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Positive Sinking

Just Boil to Make Syrup

By Akshay Patil

Features Editor

The real world is a scary place. If you’re feeling lazy and don’t do an assignment, they don’t flunk you, they fire you. If it’s 4 a.m. and there’s no way you can get something done in time, you can’t just walk down the hall and bug that girl in your class to just maybe peak at her solutions. Size twelve Courier font with extra large margins is no longer going to cut it and a large number of us are going to report to the office dressed “business casual” after four or more years of taking classes in a place where some people don’t even bother with shoes.

If you, like me, spent four years in a dormitory, frat, sorority, or independent living group, weekend boredom will no longer be resolvable by stepping out into your hall to go visit someone else. Heat, electricity, and high-bandwidth internet are no longer free and a static IP address will be hard to come by (because I needs my static IP). If you’re lucky, you might have in-house laundry machines, but there’s a distinct possibility you’ll be hauling your dirty career-fair t-shirts around to the local laundromat in a career-fair laundry bag.

The time has come to actually learn social skills. The giant penguin suit has to stay in the closet and you’ll need to learn how to dress and talk in ways that are interesting and attractive to members of the opposite sex who probably haven’t consumed as many beers as you’re used to. No longer will you be able to go to clubs and use casual pick up lines like “Hey, did you get #17 on the problem set?” or “So how’d you do on the test?”

The bathrooms no longer clean themselves, your iTunes shared list will soon be empty, you can’t use L.A.M.P. (not that you could anyways), and free food no longer grows on trees. Well, ok, fine, food will grow on trees, but not with free warm rolls on the side. The Z-Center is no longer free (not that it really was to begin with), you’ll have to buy things with real money (no parent-fueled TechCash), and you can’t steal furniture from abandoned rooms.

There’s no such thing as summer vacation or winter and spring breaks. As strange as it may seem, the rest of the world doesn’t celebrate Patriot’s Day, and they certainly don’t take the day off to barbecue and watch people run around. All too soon, you might actually find yourself working for a Sloanie or (even worse) a Harvard graduate.

On the other hand, you might move away to a place where the weather isn’t as erratic as a pseudorandom generator. Work will usually stay at work instead of following you home and throwing pebbles at your window at night. Depending on what you set off to do in life, you might actually be earning money -- and not just the chump change you get for sitting behind your dorm’s desk sorting mail and pushing a button every four minutes -- real money.

When somebody asks you to do something, you no longer have to say “What’s the point?” Architects will design buildings that will actually be built. Computer scientists will write software that will be impossible to use and loaded with “features.” Aero-astro-ists will colonize Mars and crash space stations into large bodies of water. Pre-meds will... stay in school for a really long time but might one day discover the thrill of throwing away their colored pens and actually saving someone’s life.

There’s a big, crazy, scary world out there. It’s populated by people who’ve never heard of MIT, don’t care what classes you took there, or what you got on the SAT. It’s full of places to discover, things to build, people to help. It’s all a bit intimidating, but for once in our lives it’s really ours for the taking. Finally.

So don’t mess up. No pressure or anything.

Akshay Patil is a member of the class of 2004 and may be reached at patil@mit.edu.