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When Things Go Wrong: A Survival Guide? by Caroline P. '23

Come, obtain guidance from someone who's just as clueless as you are...

Picture this: me, three water balloons in hand, running across Killian court with my East Campus compatriots by my side. I’m smiling, I’m laughing, I’m relishing a new, intoxicating sense of freedom that I’ve never known before. I move to attack a Simmons resident. As he swings his pool noodle I shift my weight to dodge the blow… but then I’m on the ground. I try to stand, but the second I bend my left leg a horrible pain shoots up my entire body.

I sprained my knee during REX01 REX stands for Residence Exploration, which is a 5-ish-days period where the new MIT frosh go to a bunch of events and check out all the different dorms on campus. If someone likes a different dorm from the one they're in, they can enter a lottery to switch. . Yikes. 

The funny thing is that I was so careful this ENTIRE summer to not get injured, but I guess there are some things in life you can’t control. For me (and probably a lot of prospective MIT students), that’s a hard pill to swallow. We’re so used to trying our best, succeeding no matter what, being the captains of our own destinies, but transitioning into college is a test you can’t study for. It’s an unpredictable, amazing, terrifying whirlwind that we’re simply sucked into; things are bound to go wrong because that’s just the way life is. In the search for meaning amid my own pretty-epic REX disaster, I’ve decided to offer you people some advice for when your plans go up in smoke. Because they will. Sorry :/.

1. Rely on people

The idea of being vulnerable in any way —physically, emotionally, etc.— makes me cringe, and this often works against me. I definitely didn’t shorten my recovery when I refused to let people support me (like literally support my body. You should have seen me hop up five flights of stairs completely solo). And on top of just being injured, handling everything on my own was really lonely. I did finally cave, though, and after allowing people to —again, literally— pick me up off the ground, I found a lot of unexpected joy in the situation. Accepting help gave the chance to make some amazing friends, meet wonderful role-models, find an awesome roommate (shout out to you Zangi), and even establish a new home in East Campus. 

People are good, I really do believe that. When you don’t know what to do, remember that you don’t have to know what to do on your own; the people around you are wells of wisdom and compassion ready to be tapped into. Did I plan on going to S^302 S^3 = Student Support Services. S^3 offers all kinds of help for pretty much any kind of problem an MIT student could have. They're pretty dope! , navigating MIT Medical, and talking injury logistics with my Head of House within the first two weeks of college? No, but these and many other encounters allowed me to bear the weight of a tough situation, even on only one leg. Ask for help. I mean it. 

2. Don’t take things too seriously

When I felt my knee twist behind my back, I thought my life was over. Not being able to walk right as college started? Talk about a total nightmare. I wouldn’t be able to make it to classes on time, my new friends would leave me behind, everything would be TERRIBLE and I would be SCREWED. But that didn’t happen. Sure, being injured isn’t great, but I was still able to have an insane amount of fun. So just because things aren’t perfect doesn’t mean things are bad! When your expectations have been destroyed, it’s important to remember that the gross thing you’re experiencing is probably temporary, and life goes on despite it. 

3. Take things a little seriously

Sooooooooo I did many things while recovering from my sprained knee. Some of them were fine and totally doctor-sanctioned, but others? Maybe not so much. I wanted so badly to just do all the things! But a lot of times, this would leave me feeling sore and even less able to walk in the morning.

There’s a balance to be found between brushing off the bad vibes and pushing yourself beyond your limits. If something bad happens, pretending it’s fine when it very obviously isn’t doesn’t make the problem disappear! If you’re hurt, rest and go to the doctor. If you’re behind, email your professors. If something in your environment doesn’t feel right, switch your classes, dorm, extracurriculars. Work for both your short-term and long-term happiness.

4. Remember the small good things

Every time I walk across campus at night, I pause to take a deep breath and look at Boston from across the Charles river. If you ever find yourself on campus, I would highly recommend doing the same. There’s something about how big and bright the buildings are next to the water and the dark sky that always fills my heart with joy. I live here now, right in the middle of if this beautiful, chaotic city, and that’s pretty amazing. A sprained knee doesn’t seem like such a huge deal when you’re just a kid staring at the things around you.

Look up at the night sky. At least that mostly stays the same.

5. Be okay with the uncertain

To be TOTALLY clear: your plan, the one you’ve been constructing on Firehose and in notebooks or even with your parents/college advisor/insert-adult-mentor-here, was doomed from the very start. Your plan might not even be for anything college-related! It’ll still fall apart in some degree. There is nothing we can do to completely wrangle the world around us. Spicy thought: if you’ve managed to control and predict everything, are you really challenging yourself? Are you learning? Are you living? When things don’t go the way we think they should, we’re being asked by the universe to grow. Sure, it’s hard to adjust on the fly, but I would say it’s worth it. My own unfortunate turn of events taught me so much about so many things; it’s honestly been kind of an amazing start to my time at MIT. 

Or maybe I’m just insane.

:/

I’ll let y’all decide as I continue to post. :)

  1. REX stands for Residence Exploration, which is a 5-ish-days period where the new MIT frosh go to a bunch of events and check out all the different dorms on campus. If someone likes a different dorm from the one they're in, they can enter a lottery to switch. back to text
  2. S^3 = Student Support Services. S^3 offers all kinds of help for pretty much any kind of problem an MIT student could have. They're pretty dope! back to text