Goodbye, MIT. Hello, World.By Deborah A. Levinson
When I said goodbye to Andy two weeks ago, I knew it was finally time to leave MIT.
"Andy" is Andrew L. Fish '89, who just completed Harvard Law School and has gone home to study for the bar exam. He was editor in chief of The Tech when I joined in 1988. In the time it took Andy to graduate from Harvard Law, I changed majors once, was elected Tech arts editor twice and chairman once, broke up with two boyfriends, went into therapy, changed thesis topics three times, blew off -- then eventually wrote -- a thesis, and graduated, somewhat anticlimactically, in September 1991 with an SB in creative writing. So why do I feel like three years have gone by in no time at all?
Though I still serve as a Tech contributing editor, I wonder why I bother. Most of my friends graduated in 1990 or 1991. The Tech's constitution stipulates that a contributing editor -- traditionally a position where grizzled Tech types are put out to pasture -- merely "contribute in some capacity to the operations of The Tech." I don't spend 30 to 40 hours a week here anymore; I don't night edit every other issue anymore; I don't play Solarian II instead of writing my thesis anymore. One of my greatest fears is that I will turn into one of those LSC people who, like David Baltimore, never really goes away.
Graduating last September left me in a peculiar position. Having lived like a student all summer -- working (occasionally) at my UROP, traveling, going to the beach, playing softball -- I reluctantly had to face the fact that I needed a job, a place to live, and a life. My peers had dealt with these realities four months previous; now it was my turn to figure out in a matter of weeks exactly what I wanted to do for the next 40-odd years.
Finding a job and an apartment proved simpler than I expected. But it's easier to hide at The Tech than it is to face the world (as any Tech senior will tell you), so after I finished my second stint as arts editor, I decided to hang around as a contributing editor. Not that I've been a lazy contribed -- I've written arts reviews and a news story, taken photographs for a photo essay, and helped work production.
Still, it's strange discovering that even though I'm only 22, I'm an old woman here at The Tech. Are the freshmen getting younger? Or is it just that my friends are older? At Steer Roast this year, I realized that my roommate, Marie E. V. Coppola '90, and I are two of the last links between today's Tech and the paper of the 1970s. We have met (and are even friends with) staffers who joined in the late '70s, people most current Tech staffers know only from the electronic lexicon, a ridiculously long file of bizarre and often off-color stories about The Tech and the people who put it together. Someday people will come to The Tech and talk about Marie, Andy, or me in the same way we talk about Jon von Zelowitz '83 or Robert E. Malchman '85 or any of a number of former staffers who drop by the office now and then. Being old at 22 is a hard thing to deal with.
Which brings me to commencement. Since I didn't graduate on time to go through with the 1991 commencement exercises, I chose to march this year. As has every college president before him, Charles M. Vest will deliver a charge to the 1992 graduating class. Though each president may couch his or her message in different terms, it's almost always the same message: Get a job, make bushels of money, and remember that you, the members of the graduating class, hold the Future of America in your capable hands. I have no good reason to believe that Vest's second address to the graduates will stray from this prescribed doctrine.
What is the point of the charge to the graduates? Those who already have jobs know what they are doing for at least the next year; those who are going to graduate school know what they are doing for at least the next year and a half; those who are doing neither will either have a plan for their life or not. Pat Buchanan's Golden Foot approach, which allows that if Buchanan single-handedly kicks every poor person in the rear, they will immediately get up and find a job, does not work for graduating seniors. Charles Marstiller Vest telling us to go out and make lots of money will not make it happen either.
To those graduates of the class of 1992 whose only post-graduation plans involve meeting their parents at Legal Seafoods for dinner afterwards: it's okay to not know what you're doing or where you're going. Sometimes it takes a long time to figure out a plan for living. The college environment is the perfect cocoon -- food, friends, and no "real-world" responsibilities -- and the real world is not a pleasant place. You can get mugged, or end up working for a paranoid-schizophrenic, or worst of all, be forced to pay off your student loans.
That is why, just as when I was supposed to be doing my thesis, I ended up hiding at The Tech. Though I still don't know what I want to do for the next 40-odd years, I do know that I need to leave The Tech to do them. And I think that I'll close this column, probably the last column that I will ever write for The Tech, the same way that I closed the dedication of my thesis:
Thank you all. I'm ready to go now.
Deborah A. Levinson '91 helps publish books and wants to open a restaurant when she grows up.