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Life After CPW

Roy Esaki

The prefrosh have come, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and gone, a bit ragged around the edges from all the fun and games but still happy campers. They enjoyed the delightful conspiracy of CPW, and in exchange for some of our valuable time, provided us with entertainment, the satisfaction of being helpful paternal authorities for a weekend, and free food from their meal cards. After bombarding the younguns with our expert analysis of what MIT is really like, it’s interesting to stop and reflect on how we actually feel about this place, and how honest we really are with each other and ourselves.

To comment on the deception of this past weekend is trite. The intrigue lets us take a much-needed break from our routine, between bouts of particularly tortuous weeks, for mass revelry and something resembling a normal college experience. Of course, cynically noticing the cheerfulness of the weekend, and the stark contrast of it with the rest of the year, forces us to step back and actively confront our environment.

Several possibilities exist for how we act towards the prefrosh. A latent pride in one’s identifying group, usually buried beneath stacks of undone assignments, surfaces. One theory is that we may be trying to convince ourselves that the sacrifices we make are really worth it, that the masochistic paradigm we have here is productive and better than the alternatives, and that our attempts to have prefrosh choose MIT give us an external validation of our choice to come here. Of course, we may just be happy people sharing our happy accounts with others because we know, objectively, that this is a wonderful place.

It all depends, naturally, on one’s biased perception and model of MIT. Viewed through the rose-colored glasses of an incorrigible optimist (or masochist), it’s an Edenic Shangri-la. For most people, “it’s tough, but it’s worth it.” For the eternally jaded, life here is like M*A*S*H. Forced to endure the endless, unwinnable struggle while under relentless fire from all directions, we seek a bizarre reaffirmation of humanity in the midst of complete absurdity. Like the doctors of MASH Unit 4077, we do this through wry humor and knowing glances, by forging a callused shell around us, and developing a camaraderie amongst ourselves through an obsession with inside jokes that plays upon the shared hardship that can’t be described to outsiders. We’re doing well, we’re being productive, but sometimes, it feels like hell.

What can be done? There’s no time to play Frisbee every weekend, grades will still be stressful, and one’s disposition -- pensive or chipper -- can’t be changed much. What can happen is the promotion of an active camaraderie. The class can become one big support group. The sharing of woes and troubles already occurs; we complain and whine incessantly to each other about work.

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” -- a sad but true statement. Unfortunately, while we commiserate with each other, through competition and comparisons, we can isolate themselves from others as we suspiciously eye each other to try to figure out how to get a competitive edge over the next person.

How many of us strive for club officership, internship, and one-upmanship more than trying to be a more empathetic, compassionate human being? Is there a difference between what we value (or would like to value) most in life, and what do we strive for on a daily basis? If we’ve formed such firmly grounded, models of expectations and values of what our lives are all about, as preached to the prefrosh, what scientific revolution will it take to make every weekend a CPW?