It's really strange how life can feel so different within the span of a few weeks. The last time I had some time to sit down and think, I had just returned from a short road trip through Canada with some friends. Since then, I did senior week, which only really consisted of a white-water rafting trip in western Massachusetts and a day at Walden Pond. I celebrated (or tried to celebrate) the end of my undergraduate life. I spent some quality time with family. I graduated from MIT with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in anthropology. I said some short-term goodbyes to some of my favorite people.
And now, I'm sitting at home, steeping in the bittersweetness of what will likely be the most eventful summer of my life. On the itinerary for now...Banff/Yoho National Parks, Thailand, Cambodia, and Alaska. Interspersed throughout the trips will be quality time at home, during which I'm hoping to get through a long list of books.
Quick list of things I want to do this summer:
1) Shoot film again
2) Write regularly
3) Actually read all the books I say I will
4) Become better at running
5) Live and absorb every single moment
To go back a little, I spent a long time on my flight home thinking (pretty aimlessly) about my college experience. For the sake of mental clarity, I'll try to dump here.
I applied to MIT as a Questbridge Scholar in September 2012. I received a call in October telling me I wasn't accepted through Questbridge, but that I essentially will get in during the early admission cycle. It was a pretty anticlimatic way of getting into college because I wasn't expecting the call at all, but it fed my senioritis quite thoroughly. I attended the MIT visiting weekend in April, and met a group of people that would more or less remain my friends for the rest of my college life.
I was lucky to have an incredible group of friends in high school, but that made leaving home heartwrenchingly difficult. Leaving for college felt more like a breakup than like starting a new and exciting chapter of my life. It didn't help later that my freshman year was one of the most difficult of my life - between homesickness, relentless academic struggle, and the harsh realities of winter in Boston, I struggled to stay afloat emotionally, but I made it. Sophomore year proved significantly better, as I found my own place within my major and constructed a heartwarming support system. Slowly, I grew to appreciate MIT for what it was to me - a place to test my priorities and my ability to contextualize problems, both in real life and in exams/psets. Essentially, I began using MIT as a place to show myself that the environmental pressure did not have to take away from my pursuit of good health, mindfulness, self-cultivation, and personal fulfillment. There were inevitably days, weeks, or even months where I succumbed to the pressure, but I left MIT with a much stronger grasp of what's important to me on a daily basis, and I find that invaluable. Although I don't think I challenged myself intellectually to the extent to which some of my peers did, I really found a balance for my life and intellectual curiosities, not all of which involved structured learning. That experience brings confidence as I pursue a process of lifelong learning, even as a working "real person".
When reflecting on my time at MIT, I will always remember the times with my friends the most. Although many of my new friends were less similar to me than the friends I had in high school, the friendships I made each pushed me in different ways. I've definitely become more patient, understanding, open-minded, and easy-going in the past four years. I've already forgotten most of the content from my classes, but I'll remember the stupid jokes in my suite kitchen in Burton Conner, the long talks on my bedroom floor, the cold and nervous walks on Commonwealth, and the delirious pset sessions. My memories have their tinges of darkness, but there is little I would've changed about my college experience. Ultimately, I can't imagine another environment that would've tested me to the extent that MIT did, and for that, I'm actually very grateful. I'm not sure exactly how much of my paid education I will be using in the future, but the perseverance, focus, and confidence in my own ability to survive that I have learned throughout the past four years will not be taken for granted.