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Variety, Creativity Add Spice to MIT Life

Column by Brett Altschul
STAFF REPORTER

About a week ago, I helped two freshmen destroy my old room. These two young ladies began repainting it on the very day they moved in. Initially, I was horrified that they were altering the decor, with which I had become intimately familiar last year. However, Isoon found myself wielding a roller, spreading mint green paint on the walls.

A realization struck me as I stared into my erstwhile home away from home that was now partially coated with a fresh layer of pigment. That room had been profoundly ugly. The walls were an ugly, somewhat uneven off-white. The tile floor was spattered with remnants of the previous paint-job, whenever that was. There were cockroaches crawling from holes around the sink.

When I lived there, Idid keep the place clean. I swept the floor highly regularly. I scrubbed the tiles to remove the various things Ispilled. I ensured that the sink was always neat, the drain always clear. Using several different devices, I exterminated all but one of the roach colonies.

Still, I made no effort to rectify the basically disgusting nature of the area. Initially, I had wanted to redesign my room in its entirety, but my roommate and I never coordinated anything together. I just forgot about it. Even after my roommate moved out, I never gave it another serious thought.

With some time at MIT, I sank into acceptance of my dismal surroundings. As other activities ate up my time, Iaccepted the squalor that enshrouded me as perfectly natural. The MITenvironment dulled my sense of aesthetics.

With this in mind, I offer two pieces of advice. They're aimed at both freshmen and returning students. Since upperclassmen may have lost some of their accumulated inertia over the summer, they should take the opportunity to spruce up their lives now, before the jaded MIT lifestyle recaptures them.

First, if you haven't already, do something about your environment and lifestyle. Over the first few weeks of the term, the workload will be fairly light, so you should be able to find the time. Delay like I did, and you may never get around to it.

This means more than just repainting your dormitory room and moving the furniture around. Don't get sucked into eating at Lobdell all the time. There are many superior eateries around Cambridge and Boston; try them out while you have a chance and before your palate has built up a resistance to MIT cafeteria fare.

You may start a class and find that you don't like it for some reasons. Don't hesitate to change recitations or drop the class altogether, putting something more suitable in its place. Don't trap yourself in an uninteresting or overly difficult class just because you made an error in your initial assessment.

There are many other examples, but the basic point is simple. While you still have plenty of free time and and haven't settled into numb acceptance of everything, take the opportunity to attempt new things and to rework the old.

My second piece of advice is also simple. Try not to fall victim to MIT-induced apathy as the term progresses. While you may not have the opportunity to try as many new ideas later in the semester, you should still take the time to fix the problems that occur.

Last year, I knew someone who stopped using his sink because it leaked too much; he decided it wasn't worth it to talk with the house manager and get the pipes repaired. Many people who found cockroaches intensely revolting in September were totally ignoring them in May, letting the the little vermin crawl up and down the walls without giving them any notice.

Seeing my old room with a fresh coat of mint green paint on the walls made me acutely aware of how apathetic I was last year. I intend to make this year different, as should all the students at MIT. Too much acceptance of miserable conditions seriously detracts from the quality of life.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on 9/6/96.
Volume 116, Number 39.
This story appeared on page 4.

This article may be freely distributed electronically, provided it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice, but may not be reprinted without the express written permission of The Tech. Write to archive@the-tech.mit.edu for additional details.