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You’re Not That Old by ARTalk

[by Elise '14] Not having done it before should be a reason to try, as opposed to an excuse not to.

[by Elise Ruan '14]

Dear prefrosh (and prospies),

By the time you get to MIT, you’ll have had about eighteen years (or less for some of you overachievers) to figure out your hobbies and interests. Many of you probably have been playing an instrument for years or participating in art, dance, or theatre for just as long. I mean, you’ve spent your whole life being told to try new things and find what you like and what you’re good at. It’s been almost two decades so really, you’d expect that by now you already know, right?

In some ways, this is entirely true. You come to college and you’ve been playing violin for ten years, so naturally you look into the MIT Symphony Orchestra or Concert Band or other music groups. It’s a way to keep in touch with something you love and something you’ve dedicated time and effort to.

But at the same time, you’ve always wanted to sing. Or dance. Or draw. You’ve liked it, but in high school you had to choose which hobbies to focus your time on and there just weren’t easy and inexpensive ways to pursue these interests. Besides, other people your age are probably experts. By age eighteen, it’s probably just too late now.

But wait, prefrosh! Eighteen’s not that old. Not really. It only seems old because that’s how old you are. There’s still plenty of time to learn. It only feels like it’s too late because you’re thinking about those people who started when they were young, but remember, there’re just as many people who start your age or older.

It’s like, when I was six, I thought I might want to play the piano. But I saw a lot of my parents’ friends’ kids playing piano since they were three or something and I thought to myself, I’m so old. I’m never going to be as good as them, I’ve missed my prime! All these little kids will be better than me. I might as well not even try. I know, six is by no means old. It really isn’t. And when I turned eight, I smacked my forehead and thought to myself, why didn’t I start piano at six? Six is so young.

So it’s really all about perspective. There’s still so much time to learn a new skill. It’s okay to be a n00b at age eighteen. It’s okay to be a n00b at age twenty or forty or eighty. Comparatively, you guys are just little six-year-olds!

MIT makes it easy for you to not only get involved in things, but to get good. Don’t worry that just because you’re starting late, you’re going to be that awkward kid playing “Yankee Doodle” while everyone else is playing sonatas by dead composers. You too, can play sonatas by dead composers! (Can you tell I never got into piano after all? Such regrets)

First example, I know a guy who had little singing experience. In high school he wasn’t in the chorus or musical theatre crowd. But he came to MIT and on a spur of the moment deal, tried out for an acapella group.

There are nine acapella groups at MIT (I think) and some are more intense than others, but I don’t think any of them assume you’ve had extensive experience. After all, very few people are in acapella groups before college. But anyways, he did get in and now, not only is he surprisingly really good, he spends a lot of his time practicing with the other members. I think singing in an acapella group has actually become a big part of his life. He seems to always be singing, even quietly under his breath.

Another case is my other friend who probably never had a dance lesson in his life. Never was in a dance group or a dance crew. He, as well as a lot of my friends actually, got involved in something called DanceTroupe.

DanceTroupe is a program run by MIT students who choreograph dances of different genres and levels of difficulty. Other MIT students can then audition and most are accepted since a good portion of the dances are created for beginners. Not only do they work to put on a big show each semester, they also get to learn from other students. In fact, my specific friend was in DanceTroupe for three semesters before he auditioned for Mocha Moves, an actual dance crew at MIT and got in. Now, I’m pretty sure he spends more hours in dance practice than in class.

I think the best part about MIT extracurricular activities is that a lot of it is student-run so it’s not as intimidating or competitive. It’s just a bunch of students having fun. In both cases, they came to MIT with no experience, but have gained not only a new skill, but also something they enjoy and something that’s become a big part of their life.

So as you excited prefroshes get ready and start packing to come to MIT this September, start thinking about that one (or two or three) passion(s) you never pursued. Think about what could possibly happen if you tried and when you get here, take advantage of the activities fairs and keep an open mind as you look at the different groups. Don’t let lack of experience or familiarity discourage you. You can literally do anything you want. It’s never too late to start, but there’s no better time to start than now.

An eight-year-old

P.S. In case you guys haven’t come across this yet, I found this wiki article useful– it’s not all-inclusive, but it’s a good start.

P.S.S. I’m not actually eight. I’m twenty. It’s a metaphor.