It was Thursday. I was about a week into my time at MIT, and sure enough, on the phone to my buddy, I found myself screaming, “IHTFP already!” Well, not the acronym. You get the idea.
But then I realized, I didn’t mean that negatively. In fact, I think I meant it in the best way possible.
You see, one week into Cambridge, and I can already see why the MIT experience is so unique. This entire place sucks! I mean, the bureaucracy is terrible, nobody talks to anyone else, the entire town is full of antisocial communist hipsters, and the streets are poorly annotated. But here’s the thing. I’m pretty sure that all of this is intentional. In fact, I’ve come to believe that 90 percent of the MIT experience isn’t learning whatever’s in the classroom, it’s finding ways to plow through the inexorable slew of mind-boggling frustration. Because, life is like that! And we’re here to get prepared for life, or in the case of us graduate students, postpone it for a few more years.
This is why MIT students are such impressive beings. They’ve learned through trial by fire. They’ve run the gauntlet. It’s that whole “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mantra.
I didn’t notice this at first, but then on my second day here, I was having trouble setting up my TV and messaged one of my MIT buddies for help. His response was “RTFM.” I didn’t really know what that meant and was going to ask someone else, but then decided to look it up. Sure, I was offended after I found the definition, but you know what? I did RTFM and now I can almost get HDTV in my room.
It was in that moment of clarity, after finally buckling down and figuring it out by myself, that I realized the challenges this place poses for us are nothing but opportunities to improve at life. And this attitude is the MIT spirit.
As my first week rolled on, MIT sure laid the challenges on thick. But I am a better person for it.
The fact that MIT let me move into my building before I could actually park there? That was just a way to encourage me to optimize my parking routines to minimize the probability of getting towed. The fact that an advanced search of the course catalog using the parameters “immunology” does not in fact return all of the immunology classes? That was the school’s way of challenging me to write a Perl script to find out what classes I really want to take — or just encouraging me to drop immunology.
And the whole thing about registration requiring a paper trail? That’s the ’Tvte taking away our innate strengths of being able to hack anything up to and including small European nations and forcing us to improve our weaknesses, i.e. athletic ability. It’s like the swim test. You can’t write a script to tread water, now can you?
Then there’s Boston. Turns out none of the streets have signs to tell you what street you’re on. It’s a constant driving lesson designed to improve your holistic navigation skills! Oh Boston, you’re always trying to further my education. It’s like that time I got lost in the dead of night and ended up all the way near the Mystic River when I just wanted to find Target. Well, that was just you teaching me about “appropriate fear.” And I can’t forget the time I went to one of your liquor stores and they wouldn’t sell me a bottle of cheap white wine because I had an out of state ID. Boy, did I learn a lesson in humility! I started whining to the clerk that I just wanted to cook some mussels. I mean, it was a frigging Kendall Jackson white. But he just wouldn’t listen. It would have been much easier if I was 17 and trying to get wasted, but I wasn’t. I was 22 and hungry!
See, I’ve already learned so much.
I could go on and on and on, but then you might think that you’re being compelled to read a column all about some guy complaining. And you are. But this is just making you a more persevering person!
I’ve tried to gain traction for my theory by meeting new people and asking them about their experiences. At MIT, this is harder than you might think. Walking into an elevator the other day, I noticed that none of the ten people standing within it were making eye contact with each other. That requires skill. A skill I’m sure they learned courtesy of the ’Tvte.
Fast forward to Thursday. I was on the phone screaming about how much IHTFP already and my buddy replies, “That’s the spirit. Usually it takes a while for the MIT gleam to wear off.”
“No,” I replied, “I mean, IHTFP in the best way possible. By making me jump through so many hurdles, MIT is molding me into a better person. If I was content here, I wouldn’t be making so many strides as an individual.”
“You do realize that none of this is actually intentional right? This place really does suck.”
“Yes, but if I believe it is, then I can get on with my life.”
“So this is just your way of coping?”