I don’t think many people understand what we mean when we say that MIT is hard. It’s not just the workload.
There’s this feeling that no matter how hard you work, you can always be better, and as long as you can be better, you’re not good enough. You’re a slacker, you’re stupid, and MIT keeps an overflowing warehouse of proof in the second basement of building 36. There’s stress and there’s shame and there’s insecurity. Sometimes there’s hope. Sometimes there’s happiness. Sometimes there’s overwhelming loneliness.
There’s something to giving everything and always falling short. Eventually we’ll walk out with a deep understanding of our fields, a fantastic tolerance for failure and late nights, and raised expectations for ourselves and for humankind. Someday, we’ll look back on these four years as the best years of our lives and the foundations of the kinds of friendships that can only be formed with some suffering. But right now, IHTFP. Sometimes it feels like MIT drags your self-esteem over a jagged, gravely rockface and stretches your happiness, your mental health, and the passion and energy that brought you here like an old rubber band.
I love this place. I love the amazing people I’ve met, I love watching myself grow as a scientist and a writer, and I love being engulfed in the heart of scientific progress and passion and feeling like I belong. At the same time I’m miserable, sometimes. IHTFP is the middle of the semester, when the lounges off the Infinite Corridor fill up with sleeping people, when I don’t leave the dorm except to go to class or to lab, when I can’t go apple picking because I’m hosed, and when the faces around me reflect my own anxiety. IHTFP is studying my butt off to hit the average, crying about my grades, and then helping a freshman with his homework and realizing how much better I’ve become at patiently disentangling a challenge.
MIT is paradise.
I cry sometimes. I love it here. My only consolation is that the salt in my tears will squelch any unsuspecting plants they land on. It’s beautiful. That’s right, unsuspecting Killian Court grass, wither. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.