I was sitting in Killian Court alone. The sun was sharp enough to require shade, so I moved from tree to tree as the clouds shifted. I watched professors walk by, canvas messenger bags at their hips, wrinkled button-downs. In the time intervals uninterrupted by traffic, the river was blinding. At this moment, you could’ve told me I was anywhere in the world, and I would’ve believed you. This place was not my own. I closed my eyes for a moment and leaned my head back. I opened them again. The tree canopies muddled the sky. It was the same sky I saw back home.
A mother and son exited the sidewalk and stepped onto the grass. They looked up at the dome. The inscriptions at its base. The ten pillars. The grass, the trees. The professors and their canvas messenger bags. The mother shifted a few feet back and carefully positioned her camera. The boy stood, arms extended, cradling the dome. The shutter clicked. They smiled. How could it seem so real to them? I closed my eyes again.
Don’t you understand? Don’t you know that the view from the bottom of the Lobby Ten steps is the same from the top? Don’t you know the building won’t change you? Don’t you know the sky is the same here? Don’t you see it? The base of my neck pressed against this tree?
I too thought I would’ve changed by now. I thought I would’ve been hardened entering the doors of Lobby Seven for the first time. Enlightened. Inspired. Perhaps more insightful. Or intelligent. Or determined. But it is just a crosswalk. And some stairs. And a heavy door. And a hallway. Not The Infinite. A normal-sized hallway. There are students. Each with a face I’ve seen before. Each with mannerisms of someone I’ve already known.
None of it felt real. There are hallways. And people. And chalkboards. For a month, I could’ve been anywhere. I could’ve still been in high school.
I remember talking to a friend in September. I asked her how MIT felt. For the first time, I didn’t see that glistening adoration in the eyes.
I don’t feel changed at all.
It’s such a strange thing. Looking out onto Main Campus. Two people. Eighteen years old. Thousands of miles from home. Unremarkable and unchanged.
A few more months have gone by, and I wish I could say I feel anew. What I know has changed. I know more physics. More chemistry. More math. How I look has changed. My uncut hair creeping down my neck. The expression of sleeplessness I’m coming to terms with.
But I am not inherently changed. MIT is a school. Not a reactor. Not a speedway to prestige or enlightenment. Turns out, I am still eighteen. I feel the same, and I’ve been keeping my eyes closed. Do I do it out of fear? Is the person in the reflection of MIT windows not who I want to see?
Is who I was before not good enough? Don’t I require change?
I think about that boy often. His awestruck expression. The glint of The Charles in the camera.
When he opens his eyes to face the window, I hope he sees himself. Fully. Taking peace in it all.