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the last twenty days by Alan Z. '23, MEng '24

burning out before the semester even starts

One year ago, before sophomore year started, and before I became a blogger, I was REX01 REX stands for Residence EXploration, where we welcome first-years to the dorms around campus chair for Next House. This was a stressful time—along with a co-chair and a few other committee members, I had to design and run the first and only virtual REX at Next House, not to mention the UROP I was working on at the same time, or the summer camp I was running.

This year, I decided, would have to be easier. I had a twelve-week internship secured for the summer, and I was going to limit the number of external cycles I burnt doing other things. REX still needed to occur, though, so my “compromise” with myself was that I wouldn’t sit as the chair of the REX committee; I would only be a member of the committee, providing whatever support the chairs needed.

Unfortunately, I had made two miscalculations. First, I had forgotten that this REX would be the first in-person REX in two years, and it would be made available to both first- and second-years, meaning that the population attending had doubled. Second, I had scheduled my internship to end on August 27th, which would be the day before REX starts.

twenty days ago 

The last week of my internship was an interesting time. I was finalizing my project, working on providing additional documentation to provide a point from which people could continue the work. I worked from Monday, August 23rd, to Friday, August 28th; I gave a final presentation on Friday, and I generally felt okay at the end of the week. I couldn’t quite relax, though, because—

fifteen days ago

—REX started the following day, with our first event on the evening of Saturday, August 29th. I got up Saturday morning and started cleaning out the Next House conference room, which would serve as a war room for the rest of the week. 

Running REX was terrifying. With only seniors having previously run an in-person REX, events required a lot of labor and a lot of organization that we just did not have. The first event, in particular, was quite an experience; I remember organizing folks in the kitchen, trying to get as much spicy ramen cooked as possible, and I took a brief hop upstairs to check in with the people who were going to serve it. As I went upstairs, I saw waves and waves of people pouring into through the front doors, looking for ramen. 

Yet, despite this, we survived. REX lasted four days; on Sunday, we made liquid nitrogen ice cream, painted the partially-built castle in the courtyard, and made custom pizzas and Italian soda in the kitchen. On Monday, we had morning cartoons and midnight pancakes and karaoke. On Tuesday, we ran slightly lower-key events, with a medieval dance party and various wing02 Next House is divided into eight wings, which are living communities which each take up approximately half of a floor events.

Running and organizing all of these events was exhausting, even though I wasn’t in charge. It was extremely satisfying when we finished the last REX event, but even then, I couldn’t relax, because—

eleven days ago

Wednesday, September 1st, was the day of the Next House housing lottery. Some dorms at MIT find that their sub-communities are sufficiently different that, once new students have gotten acquainted with them, they might have a strong preference for a particular sub-community. These dorms run a second, in-house room assignment process, where students will move to a permanent assignment that better fits them. At Next and in many other dorms, barring some exceptions, all new students are required to participate in this process.

It turns out that assigning some two hundred students to new rooms is a fairly difficult process, and takes quite a bit of time and effort. The housing chair, the president, and I03 I am the vice president do around twelve hours of work each that day, and eventually we get everybody into a final assignment. People are tired, and people are stressed, but we get it done.

ten days ago

After the housing lottery, I finally got two days off, after working for ten days straight. This did not mean that I was completely unstressed during these times—on Thursday, for example, a storm blew in and, through a variety of mechanisms, set off two distinct fire alarms in Next House. I did get some time to do things solely for myself though, which was extremely enjoyable: I took a nine-mile walk to Riverside T station with a few Nexties on Thursday, I called home for almost two hours on Friday, and, for the most part, I did a lot of nothing.

eight days ago

On Saturday, September 4th, things got busy again. I attended Asymptones auditions from 9 AM to 6 PM, which was quite a long span of time. Sunday and Monday were less intense—just two hours of callbacks each day—but they still didn’t feel particularly like a break. I also got to spend some time with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, as they slowly returned to campus.

five days ago

Tuesday, September 7th, was a little more of a break—it was, formally, Registration Day, meaning that I got to sit down with my advisor for a while and talk about class selections, as well as that broad and nebulous concept called “the future.” I did still have a lot of random tasks to complete—I got a new laptop and I spent some time at a meeting with other bloggers—but I generally tried to relax again before classes actually started, which happened to be—

four days ago

—the next day. The first few days of classes are never very intense, but every day, I get back to Next and I just feel like I have nothing left in me. I get eight hours or more hours of sleep every day, mainly because I feel incapable of getting anything done once I get home. I attend some club meetings, and I punt my classwork along, since I still have a few days to work on it. I am functioning, but I am not thriving, and, since I generally try to keep on top of things at start of the semester, it is a bad sign for the rest of the term as well.


Yesterday, then, was my fourth break day out of the past twenty days. I did my best to not do anything too serious; I give a small tour to some people who are visiting, I meet everybody on my wing,04 and all of them are wonderful :) and I spend some time socializing with friends. I finish up formatting one blog, and write another two blogs now that I finally have time to put my ideas to the page.

I am still so, so tired.

Tomorrow, though, classes, continue—and so I will continue, as well.

  1. REX stands for Residence EXploration, where we welcome first-years to the dorms around campus back to text
  2. Next House is divided into eight wings, which are living communities which each take up approximately half of a floor back to text
  3. I am the vice president back to text
  4. and all of them are wonderful :) back to text