As I was driving up to Boston from my home in New York for the last time this past Saturday, I remembered my orientation at MIT. For a second I panicked, because it seemed like I had grown up in the span of a second. I now live in an apartment on Beacon Street with a set of pots and pans, a full-sized bed, and a utilities bill — the stuff of old age, or at least the mid-twenties. What if I woke up tomorrow and I was forty years old?
Later that day, my mother and I helped a friend move from Boston back to Burton-Conner and after I came down from delivering the belongings to her suite, I found my mom sitting in our car staring off into space. “I wish I were back at my freshman orientation,” she sighed. Sadly, I wished the same thing. I was seventeen when I came here, ready for classes and parties, and living on my own. I am now almost twenty-one, but I look older (I count ten wrinkles) and without a Red Bull or two a day, I have the energy of a sixty-year-old. While enviously watching the young freshmen eating their mustard-covered hot dogs and chatting excitedly over the dormitories’ poorly-chosen rock music, I regretted the fact that I haven’t really enjoyed the last three years of college.
Pass/no record was the most romantic time of my life. There was something alluring in the idea of being unable to fail. It became a mindset, and I carpe diemed my way through the fall of 2005.
What happened to my days of yore?
My roommate is (if this is possible) as ready to graduate as I am. We are jaded, anxiously waiting for a change, hoping to find our youth again in the aftermath of receiving our MIT diplomas. I mentioned my concerns to my roommate late last night, while we were bundled up on our couch with heirloom tomatoes, organic corn, cave-aged cheddar, and an independent film (we gave up fraternity parties a long time ago for the ease of Netflix and the comfort of a good night’s sleep). “I know what you mean,” she responded, “And I have this theory …”
Her theory went something like this: Freshman year, particularly first semester, most of us do whatever we want — we go to parties, have fun, don’t sleep, and don’t worry about our grades. Then sophomore year we say, “I was such an idiot last year, and I’m going to get my act together and work.” So we work and learn about what it takes to be a straight A student here, which, if I may be frank, is a complete commitment to academics, a fun celibacy, and the ability and desire to renounce spontaneity for the rest of your undergraduate career. Then junior year, we have so much work and hate this place with all of our souls, and wonder about what else there is in life, because if this is it, then God help us. We can’t live like this for the next sixty years. Finally when senior year comes around, we think about things, and make the executive decision that freshman year was way better, and that we were right not caring about our grades and living life to the fullest.
I was awed by this analysis. This was me. The sulking premed. The tired worker bee. The caffeine addict looking for a patch to help kick her bad habit.
And so, to the new freshmen I must say this: Despite what everyone tells you, Bs are fine, even excellent grades. Don’t worry about your GPA or finding a job, or getting accepted to grad school. Even if other MIT students tell you otherwise, an MIT degree does go a long way. Go out, enjoy Boston, discover the good taverns of Cambridge, and on nice afternoons, walk to Toscanini’s and get yourself an ice cream instead of studying. Spend the next four years doing things that you’ll miss being able to do as an adult. Take time off. Travel. Wake up late and spend a Saturday eating takeout Chinese.
Live life like you only have to pass.