Here’s a sign
If you’re looking for one
Last spring, with the energy and can-do attitude that only frosh have, I signed up for five classes. In the fall, I just wanted to prove that I could make it through a semester at MIT, but that didn’t quite feel like enough — at least not then. I wanted to prove that I could push myself even further, and I don’t quite know why.
We often get into the mindset that if we can theoretically handle a certain academic load, then we should. After all, that is what got us through most of school before college. For some of us, this mindset goes away, but I have been having trouble shaking it. Part of me thinks it's because I know that my academic career won’t be over after these four years. I know that I want to go to grad school next, and it is beginning to make college feel like high school again. Just get through these four years. Just get through this semester. This week. Today.
I was struggling last semester. It felt like I didn’t have anyone to turn to, because talking to people takes time, and that was the one resource I didn’t have. I also just didn’t have people. It’s hard to imagine a time when I didn’t see people semi-regularly between classes, or when I didn’t go out of my way for a quick 30-minute social break in Hayden Library.
One of my favorite quotes from a song asks, “If sky’s the limit, why am I always looking at the ground?” At the start of last spring, I felt free. On the one hand, I got to take an additional 12 units (much to my detriment), while on the other, I was on campus. I got to see Fenway, grab coffee from 1369, and I saw the Dome. These are big deals; as obvious a point it is to make, we only get to experience MIT for the first time once. While in hindsight these experiences don’t feel like that much, many sophomores (and I imagine many freshmen too) are still finding “common” MIT experiences shocking and filled with wonder. For me, this leads to trying to “achieve” as many of these experiences as possible — which was hard to do during online classes — and so I did five classes.
I made it through, somehow, but I don’t think I will ever do five classes again. There is so much I want to do during my undergraduate experience, and I don’t want to miss out because I was too stubborn to practice proper self care.
All of which is to say, if you are looking for a sign to drop that class, here is one. If you aren’t required to take that one class and it’s slowly killing you every week, lecture, and pset, maybe now isn’t the right time. And if you are required to take it, I hear you. It is frustrating to be in a position where the only way out is through. I do, however, implore you to not struggle in silence.
Part of the only reason I was able to get through my workload last year was because I told people I was struggling. I told professors that I was terrified of the upcoming finals, and I told my pset partners when I needed to take a break. Everyone wants to help you succeed, and to the same extent, no one wants you to fail. Putting your thoughts and worries out into the world is oddly comforting; from what I can tell, even having someone acknowledge that you’re going through a hard time is comforting.
Struggling is, for better or worse, an MIT experience, but I have learned that only focusing on school and nothing else is not the sort of struggle I enjoy. Many people somehow manage to enjoy their time at MIT, and I, for one, want to be one of them.