A few years back, I began keeping a tab of life’s certainties. Admittedly, it feels as though there are few. Worse, certainties become uncertain when you hold them too close. Still, I add to the list. Markers of my experiences, however feeble they may be. When life feels uncertain and uncontrollable, I return to the list. I remind myself of what I know to be true.
Some truths are easy. For example, the addition of peanut butter to any meal qualifies it as a meal of substance. Sure, it might not be best to eat Oreos upon waking up for class. But if you slather peanut butter on them? That’s a well-rounded, nutritious breakfast. See? Easy. On the other hand, some truths are difficult. For example, MIT is hard. Unequivocally. That’s harder to stomach.
These are certain. Or at least they are what I know to be true.
Truths are formed from experience. They are tested. Modified. Removed. Fortified by the passage of time. Today, I am eighteen years old. I’ve been at MIT for a month. I don’t know a lot. My truths are bound to change.
But in the end, understanding what one believes to be true is the key to understanding at all.
So, in the spirit of introduction, here are some Things I Know to Be True at MIT:
- People Are Good. To some degree, this idea has been reduced to a platitude, but it is a certainty nonetheless. The people at MIT are reliable. Warm. Wise. Willing to explain. Forgive. Try again. Take chances. It’s true that you apply for the MIT degree and stay for the people.
- Lean Into Discomfort. There are so many ways to feel uncomfortable at MIT. You will get lost. You will get locked out. You will get caught in the rain. You will walk back to your room at 5AM. You will eat inedible food. You will fail. You’ll try again. You’ll fail again. You will feel incapable. These are inescapable truths. Especially at MIT. You will be alright. There is a way around or through anything. Lean into it.
- Inspiration is Everywhere. There is so much to be inspired by. Classes. Activities. Upperclassmen, in all their humility and warmth. The river. The city. But there’s more. There are conversations in the restroom, yelling over hand dryers. There are stories. There are shared fears. There are languages to keep up with, and cultures to learn. There is art and nature. Crime and poverty. Music and laughter. There is so much to see, to feel, to live in. To write about. To fix. To find inspiration in.
- Identity is Worth Fighting For. Who am I? I am an MIT student. But what does that mean? It’s no longer a differentiating factor. Where do I belong? Who do I want to be? Am I my teenage self? A prototype of who I will be? Somewhere in the middle? Right now, these questions feel impossible, but I know they are true. I am certain they are worth fighting for.
- The Answer Depends. This is a bit of a paradoxical certainty in that nothing is certain. There is no sure-fire way to exist at MIT. Ask a question, and the answer will be that it depends. It depends on how much you can handle. What you are interested in. Your preferences, if you have a grip on them in the first place. How much you are willing to walk. To spend. To think. To sleep. How much you are willing to defy, to argue, to ignore. MIT gives you very little guidance. Instead, it gives you insight. There’s no wrong way. I’ve declared that it is certain that it will be uncertain.
After all, MIT is a complex place. Often times, it takes years to understand what MIT truly is. The same goes for yourself. So, take these truths as they are. Go forward and discover, at MIT or elsewhere. Let your truth change.
Put peanut butter on everything.