How many of you recall your very first semester at MIT? I’m sure you can’t forget it; you know, that one time long ago when you put minimal effort into your classes and ended up passing with that obscure letter P. Man, wasn’t pass/no record great? My young self thought naively at the time, “This place isn’t all that bad. MIT is a pretty darn fun place. People shouldn’t be complaining so much. All this complaining just coalesces into a negative stereotype of this place.” That is, to outsiders all we do is work and work. Yeah right … I laughed, and laughed some more when thinking about the truth. Then that fateful day came: second semester started.
Maybe I would be exaggerating just a little bit if I said reality came crashing down on me. I mean, I knew I would have to work when I made the decision to go to college. But … not this much. Who the heck spends hours and hours on end working and studying?! (On the weekends, too!) Mind you, I’m not including those crazy pre-meds. I kind of feel for them, but not really … I’m sure they must somehow like all that work. I am, however, no pre-med.
Recently, the ’09 class released its Brass Rat design, which features Kerberos guarding the school. I’m 99.9 percent sure that it isn’t a coincidence that the three-headed dog, Kerberos, also guards the gates of Hell. It just so happens that Kerberos is also the name of the network authentication protocol MIT uses. You know your Kerberos ID − the one you use to obtain your personal certificate, log onto an Athena cluster computer, or whatever it is you need to do through MIT’s network. All of these allusions to Hell corroborate well with my second semester experience thus far.
One day, I caught myself complaining to a high school friend about the workload. Yes, that same grievance I had earlier, which propagates a bad image of this place (let me take a moment to say that hypocrisy is a natural human characteristic). Anyway, he said he wants to come here for college. I told him he’s crazy. All of a sudden, he called us half-gods, being capable of doing just about anything. I scoffed. Sure, a compliment is nice and all, but we’re hardly divine. It seems to me that the more time you spend here, the more incapable of anything you find yourself. Then I complained some more by giving an anecdote of a really bad day. He responded that even though a lot of MIT students complained, we enjoyed the intensity that is MIT.
I thought about what my friend said for a bit. Do we really enjoy this agony? Are we all out-of-our-minds-masochistic? I don’t know about you, but in high school I was pretty complacent. High school was easy. High school didn’t provide the unique intensity we all come to “appreciate” here. I admit, though, I do sort of like it. It’s definitely a love-hate relationship. IHTFP can be an acronym for two statements, which expresses this relationship well. You really can’t compare high school with MIT, can you?
About two weeks ago, I was working almost nonstop for an entire day, operating only on two hours of sleep. When my day was over, I was relieved. I rushed back to my dorm to catch up on sleep when I saw people do what I call shoe-skating near the Student Center. On Valentine’s Day, the sky had poured snow and rain simultaneously. The layer of water froze over the next few days, and people used the ice for their entertainment.
So, this is how shoe-skating is done: first you run on the ice, and then you stop suddenly to slide. Simple, isn’t it? I joined these people, only to fall many times. I was pretty bad, and a friend commented that I was getting wiped. The ice was hard, almost like asphalt, and the impact of all those falls made me terribly sore the next day. Not to mention that my glasses were in danger of being crushed each time I fell. They would fly yards away, and then slide happily on the ice like I did. It was amusingly random. You may wonder though, why didn’t I go straight to sleep?
We work hard. But we know when to play hard too. MIT is a pretty darn fun place. And when the workload gets to be too much, do what everyone else does: just complain away your problems.