Here’s how things have been going lately: I run a lot, I eat too much free pizza, and I’ve spent three of the past seven evenings at Harvard. My friend taught me how to lift weights, and my extracurricular commitments are taking shape. My new room has thin yellow curtains and at least three different paint jobs. Today, I put sunflowers on the windowsill, and now it feels a little more like home.
I’m a sophomore and a new blogger; this post is an introduction. I’m coming off the levity of the best summer I’ve ever had, so I’ll tell you a little bit about it.
On my last night in Hong Kong, I leaned over the balcony in the common room and watched reflected light dance in the ocean. I was trying to catch the Perseids. In the end, I didn’t see a single meteor and ended up crying a little about leaving. Let’s say that my summer was very hedonistic and I liked it too much. Let’s say that Hong Kong is a city dipped in glossy excess and I couldn’t help myself. Hong Kong is home to both the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant and the highest rooftop bar in the world. Subway stations connect to malls, each of which seems to connect to five more. My dorm room faced the ocean, with distant green mountains splitting the sky in half. Everyone on the streets looks powerful under the white lights of Chanel stores.
With four other MIT students, I lived eight weeks on a Hong Kong university campus for MIT’s IROP research exchange program; I compared the impact on US peanut butter sales of two Salmonella contaminations, one in 2007 and one in 2009. It was about as exciting as it sounds, which is to say, not very. A whole slew of factors beyond my control thwarted my progress, but I’m trying not to talk about it too much. So that was that.
Summertime ’06 by Vince Staples has been my background music of choice since its release this summer—it is two discs of aggressively honest, sobering rap verses. My two favorite lines from the album are
- “Man, I need to fight the power, but I need that new Ferrari”
- “My feelings told me love is real, but feelings known to get you killed”
The word “but” really makes a sentence turn.
The lyrics have a lot to do with gang-banging on Long Beach and dealing drugs and being black in America and other lives that are not my own; they also have a lot to do with feelings and selling out, two things that challenge me constantly.
The part about selling out: I’ve spent literally one week back on campus, and I’m already stressed about finding an internship for next summer. Shaking all these recruiters’ hands makes me feel objectionably pre-professional. I’m uneasy because I said I’d never do finance—or really anything other than research—and now I want to dip my toe (or maybe my head or my entire self) into it. Part of me just wants something faster-paced than research to stay sharp, but part of me needs to prove it can do interviews and compete with other ambitious people and have nice things in the future. It’s pretty harmless, but it feels somehow morally wrong to do something that’s more about enjoying myself while confused than about doing valuable work while passionate, but it’ll probably be fine. It’s just one summer, after all.
Despite my qualms about the future, I’m very content with where I am right now; this year looks like pure potential. My classes seem manageable and interesting (but of course it’s only week 1). I haven’t faced off with any hard existential questions lately, which means I’ve been relatively good at distracting myself with satisfying choices. I’m just trying to make myself stronger, to get better at thinking and smiling and carrying the weight of this school.
In the week I’ve been back at MIT, I’ve been trying quite a lot of new things, and I thought I’d make a list of some of the cool places I’ve been.
Some places I’ve been this past week
A vintage/open air market near Broadway station on the red line, open on Sundays May through October. The ambiance is very cozy, and it’s a lot of fun to browse if you’re into vintage/handmade things, though many of the handmade items were beyond the reach of my budget. The farmer’s market is pretty limited. The food trucks have tasty albeit overpriced food. I went with some people from my hall this past Sunday and will definitely return for more.
Popular/yummy/crowded Chinese place near Harvard. The soup dumplings were delicious.
If you, like me, have a penchant for thrift shopping, this is the place to be. You may have heard of Garment District, Goodwill, and Buffalo Exchange, but Boomerangs has a better selection than Goodwill, has higher-quality clothes than Garment District, and is closer than Buffalo Exchange.
Charles River Esplanade
My good friend visited MIT because his semester hasn’t started yet. He lived in Boston for a semester, and he showed me a great tree on the Esplanade. I could sit there forever.
Rush has been going on this past week, so fraternities and ILGs are holding dinners, parties, and other events in an effort to attract new members. Last year, I went to a few of the steak and lobster dinners, but this year I followed some friends to tEp, a fraternity that behaves more like an ILG. We went to the Food Orgy event, which is a party full of food—with one rule: you can’t feed yourself. The grapes were fun.
List Visual Arts Center
An art gallery in the old half of the MIT Media Lab. They run an annual program that allows any interested student to enter a lottery to loan a piece of artwork and keep it in his/her room for a year. They boast a wide selection of artwork, including pieces by well-established artists such as Joan Miró, Roy Lichtenstein, and Cindy Sherman.
My best friend is a sophomore at Harvard, and I’ve been spending more time with her this year, now that both of us are more familiar with Cambridge and with our respective schools. She took me to the “Harvard Underground” performance, which featured some fierce hip-hop flavored performances by various Harvard music and dance groups.
I’m pretty introverted, and I spend quite a lot of time in my room. No shame—last year, I always felt pressure to spend all my time sitting in cafés, running around with people, or literally anything to avoid being alone in my room. It was exhausting and unnecessary, and I still ended up spending a lot of time alone in my room and feeling bad about it. In hindsight, my attitude was pretty silly. Please do not be ashamed to spend time alone in your room if that’s what you need.
Places I want to visit in the near future
Coolidge Corner Theater
I have yet to visit, but my friend told me about it. Supposedly shows a lot of indie films, supposedly very cozy.
This is a bakery in Kendall Square, and I have heard nothing but good things about it.
Cheap European clothing chain that recently opened a store near Downtown Crossing. Who wants [to browse but not buy] cheap + trendy clothing [due to an overflowing closet]?!! I do!!!
Man, am I glad to be back. Sophomore year seems like it’ll be fun; it comes with the security of old friends and old haunts, but there’s not yet much pressure to make post-graduation plans. I suspect I’ll be doing a lot of exploring this year, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!