Whenever I try to think about the last year, it doesn’t feel real. In fact, I usually actively stop myself when I get on that train of thought, because it’s just so sad and generally emotionally taxing to think about everything my class has missed out on. A lot of things still aren’t the same as in the “before times,” of course. We wear masks in class, and because of the restriction on serving open food at club events, I’ve eaten an absurd amount of fruit snacks in the past month. Despite the covid precautions that do remain, though, this semester feels incredibly normal in comparison to the spring. And incredibly real, to the point where I’m just so happy to be here, to be going to class and seeing friends so freely.
I think that the biggest, and best, difference between this semester and last year is the constant casual social interactions. After spending over a year isolated in one way or another, it feels incredible to just… exist in spaces surrounded by people. I wrote something similar back in April, but in reality, last spring was just a very poor approximation of what in-person campus life is really like. I run into people constantly: walking through the infinite on my way to class, studying in Hayden library, getting lunch at the cafe in Stata. I couldn’t have imagined just how full MIT is. There’s people everywhere, there’s always something going on. I guess I had forgotten that this is what life is normally like.
Take, for example, Fridays. On Fridays I take it easy. I have one pset due in the morning for Probability and Random Variables and one due at 5 pm for Relativity I usually finish the math pset a day or two before it’s due, and I do the bulk of 8.033 on Thursday nights, so that I just have a couple pieces of problems to finish up on Friday morning. I wake up, make coffee, go to my 18.600 lecture, then to Intro to Algorithms recitation. After, I head over to Kresge, where I know there will be a group of my sisters in SK, my sorority sitting around a huge tupperware full of cookies or brownies or mini muffins – whatever the baking chairs had come up with this week for “skooks.” Since I don’t have any afternoon classes on Fridays, I spend a while at skooks, soaking up the sun, talking to people as they come and go, finishing up my physics pset. When I’m done, I print the pset out at the stud, walk over to the undergrad physics lounge on the third floor of I actually know building numbers now!! how incredible is that?? before this I genuinely don't think I'd used a stapler since march 2020 then hand it in to a real, physical mailbox. For the rest of the evening I’ll usually chill, or hang out with someone, or work on my Infinite spread, until the late night when I’ll go out with friends.
All of that was so unimaginable last year that sometimes I want to pinch myself to make sure it’s real. Even just going to class is an occasion. Something zoom classes could never replicate is the feeling of actually sitting next to someone in class and suffering through our confusion together. Plus, having a reason to leave my room every day and get dressed with care and effort does wonders for my mental health. I love clothing, and covid has been so difficult on that front. I can finally (!!!) wear all my funkiest fits for the whole world to see.
As seems to be the trend among bloggers these days, I moved to East Campus. I live in a single now, and yet, after the initial transition, I haven’t felt lonely. When I walk through the halls of EC, I always see people in lounges, in kitchens. The place feels so alive. I love my room, too. I have a sink, and a big closet, and a shelf full of books. I have a mirror on my ceiling, because this is EC, and big colorful rug underneath it. Three of my ceiling tiles are missing, and whenever I go on a zoom call, they feature prominently above my head. It’s a conversation starter. I’m excited to paint some murals on its white walls. I often have people over in my room, and we sit on the rug and stare up at the ceiling mirror while drinking tea or eating pie. It feels cozy, and warm, and normal.
In a lot of ways, though, this is all very weird. The last time my life had a rhythm at all similar to this, I was in high school. The last time it was fall and I was walking to my classes with coffee in the morning, I was applying to college. I lived in New York, I spent long hours in the Starbucks on 96th and Madison, and my mental health was, frankly, down in the dumps. Because of covid, I feel like I never got to properly close that chapter of my life. Yes, two years have passed. And yes, I’ve changed a lot and grown a lot in those two years. My freshman year did happen, even if it feels like a fever dream sometimes, and I had a lot of new and formative experiences. I am very much a different person from who I was in fall 2019, but sometimes it feels like at any moment I’m just going to wake up from a long dream and go back to that person hunched over a coffee and her college essays. Almost like I have unfinished business. And if that isn’t a good description for what the or as close to that as we're getting right now world feels like, I don’t know what is.
I don’t know how to process it, really. I don’t know how to grapple with the fact that I lost my freshman year, but not exactly; with the fact that my entire college experience will be shaped by covid, and that the pandemic isn’t actually ending any time soon. I have no answers. No choice but to move on, though. The best thing I can do is recognize that given the circumstances, I’m making do quite well, and faring much better than expected. For my own sanity, I’m choosing to focus on the present, and not think too hard about what came before or what will come later. I now have three more years to experience MIT in its full glory, with all its highest highs and lowest lows, and I won’t be taking any of it for granted.
- Probability and Random Variables back to text ↑
- Relativity back to text ↑
- Intro to Algorithms back to text ↑
- sisters in SK, my sorority back to text ↑
- I actually know building numbers now!! how incredible is that?? back to text ↑
- before this I genuinely don't think I'd used a stapler since march 2020 back to text ↑
- or as close to that as we're getting right now back to text ↑