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The Long And Winding Road

Andrew C. Thomas

Normally, these sorts of columns wait until the last issue that a graduating senior can submit to, but three events have made me want to reflect on my time at MIT right away. First, next week will be my last as this newspaper’s opinion editor, so I won’t have the chance to read any delightful reader mail unless I hack into the Letters to the Editor account. Second, I’m saving a few grand and graduating early, though I’ll still be putzing around until June and probably still writing for this page. And third, I’m writing this on a holiday Monday and I have little else to do but think back. Of course, this sort of reminiscing always makes me reduce things to quotes or glib remarks. Take one with you and pass it on, and I’ll be satisfied.

“There’s always a bigger fish.”

I imagine that every MIT graduate travels the same path, from a feeling of obstinate courage to one of utter defeat and humiliation -- and that’s just in freshman year. Most students come here from the very tops of their classes only to find themselves in the middle of the pack, and most of them did it without working very hard. It’s one of the most difficult transitions for anyone to make, but also one of the most necessary for those who coast on raw talent. Don’t kill yourself to be first in your class any more -- it’s not going to happen, kids.

“The rose goes in the front, big boy.”

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Confidence and arrogance alone cannot do the job. Patience is often in short supply here -- the abuse of pass/no record to take high level courses at a minimum penalty is but one symptom of that. Not like this will make a difference to anyone reading this, since I can’t stop that particular problem for a single student here, but please, don’t be in too much of a rush. Don’t cram six courses into your schedule and take only 50 percent out of each one.

“Some days, even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t work.”

We’ve all pulled all-nighters, some have pulled all-weekers. There will always be those times when you worked hard to polish off an assignment and didn’t do as well as you hoped -- leading you to question why you tried so hard in the first place. Remember, no matter how trite it sounds, it really is about how you play the game.

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Man, this place is ugly. Ugly, but lovable, like the sweetheart kid down the street who’ll bring you flowers but whom you’ll jilt for the muscled jerk who calls you “cutie.” (Ahem.) Maybe it’ll take me 25 or 50 years to appreciate the beauty architect Steven Holl sees in Simmons Hall, like the troubles Picasso and other great artists had when their new creations were displayed. They broke traditional values in their art, and Frank Gehry continues to with the upcoming unveiling of the jewel in the new architectural crown. Still, I don’t see it happening, and you can hold me to it. At least when Baker came out, they didn’t ask why they had to go down and then up to get to another room on the same floor, or complain about the view.

“I love kung fu.”

I tried to come up with a good quote from the cult favorite Office Space that might be context appropriate, but for the need to come up with one suitable for the eyes of children, the best I could do is this one. Appreciate the slightly absurd in life. We all need to relax once in a while, no matter how big the thrill you get from keeping your pedal to the floor. Stay off the chocolate covered espresso beans and the Red Bull and have a glass of warm milk at least once a semester.

Be seeing you.