERE DIE 18.02 DIE DIE DIE- ”
And you realize you’re ranting, so you shut up.
You sink to Kris’ floor and struggle some more. Before, you were on your bed in Senior Haus wrestling with an 18.02 pset, and now you’re on your friend’s floor in Burton-Conner fighting with the same pset. You’re more annoyed now than you were before, since whatever this work entails is obviously understandable to at least one person. This is in no way helpful, especially since there is now a human being in the area who could easily be hit by anything you may or may not throw in your many fits of frustration. So you decide to punt the thing – for now, at least. It’s eating your soul, and you’d prefer to keep at least a few remnants of said soul by the end of your first semester…
Five months ago, I began my first term at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I remember leaving my theater class terrified by the daunting number of papers due throughout the term, walking out of 5.112 and wondering whether or not I really was as chemistry-competent as I thought I would be, rushing out of the door after 18.02 recitation nearly crying because already I felt like an absolute idiot and hey, I thought that wasn’t supposed to happen until at least the middle of the first lecture, could someone clear that up for me here?
Cut to the day after my last final, the day before I flew home for the first time since August, the day I saw the 77% I’d earned on my 18.02 final and hey, I’d passed multivariable calculus. You can’t package and sell that feeling of accomplishment – you know, the one accompanied by a feeling of absolute relief, by a “look, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”
It’s hard to properly recall just how anything felt between September and December. Bringing up the excitement and apprehension from just before the start of term is simple. As for the post-final rush once I’d found out that I’d passed everything? Also easy – come on, I’m still riding on the adrenaline from that a month later! Woo hoo! I can survive MIT! There’s hope for me yet; years from now, maybe I won’t have to develop the ability to sustain sparkling conversations while holding dinner parties for my friends in the box I call home!
With the knowledge that I can in fact survive at MIT, why why why does looking at my spring term schedule terrify me so much? Since when does the prospect of taking my beloved 5.12 make me want to crawl in bed and hide? Why does learning about syntax and morphemes in 24.900 not seem like fun anymore? And just which sadist decided to taint the beauty of electricity and magnetism with the bane of my existence, multivariable calculus?
I guess it happens to all of us. I should hope so, at least; after all, I felt the same way before the start of nearly every year in high school.
Of course it’s all difficult. That, if nothing else, I definitely learned last term. But it can be done. It can even be done while having a life, while spending night after night singing and dancing and working on scenes, going shopping or out to dinner with friends, or even trying something new and figuring out just how all the pretty slidey things work and occasionally screwing up on the air.
So when the final blackout on the final night of the musical occurs, when you’re walking out of Trident on Newbury Street after having breakfast with your friends at 8 PM, when you flip the air line switch after your first radio show or you pass a class you really didn’t think you would, it is absolutely, absolutely worth it.
Bring it on, spring term. Bring it on.