This is a season of stress.
The release of Early Action decisions, for one thing. MIT finals, for another (AHHHH). Deadlines for regular decision applications to college, and, for many of my senior friends, applications to graduate schools and fellowships.
My stress falls mainly under the second category, so you may wonder why I’m posting and not studying. I wasn’t going to blog tonight, actually; earlier this week, I resolved to spend every waking hour of my weekend either studying for my three finals (AHHHH), sleeping, eating, showering (hygiene is important, kids) or taking a (very) brief study break. But something whisked me away from studying that I can’t help but share with all of you – the first thing I did upon getting home was log onto the admissions blogger interface. I need to tell you a story, prospective students and fellow MIT-ers and whoever else is reading this: you, who are stressed. I apologize if this post sounds rushed and hastily thrown-together, but I don’t have much time; at midnight, a blogger moratorium kicks in. To respect the release of Early Action decisions, we aren’t allowed to blog on Saturday or Sunday. It is now 11:04pm on Friday. I therefore have 56 minutes to open a little window to campus and show you how we here deal with stress.
I didn’t leave the dorm yesterday – and this morning, cabin fever hit me hard. So, at 12:30 this afternoon, I zipped up my big poofy winter coat, tugged on gloves, and called up a friend who I haven’t seen in months, because we’re both busy and our lives never seem to overlap. He picked up on the third ring, and I asked if he wanted to go to lunch. He did. So, off we went, strolling down Mass Ave, catching up, laughing and chatting with a cold winter sun beaming down on our heads. After our Chinese food, we split up, I towards Harvard to buy a Christmas present for the French House freshmen, and he back to campus. As I got off the bus back at MIT, I found myself with a sudden overwhelming rush of energy: I sprinted all the way back to New House, and up the stairs home.
There, I found stress. Lots of stress. As I mentioned, this is a season for fellowship application deadlines, and a big one was due at 5pm today. My senior friends either sat huddled over their computers or rushed back and forth between other seniors’ rooms, asking for advice or clarification on the wording of an essay prompt. For a little under two hours, I played proof-reader, character-count-reducer, reassurer, admirer (all my dorm-mates are ridiculously impressive people) and calculator; with three minutes to go, one of my friends needed to add up six big numbers and divide by four (don’t ask why.) I have never punched numbers into my phone so fast. Finally, they all pressed submit, and it was over.
At 5:10pm, I scurried back to my room, shut the door, and whipped out my orgo notes. And studied. And studied some more. Practice test, old pset, old pset. Practice test. Brief dinner, delivered to my room by my very kind boyfriend. More studying. At 7:30, my friend Davie R. ’12 asked if I was going to go carolling with other French House-ers, and I declined, explaining that I had way too much studying to do.
And regretted it, as I sat in my room for the next hour, thinking about how beautifully my dorm-mates sing and how it would be my last chance to carol with many of them (including Davie, who is one of the most amazing singers I have ever come across.)
At 8:30, a big group of people came past my door. It was the carollers: they were just leaving, late for some reason. I jumped up, slammed my computer shut, and accepted a packet of music. Orgo could wait. So could physics. And neuroscience. Lizi ’12 baked 2+ trays of cookies, while Davie printed booklets of carols in four parts and brought along a tuning fork. We traveled around New House, from living group to living group, regaling groups of strangers with music. I was totally mortified, at first, but as people applauded and smiled and took cookies, I realized that we were cheering people up – and there exists no better study break than that.
We even got people to join us. Now around ten singers strong, we decided to head over to Burton Conner and continue carolling there. Out on dorm row, we sang Silent Night, and a group of passers-by joined in. Led by a resident (a friend of Lizi and Davie from concert choir – I don’t know who you are, but thank you!*) we made our way through the five floors of Burton-side and four floors of Conner-side, singing and delivering cookies and picking up more carollers along the way. We crashed a party. We crashed a movie night. In one lounge, a resident joined us by playing the piano. Everywhere, people were smiling and thanking us and telling us how great we sounded; one girl even filmed us. Faces peeked out of doorways. Eyes were wide. Slowly, residents gathered in the hallways to listen. And this was all totally impromptu! No substantial planning, no practice, no musical ability required. Others joined. Now around fifteen people strong, we delivered our grand finale (Hark the Herald Angels Sing) to the Burton-Conner housemasters, who gave us chocolate and smiled wonderful delighted smiles.
*Christy S. ’13, apparently. You’re the best!
I saw so many smiles tonight. Tonight, of all nights – when people are crazed with stress and up to their necks in old papers and notebooks and binders. It was refreshing (literally; it’s cold out there) and rewarding and SO much fun, and I don’t regret a second of it. I completely forgot my stress, somehow. It disappeared along with my voice (my vocal chords are totally burnt out.)
I wanted to tell you all this because it helped me. It was soothing to get outside – to talk with an old friend, to do things with people I care about, to channel my rocketing levels of stress energy into creating music for others. I thought this was probably a story worth telling on this kind of occasion.
And now, it’s nearly midnight, so I’m off; I’ll re-emerge on the other side of finals, late Wednesday afternoon. A friend and I have arranged to watch The Elegant Universe after our last exam, so I have that to look forward to. Once, in high school, I was freaking out to a teacher about an upcoming bout of exams, and he described an approach that I liked; he said we would bow our heads and charge, get through it, and look up only once we reached the other side. It’s almost time! Bow your head, steel your nerves, and remember that above all you are NOT in any way defined by the school you attend – quite the opposite. MIT is great, but only because of the people who come here; it’s just a bunch of empty (kind of ugly) buildings otherwise. It is physically impossible to fit every student that the admissions office would like to fit. Therefore, some of you will go elsewhere. But that makes MIT less great, not you – and it makes other schools greater, as you sling your hard work and thoughtfulness and energy over your shoulder and bring them elsewhere, doing the things you would have done if you were here: namely, taking advantage of every resource at hand.
In the meantime, I’m going to bow my head and steel my nerves as well. Waves and vibrations, organic synthesis, structure elucidation, ion channels and hormones, here I come.
Let’s charge together. Ready?