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MIT blogger CJ Q. '23

Your first last day by CJ Q. '23

all my life has been about / waiting for people to go

One. I would use the blogs to process my feelings if I had any feelings to process. But the weird part about all of this is that I feel very little, oddly enough. Sure, there’s that vague feeling of missing people, that small sadness of being alone and left on campus when everyone’s already left, that feeling of powerlessness about the whole thing.

But it’s not acute. I haven’t shouted in the courtyard in frustration. I haven’t cried about it. And it’s odd, because I came into this whole mess getting ready to be sad. It’s like, you know when you’re going up stairs, and you take a step, expecting there to be more staircase, when there’s nothing but air? And then you kinda have to wobble for a bit before you lower your foot, as if you don’t really believe there’s solid ground that’s going to catch you.

Two. Most people left last Saturday or Sunday.the east campus courtyard. several cars are parked. no one is visible.

It felt like the beginning of the school year, oddly enough. There were cars on the East Campus courtyard. The hallways were filled with boxes. Rooms were open and empty. The lounges had no people; the kitchen was spotless. Moving out, of course, is just the move-in process in reverse.

the floorpi lounge. it’s organized. there’s no one in the picture.

I remember when my roommate, Jeffery, left. Since he was going back home, he had to pack up way before I did. So it was weird, with half of the room having all my stuff, and the other half of the room slowly becoming empty as the week went by. The afternoon he left, we sat and talked to each other about plans. What are you gonna do with all your free time? Do you know what you’re doing this summer? Do you still plan to live in EC in the fall?

We talked for half an hour. And then he left for the airport.

I sat down in our room for a couple minutes, staring at his empty bed. If this was a movie, this would be the cue for me to cry. And with the surreal, liminal experience that the past weeks have been, life began to feel more and more like a movie. I felt this rising sadness, and I felt like I wanted to release that through tears—but nothing came.

Three. I realized that I would never again get a chance to show all of you my room, so here are some pictures I took leading up to the move.

my door. it’s a chalkboard. written on top is “draw something”, and some drawings underneath. two signs are in the center, with my name, and my roommate’s name. visible near the bottom is “why have sex when you can fuck the system?” and underneath “why have system when you can sex the fuck?”

This is what my door looks like. It’s a chalkboard.

my half of the room. a cabinet in the foreground with stuffed animals on top of it, a bed behind. visible posters on top of the bed. a desk underneath a window.

This is what my half of the room looks like.

The stuffed animals on top of the cabinet all have names. The star’s named Yvie, after Yvie Oddly, the drag queen. The beaver, who’s behind the cabinet, so he’s not really visible, is named Tim, after Tim the Beaver. The bear’s name is Sanjana, because that was the name written on her when I got her. The polar bear on my bed is named Ice Bear. The duck’s name is Grape.

my desk. there’s a box fan, three water bottles, a mug, a keyboard.

This is what my desk looks like.

a bed, a stuffed star, a cabinet, a desk, an air mattress on the floor. lots of stuff

This is Jeffery’s side of the room.

Four. MIT was gracious enough to put all of us on a no-cost meal plan, which began on Monday. My usual sources of food were mostly gone. Tech Squares, which met every Tuesday night, was postponed. ESP, which had worksessions every Wednesday, was also not happening. The faculty lunches that the Office of the First Year was doing were canceled. I was running out of groceries, and I didn’t want to buy much more, knowing that they’d be moving us into a dorm without a kitchen anyway.

No dining was allowed in the actual dining halls, so it was takeout service only. We also didn’t serve ourselves. Instead, we pointed at what we wanted and the staff would give us a portion in a disposable container. We’d then take this container, go to another part of the dining hall, give it to the person staffing it, and say what we wanted.

It was nice getting to interact with the staff, even if it was only pleasantries. Have a nice day. Or, yeah, these are tough times, huh? Or, thank you so much, see you again tomorrow! It felt so good to get to interact with someone face-to-face, after an entire day of voice calls and direct messages.

As the week went on, more precautions were taken. By Wednesday, instead of us taking the container from station to station, the staff passed the containers to each other, or we were given new containers. And today, dining hall service was switched to grab and go.

There’s a table laid out with several cans of soda, a coffee machine, and individually wrapped cookies and fruit. You walk up to another table, and there are two options for meals. You ask for one. The person staffing the table grabs the meal, which was pre-served, and hands it to you.

And then you leave.

Five. On Monday, when most people who were going to leave had already left, I started packing. I’ve gotten used to having to move in short notice that I don’t have a lot of possessions, so this was quick. Most of the things I own are clothes and documents.

We were asked to put things we wanted to keep in storage in these boxes that were 3 feet in each dimension. So they were pretty small. I packed my air mattress, my winter coat, formal clothes, cooking supplies, the things I put up on my wall. I ended up using only two boxes.

I went through a lot of my stuff and tossed a lot of it away. Extra decks of cards, nametags, old documents that I didn’t need any more, hats that I didn’t wear, extra hangers. My goal was to only move as much as items as could fit in my luggage, and maybe two or three bags.

I ended up having more stuff than I expected having, and I think part of the reason was that I expected to stay in my room for longer. I was expecting to be able to stay in that room for at least the school year, maybe longer. That after two years of having to move every six months, I knew this room was a place I was guaranteed to stay in for a while.

And I guess that didn’t happen.

Six. After packing most of my stuff, I took some more pictures.

my door after packing some stuff. everything in the past picture is erased. there’s a drawing of a heart on top, and “i’m hoping for the best, take care of yourselves” written underneath.

This is what my door looked like.

my room. the stuffed animals are all gone. the posters are all gone.

This is what my half of the room looked like.

Ice Bear is still there. A friend in the area is taking care of Yvie, Tim, Sanjana, and Grape, because I can’t bring them with me.

a bare mattress, an empty desk, two boxes on the floor

This is what Jeffery’s half of the room looked like.

Seven. In the past week, I felt like I did both nothing and everything.

I learned how to use Hexo, and did some more web stuff. With the help of some other people left on Floor Pi, we cleaned the kitchen, a huge undertaking. I wrote up my tax return, just before the post office in the student center closed. I went on a stream with the admitted students. I made a list of all the board games in the lounges. I finished a problem set. I cleared my inbox. I refilled my meds. By all measures, I was productive.

And yet, I felt like I didn’t do anything. I felt like I slacked off all week. I went on so many video calls, many of them just to socialize. Catching up. How are you doing? What’s it like there? And a lot of, they’re moving us to different dorms next week. We’re all on a meal plan now.

I spent hours on Discord, talking to people I just said goodbye to, and talking to people I’d just met. I played lots of Drawful and Quiplash, and did crosswords and puzzles with friends. I spent hours lying on my bed after waking up, scrolling through my Facebook feed, and then when I got bored, switching to my Twitter feed, then my Instagram feed, then my Reddit feed.

I felt like I didn’t do anything, because I felt like I was avoiding the things that I should be doing. Like writing a blog post about everything that’s been happening, or finishing packing things for when I move, or crying.

I pushed these things further and further back until I had to deal with them. Look, see, I’m writing the blog post right now! I packed all my stuff up, and I moved all of it today.

But the crying part?

Eight.

I made a list of things I love
Just in case you go
All my life has been about
Waiting for people to go

Your love’s uncertain
Won’t you hold it down with chains?
Oh won’t you break me now
So I won’t feel the pain

Nine. We were informed of our new rooms on Thursday evening. I was placed in Baker 5. I went down the hall and asked where everyone else was—also Baker 5. It was nice to hear that our request to be placed near each other was fulfilled, even if we couldn’t really spend a lot of time with each other. It turned out that the remaining undergrads were placed into three dorms, Maseeh, McCormick, and Baker, when we were expecting them to fit people in only two.

Today, Friday, was the first day we could move. We had to be out by Sunday. There were people who helped move things from Talbot lounge to the different dorms, and if we wanted to get help with moving, we had to be ready with our things in the lounge by 9 AM. I didn’t have that much stuff—I only had a suitcase, a box fan, and four bags—so I decided to move things myself.

I woke up today a little past 8 AM, decided it was too early, and went back to sleep. I woke up again, and it was 10 AM. I took off my sheets, my pillow, my blanket, (my kumot, my mind said, when it tried to reach for the word,) and stuffed it in my luggage. I brought it down the stairs along with two of my bags, knowing that I’d make another trip later. And then I walked to Baker.

It was a remarkably warm day today, with highs of 20 degrees. It was the first day in a while that I comfortably walked without a jacket. It was also overcast. Baker was farther from East Campus than I thought it was, and I had to take a break on the way there. But it was fine. I was in no rush. I had all day.

I checked in the front desk and got the room key. I took the elevator to the new room, which is in 5 East. It’s a rather large single. It felt slightly larger than my room, which was already a double.

the new room in baker. there's a bed, a cabinet, a desk behind the bed.

After I walked back to my room, instead of picking up the rest of my stuff and continuing the move, I laid down on my bare mattress, and went on my phone. I talked on Discord and chatted with friends for about an hour. I really should be moving my things, I said. But I didn’t. It felt like I was avoiding it.

Instead of doing one more trip, I decided to split it up into two trips. I split one of the remaining bag into two bags, and carried them back to Baker. Then I went back and carried the remaining bag and my fan. When I got into the new room, I started unpacking, when I realized that I hadn’t checked out of East Campus yet.

How convenient, I thought, for me to forget.

my door now. the door signs with my name and my roommate's name are now gone, and written in their spot is “goodbye (for now)”

Ten. This is what my door looks like now.

my room. the sheets on the bed, the pillows, the blanket, the things left on the cabinets, are all gone.

This is what my room looks like now.

Eleven. From my notes:

You’d think that moments like these two weeks would be really significant, life-changing moments. So I prepared myself for whatever sadness would come. And nothing came. It’s tripping me up. All I’ve felt these two weeks is numbness.

I tried to make my emotions louder. I looked inside myself and tried to find the feelings I was missing, and all I ended up with is dust. Vague, half-formed emotions, none of which are strong enough to move me. Never in my life have I ever wanted to be sad except now. I want to cry. I want to be hurt. I want to feel hurt that all of this is ending too soon. I want to be sad because I’m being left alone, because everyone is leaving.

Instead, all I have is this ache. What happened? Where did I go, who did I talk to? I feel this sense of missingness. I’m missing memories, I’m missing emotions. But I’m not missing people, which is what I feel like I should be feeling right now, and it feels bad that I’m not feeling that right now. I’m going about my day as if the things just happened, as if they weren’t important. But they were, right?

Twelve. MIT’s response is laudable. Our house team did a really good job in such short notice, and I imagine the same holds for the other dorms. As I walked from East Campus to Baker for the last time, I saw our head of house, Sandy, and I remember her telling me that “we’ll see each other again soon!”

But will we really? It’s hard to be optimistic about the future right now. Our housing situation here is at the point where it feels like MIT is expecting us to wake up, head downstairs to grab brunch, head back upstairs to eat it, head downstairs to grab dinner, and then head back upstairs to sleep. We’re acting as if this whole thing will be over before summer begins, or at worst, before the fall begins, but the possibility really does exist that this whole thing will last for far, far longer than that.

I don’t know what’s going to happen this summer. My original plan was to be a counselor at PROMYS, this math summer camp that happens at Boston University, just across the river. And although it hasn’t been canceled yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. At this point, it’s more surprising when something continues as planned rather than gets canceled or postponed.

Campus feels so empty. I walked across the Infinite at 5 in the afternoon without passing anyone else. I saw a bulletin board with only three posters on it. There are so many makeshift signs: closed until further notice, the office will be working remotely, will not reopen until at least the fall. So many different ways to say the same thing.

We’re not here.

We don’t know when we’ll be back.

Thirteen. Someday past, and I forget when exactly, I was in the Floor Pi lounge. The lounge is right across the room of a friend I deeply cared for. I never really got to say goodbye. I sat there and stared at the door for several minutes. And then I left.

Fourteen.

But all I want is
Steady love
Leave my heart in
Steady love
And all I want is
Steady love
Empty your hands and hold me
Give me steady love