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MIT student blogger Nisha D. '21

The Quest Continues by Nisha D. '21

and into the open world i go

Well, here we are. By the time you’re reading this – January 29th, 2021 at 5 pm EST, if I actually post this on time – I will no longer be an MIT student.

I wouldn’t consider myself graduated emotionally, but on paper, I will be. As far as I’m concerned though, I’ll only really be graduated from MIT the second I flip my brass rat around. We’ll see if the 2021s will actually get a graduation ceremony though.

It’s cliche, but it doesn’t really feel like it’s been 3.5 years since I entered MIT. Sometimes when I find myself not believing it, I go to Google Photos and scroll through all the photos I’ve taken since August 2017, just to convince myself that this hasn’t just been one long extended fever dream. And sometimes, even in spite of the photos, I’ll still wonder if it all actually happened.

But it did. When you’re not actively making new memories, as you normally do in the hubbub of real college life, you’ll sometimes just get random flashbacks to absolutely random things that have faded into the background of my college experience. A Monday night when my GRA would make waffles for our hall; a particular fencing meet; walking through empty halls at night; a cappella practice; a fun party; random dumb movies watched way too late at night. In the absence of doing these things, they seem to appear in flashes way more frequent than I was used to. And in the end, those weird, random moments doing weird, random stuff are the Polaroids that will fondly line the sides of my memory forever.

I won’t remember every day I spent at MIT – I don’t have memory that good – but I really wish I could, even the days that sucked. Those “picture a day” compilation things that I always thought were silly suddenly seem like a really good idea. But I’m happy with what I have, and I hope that the next part of my life will be comparably memorable. MIT set me on a path to achieving things that I never would have dreamed of, and I hope that every day that I struggled at MIT and felt that I didn’t belong will translate to a day in my life where I feel like I’m on top of the world, doing exactly what I love to do.

In my very first post, I set sidequests for myself to achieve over the course of college, and if you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that I did decent on most of them. But those sidequests aren’t really relevant to my life anymore, so I think it’s time to set some new ones.

These are things that I’ve been stewing on in the brief interim that I’ll have in between now and starting my *real* job.01 for now, i am a full time research assistant at the media lab, which is also a real job, but is emotionally sort of just a continuation of my urop They’re things that I’ve always wanted to do, but never could really find the time to do in college, nor really had the energy to. But unlike my previous sidequests, I’ll have a lot of time – and hopefully, a lot of joie de vivre – to complete these with. They’re things that I’d like to do in the next five to ten years – which seems like a very long time but probably won’t end up feeling that way. Besides, I do things slowly, and there are a lot of things I want to do.

  1. Write songs. I’ve been playing guitar somewhat informally for all of college, and also singing informally for all of college. Somehow, I have never managed to combine these two skillsets into actual, original content I feel like I would be okay at songwriting; I’ve always been good at improvising tunes, and I’m a fine writer. And I really, really want to put songs on Spotify and get data from the other side of things – as an artist, not just as a listener. That would be really satisfying. My friend is giving me his old audio interface, so when I finally move out to the Bay Area permanently, I hope to set up a little recording studio in my room and finally try my hand at this.
  2. Side projects…so many side projects. The biggest thing that a Course 6 education from MIT has given me is the ability to pick up on how to code things. I have never utilized this skill widely outside of my UROP, and I am really itching to finally have the time and energy to want to code random projects. I am dying to finally make something with the Spotify API, something I’ve been wanting to do since subscribing to the gospel of Spotify Premium.
  3. Apply to grad school? Jury’s still out on whether this will actually end up happening, but I do really crave the research expertise that a graduate degree would bring me. I enjoy research a lot; even though it sort of consumes my life and I probably should take a break from it, the day may come when I’m Stockholm syndromed right back in. I’m not sure exactly what I’d like to study, which is why I hesitated to apply this year, but I hope it’s something game related.
  4. Move to Seattle. My summer in Seattle was everything I could have wanted from adult life…except the fact that it was pandemic time, of course. I love the Pacific Northwest; the nature pulls at my heart in a very special way, and I’ve lived a decent amount of places in the world that have never even come close to making me feel similar. I am dying to return some day, and although it won’t be for a few years, I hope that it won’t be too long.
  5. TRAVEL. This is something that the pandemic has really dicked up for all of us. The post-college summer of traveling around the world was something I was really looking forward to…but it looks like I’ll have to save it for another time. I have a lot of places on my bucket list: hiking in Scandinavia, visiting all the Lord of the Rings setpieces in New Zealand, and roadtripping to every national park in the US are probably my top 3 goals right now. I’ve always wanted to go to every country in the world, and hopefully I’ll make some progress towards that in the next few years.
  6. Pick up an artistic hobby. I’ve always been bad at art. I’ve been told that you get better with practice, so I’m hoping that a hobby will finally hit home with me at some point. I’ve tried embroidering, sketching, and painting, but none of those really do it for me. Up next on the list to try is digital art. We’ll see how it turns out.
  7. Run a marathon. I’m pretty sure that if I can run a half marathon, I can probably run a marathon, but I want to actually do it just to say that I did. I’d love to run in the Boston Marathon some day; it was always such a huge deal for New Englanders growing up, and I’d like to be a part of it.
  8. Get better at fencing. Picking up fencing in college was truly the act of some god somewhere smiling down on me. I’ve wanted to fence since I was genuinely 8 years old, but never lived near any fencing clubs. What’s special about fencing is that even though I’m not very good at it – some function of my size, not ever wearing glasses while doing it, and not being experienced – I still LOVE it. This has never happened to me before, and I want to capitalize on that as much as I can. I would love to get good enough to just compete in local competitions – that’s really all I’m aiming for right now. I just want fencing to continue to be a sizeable part of my life, and that’s up to me to do.
  9. Get a tattoo. I literally have had the design drawn out and planned for three years now, and I’m still convinced that I want it, but I’m waiting until I have a lot of disposable income to spend at a really nice tattoo parlor. What is the tattoo of, you ask? It’s of the Buster Sword from Final Fantasy VII. Why even bother asking at this point.
  10. Read 1000 books. I don’t think I actually read more than a dozen books cover to college in an entire 3.5 years of college, and that is horrifying. Reading is a truly wonderful pastime that I have rekindled my love for after buying a Kindle and getting back on Goodreads recently. Having the time to read at the end of every day is a luxury that I hope to continue capitalizing on.
  11. Design a video game. Not a complicated one, just a simple one that speaks to me in some way. I’m finally good enough at Unity to do decently complicated things in it with relatively little effort, but have never actually had the initiative to design my own video game. Maybe I could use some of those digital art skills that I *really* hope I pick up for this purpose.
  12. Be a mentor to somebody. My mentors – older students, my graduate students, or my internship advisors – have carried me through all of the professional growth I’ve experienced in college. I would like to give back somehow, but I’m not really sure how yet. I guess I should probably get to a point where I feel qualified enough at what I’m doing to actually mentor somebody, which is a point that I have honestly never reached in any aspect of my life, but I’ll get there someday.
  13. Brush up on Japanese. In retrospect, testing out of all levels of Japanese as a freshman was the beginning of the decline in my Japanese skills. I consider reading books the bare minimum of what I want to continue being able to do with my Japanese on a regular basis, but this has become much more annoying now that I’ve forgotten a lot of the kanji. I want to keep in touch with it in some way, and I’ve already restarted my long forgotten flashcards with vigor.
  14. Enjoy life on the day to day. The pandemic has taught me that even the littlest moments with friends – hanging out at somebody’s house, going to a decrepit dive bar, even just going to a favorite restaurant together – are ones that should be treasured. I’m excited for the big things that I’ll do with my friends – attend weddings, travel around the world, and go to parties – but I hope that future me will just appreciate catching up with an old friend in the peaceful atmosphere of a familiar restaurant, with cheap yet extremely delicious food.
  15. MAIN QUEST: Find success and happiness in life through my love for video games. In retrospect, this was my main quest for college as well, and I did pretty god damn well on it, if I do say so myself. And right now, I’m happy with where I’m at – I wouldn’t say being a software engineer is my dream job or anything, but I’ll be in an industry that I care about, working with people with similar interests to myself, and living my best life surrounded by friends from college. But I hope that this path I’m on will keep stretching to greener and greener pastures, and that I can continue to say that I’m in the place that I am because, many years ago, I opened a tiny PSX emulator window on my chunky MacBook 2011 and fell deeply in love with the poorly pixelated world of Final Fantasy VII.

MIT was home, and today is just another small step I’ll take away from it. There’s still the rest of this semester working as an RA, and whatever graduation MIT will provide us with. But sometime in the summer, when I move out of Cambridge, I’ll look back one last time and finally turn the key on the box holding all my memories from this place. And then I’ll turn away, ready to find new adventures. And I hope that they’re just as amazing as the ones that I had here.

To all the friends that have been following along for the past few years: thank you. It truly would have been dangerous to go alone, and I never would have made it to the next part of my journey without you.

But for now, I’m heading off into the open world, and I hope that I’ll see you somewhere down the road.

  1. for now, i am a full time research assistant at the media lab, which is also a real job, but is emotionally sort of just a continuation of my urop back to text