Campus Life

To Kill a Creative Bird

It’s 4 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, and I want to paint. I haven’t had an urge this strong to reach for my brush and palette in a long, long time. And I haven’t been this swamped with work in a long, long time. Psets, midterms, make-up midterms, quizzes, make-up quizzes (I was sick for a while), essentially make-up on all my to-do lists. Oh, and “e-mails requesting extensions.” My only concern (while rearranging items on my to-do list) is, when do I get to absorb all this new information and to let it really sink in? When and how do I reflect on my newly acquired knowledge and think of real world applications?

I’d imagine that after seven semesters at MIT, I’d be used to this lifestyle by now. Maybe some days, I handle it better than others. Some days, my to-do checklist has more checks than blanks, but most days, I spend hours simply reorganizing my schedule, trying to fit the million things in. I also happen to be a senior, which means I spent all of September and October job hunting, which in turn means more time away from school and more make-up quizzes and midterms.

As a freshman, my academic career looked perfectly clear. I wanted to major in economics, do tons of research, write a few papers and maybe join a club or two on the side if time permitted. As a senior, I’m looking back, and, while I did all those things I had wanted to do, it came at a price, one that I discounted quite terribly early on. I came to MIT with a creative soul. My math was okay, I could do the numbers. But I was passionate about economics and about originality and creativity. I still very much am.

To be fair, I’m absolutely in love with my major, the department, its faculty and the curriculum. But when I look inside myself, I see that I’m just not as creative anymore. Ideas and dreams don’t come to me as freely and as vividly as they did before I started drinking from the fire hose. For seven years through high school, I wrote a biweekly column for a magazine in the UAE, where I grew up. I worked at a local beauty salon, making intricate henna tattoos. I drew and painted almost every weekend. I fixed faulty faucets around my home. I concocted new recipes. I dreamt of creating things, of “inventions” that could improve our lives. And all I do now is check things off my checklist.

Am I bad at time management? Sure. Do I procrastinate more than I should? Of course! I have a midterm today and I should be studying for that but instead I’m writing about how I feel my creative soul has somehow lost its way along the infinite corridors at MIT. An example — it took me seven semesters to submit an article to The Tech, something I’ve wanted to do since freshman year! I think I really understand it now why everyone says if you can get through the Institute, you can get through anything in life. Nowhere else can I imagine myself being constantly tested, constantly checked on to see if I’m learning, to see if I’m taking my commitments seriously.

Maybe my creative dreams will come back to me after I walk down the ramp with a crisp diploma and check off my final college task. Maybe I’ll have the time to think of the enormous amount of knowledge I’ve gathered over the years and think of how I can use it to help a life breathe easier. Maybe then I’ll say to myself, hey, I’ve graduated from MIT and there’s nothing in the world I can’t do! I think I’ll wait for June to see… and until then, IHTFP!