It’s been a hot second since I last blogged- about ten weeks, to be precise. There are all sorts of random reasons I could give for my disappearance, drawn from the same set of valid reasons I give to my friends or family for going three weeks before replying to a text. ‘School is crazy!’ is always a good one- an honest and unquestionable summation of what it means to be an MIT student. ‘My classes this past semester were brutal’- another frank excuse. I was taking discrete math and fundamentals of programming last semester which are known to both be consuming classes in their own right, and I was also taking solid-state chemistry in an effort to slowly chip away at my GIRs. My World Music class served as a welcome and wonderful escape from crunching code and wrapping my head around proofs-based math, and it culminated in a project where I got the chance to listen to lots of East African classics in line with my project theme which was the timeline of East African music in the past half-century or so.
This was the semester I realized how precarious it is to strike a balance between being a good student, a good friend, a good daughter, a good sister, a good aunt, a good cousin, a good house manager. I had to re-define what balance means for me; trying to get seven hours of sleep, eat at least two healthy, balanced meals daily, exercise, finish my assignments on time, study for tests and score decently in them, make my bed, do laundry, check up on my friends, fix things in my house promptly, study for interviews and apply to research positions, make it for my library shift, smile at every dog I walk past on the Infinite and call my parents is a tall order to do even in the space of a week. I was constantly overwhelmed, and yearning for the semester to be over even in its earliest stages. Eventually, I perfected the skill of prioritizing; knowing what was doable and what was not, and learning when it was time to ask for help on something I was stuck on. I’m glad I hung on to the end. After finals, surrounded by my friends who had held me up during the semester, and talking over our hopes and fears, I realized that I continually miss the forest for the trees. I spend so much time obsessed with my stress points on a daily basis that I sometimes forget to stop and appreciate where I am, and the curious mixture of delights and troubles that life hands me. Yes, academic pressure is real, but so is having friends-turned-family who set you back on your path and remind you who you are, what you’re set on doing.
This was also the semester of rejections! So many rejections, left, right and centre. It gets discouraging, being in a position to access these amazing opportunities then falling short a step away, especially when you’re not honest with yourself about why you’re so keen on those opportunities in the first place. You start to miss the forest for the trees, again. Imposter syndrome has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember, and added external rejection is like feeding fuel to this monster. Being in an environment where everyone around me is doing amazing things compounds this diminishing feeling where it looks like I’m doing too little, and I punish myself for it. This isn’t going to go away soon, and all I can do is keep going, and learn from positive critique to make myself better.
Being a sophomore is different, and not just academically. I didn’t even notice the winter creep in this time. I unconsciously transitioned into insulated jackets and furry boots from the light parkas and easy leggings of fall time in line with the changing weather, whereas as a freshman I was excited for every new day to come so I could point out to myself the new barren tree or the fresh coat of snow that had accumulated overnight. I walk easy in a hoodie in 45F weather, whereas freshman me would have been layered in cardigans and coats and scarves in similar temperatures. Acclimatization- the bittersweet process of fitting in but also falling into a state of normalcy where things aren’t as bright and shiny anymore, and I have to put extra effort to make magic happen when I want it to. I saw it in other areas, too- the waning of excitement about things that a year ago were incredibly captivating. Last year’s turkey was heavily featured on my Instagram story. This thanksgiving, I stared blankly at the poor turkey and passively bit into a piece without second thought.
Sophomore me is a minimalist. Last semester, I began practicing what I knew I should have been doing for a long time in the interest of my academics- picking and choosing what I really wanted to invest my energy and time in, and resisting the urge to fill my plate with every interesting activity that came my way. I left my acapella group partly for this reason, and I decided to let my writing be my one creative outlet. But even that became hard to do, maybe because I didn’t really have time to process my thoughts at all, let alone write them down.
So, I just wanted to put it out there that I’m still here, quiet, learning, recharging, garnering content. (Do I sound like Joe in this line?😂). I’m figuring stuff out, shifting my mindset from trying to sort the quickly changing facets of my life into neatly labelled drawers and shelves, to forging some stability and sense of surety of who and where I am, and what I am becoming. Wish me luck.