Do you know what “hosed” means?
Urban Dictionary defines it as, “impossibly busy with less time or resources to complete everything than available (as in trying to drink from a firehose). (context: MIT)”
I drank from the firehose this month.
This post is about that, and it has a happy ending. The past is a lesson learned.
I share it with you…
I can’t say for sure when the Plague started, but I remember clearly the day it overtook me. I could not do math. I failed to comprehend chemistry. I wrote my last blog post in a desperate attempt to preserve inspiration, and the next day I could do it no more.
Spurts of productivity came at unpredictable times in the evening. I’d immediately sit down to compose frantic emails to professors: “I have been ill for quite some time now, and it is incredibly difficult for me to complete my work.”
Then I’d solve a problem or two, and the fever again would conquer my body. From that point, a simple task or calculation could take two hours, most of those spent trying to focus on symbols when the body wanted only to escape to bed. I began to doubt the days of hazy exhaustion could end.
Then I got a 20% on my first MIT math exam. On the same day, both my math professors brought up the possibility of failure.
So I made an appointment at Student Support Services, the office responsible for advocating for the students’ academic success. I expected a bright solution. “Maybe it would be better if you took leave this semester,” the S^3 Dean suggested instead.
I was stunned. Every part of my body abhorred that idea. I could not, at the dawn of a new life, break down from a petty virus. I could do well on exams (luckily, I managed to take one before I got ill).
I could not leave MIT. Whatever the Plague was, I would fight against it to preserve a haven. I wanted desperately to return to “me,” to do PSets with friends again, and be a productive member of society.
Unable to support myself, I turned to others. Friends from the other side of campus dined with me daily. Neighbors brightened my day with witty and compassionate remarks, and my roommate crafted nine delightful paper pigs to cheer me up. I also spoke to my hall’s MedLink and Graduate Resident Tutor (both of whom were entirely awesome and helpful), who helped me discover and take advantage of MIT’s resources, which were plenty.
Suddenly, I was not a girl on a raft in the middle of the ocean. With people to keep me afloat, I knew exactly what I had to do to return to the welcoming shores. With the help of Ayida Mthembu, a wonderful Dean at Student Support Services, I successfully bargained for academic extensions and excuses. When working in the room got intolerable, I’d venture into the lounge to develop random and crazy ideas with the hall’s residents.
Most importantly, I reevaluated my life. I could not feasibly handle two jobs and four technical classes, even on Pass/No Record. Five weeks into the semester, I dropped both my math classes, and instead picked up the more straightforward 18.02 Calculus and 24.118 Paradox and Infinity, a philosophy class about cool math ideas (more on that later).
Instead of horror and regret, I felt overwhelming relief. My life was under control at last.
The Monday after, I woke up to something new. My eyelids were not burdened by sleep. The limbs did not hurt. MY MIND WAS CLEAR. I could work again!!!
Every day afterwards added signs of improvement. Soon, I was able to complete PSets on time and with a great appreciation for the material. To prevent further health failures, I made a point to exercise in the Z-Center gym daily(-ish). After sunset, I walked along the glistening Charles. I loved my classes, new and old. And I always left time to keep my support system strong.
Now I am finally caught up on work missed during the two weeks of dysfunction.
Sure, the deadlines still feel disastrous at times. But I love meeting them. With wonderful resources and a reduced workload, I have gained time and a peace of mind.
I am well now. Today is a happy beginning.