Campus Life me vs. me

Graduation is not the end

The chapter is closing, the era is ending, and the heartache only grows

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Thank you all for making MIT so hard to say goodbye to.
Gloria Lin–The Tech

It’s Commencement day! That used to mean you’d be using this very paper to fan yourself on Killian while a thousand students and their parents broiled in the Boston summer heat. While Commencement is virtual this year (again), the feelings that come with it could not be hitting harder.

Like with any graduation, there’s a huge mixed bag of the feels. Pride, for completing an incredibly rigorous program, especially here at MIT. Excitement, to grow into the next stage of life. Heartbreak, at leaving behind the best of friends, the wisest of mentors, and the brightest of campuses. Maybe even surprise, at how much this place seems like home now.

For some (read: most), there is apprehension about what the very uncertain future will become. But a new feeling this year is loss. Two and a half semesters of remote operation is nothing to sneeze at. Classes for a few years to come will be marked by the pandemic. Anyone graduating this year has lost so much of what it means to be a regular college student, from chalk talks to dorm culture to end-of-semester a cappella and dance shows.

I belong to a small group of students who decided to graduate early specifically because of the pandemic. Still, we had our different reasons, like the financial prospects of jobs or simply wanting to be free from the tethers of an academic institution. Since remote dancing and journalism were so much less fulfilling to me, I personally wanted to divide my junior and senior years into a year of classes and a year of extracurriculars. But as life would have it, I probably won’t even be doing my extracurriculars in Boston all that much next year.

My peers have told me how sad it is to be like us: to have a postponed, then canceled Ring Delivery, miss out on Senior Ball, and get a virtual Commencement to top it all off. It seems like we’re getting the worst of both the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2022. We’re not really in a position to complain about it either, since we chose to graduate early.

But I can’t bring myself to be sad about those things. Maybe because I can’t really grasp what I’m losing.

I’ll miss the way the hallway between Building 26 and Building 16 gets so excessively clogged between :55 and :05 every hour. I’ll miss trying to convince my advisees every fall that 5.112 is only for people who want to hate themselves around November and laughing come March when they vow to convince incoming frosh not to take it. I’ll miss the little groan non-MIT people let out when we “talk in numbers.”

I’ll miss staying up until 3 a.m. in the corner office of the fourth floor of the Stud, delirious on tangerines and Hot Cheetos, trying to lay out this very paper with the Production department. The home I timidly joined during my own Orientation week way back when. The last place on campus I visited before leaving in March 2020, and again in May 2021. Yes, this is a love letter to The Tech and every staff member on it, because what else would it be?

Every year around graduation time, phrases like “Don’t cry because it ended, smile because it happened” make their rounds on the internet. But I feel like I’m smiling for all that has yet to happen and crying that I won’t be there to experience it.

What actually kills me about leaving is having to give up all the friends I would have met in the coming year. The best and brightest from around the world, all stuffed into a couple square miles in Cambridge and Boston. And I don’t just mean the incoming Class of 2025. I also mean the Class of 2024, who deserve a true introduction to campus. And the Classes of 2023 and 2022, who left campus as underclassmen and will be teaching the ropes next year without having truly learned them yet.

But I guess the world keeps spinning. So, as much as I wish I could personally tell the next generation of Production prospectives they missed a widow, I have faith in the MIT community I’m leaving behind. I can’t wait to see what you guys do.