035. Behind

tldr: MIT is the first place I have ever felt behind

After 12 years of school, the night before I was left alone in New York for the start of my freshman fall semester at MIT, my mom told me: “You have always been good at school.” Not as a humble brag as a parent, but rather as a phrase that got me through the imposter syndrome for quite some time.

This week is over and here comes a four-day weekend, aka 2/5 of the break that is supposed to make up for the last of a spring break, when in reality there is normally no school on Patriot’s day weekend. So, that’s fun. On MIT Confessions, the MIT Blogs, The Tech, and through almost every student interaction I have had over the last three weeks, it is clear that academic burnout is making its way through the student body.

At first, I thought I was exempt. That I had magically made it past the hard times of midterms, and that the next month and a half would be smooth sailing. Then, I got this schedule:

  • Monday: 21W.022 Rough Draft due, 6 pages. Arguably the worst rough draft I have ever written, but at least it is ungraded. I have a week and a half to get this essay right. I think it can have a big impact on the MIT community, and I want to do it justice. I am sure I will put it on a blog once it is finished. But nonetheless, it is currently, very shitty.
  • Tuesday: 8.02 PSET and Prelab due. Also, on Monday, Mohammed (the amazing teacher who runs *extremely helpful* review sessions before every test [we will get back to that later] posted a 3.5 hour review. If I wanted any chance of success, I needed to watch that review session Tuesday, because on
  • Wednesday: 18.702 PSET due. I was only able to work on this PSET Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings due to time constraints and. so. many. PSETS. I think I did well on it in the end. It was fun! Just not nearly enough time for me. Maybe during a normal week, but this was Not normal.
  • Thursday: 8.02 Quiz 3. Fun fact, in two weeks, we have another quiz! I technically did this quiz Friday morning between 1-3am, as all of Thursday I was working on an assignment due
  • Friday: 18.102 PSET due. I only had Thursday and Friday to work on this assignment. I usually love the 18.102 PSETs.

But by today, I just couldn’t. I have pulled so many all-nighters, the days have started to blend together. One PSET, then the next, then studying, then another PSET. Of course, not every week is like this. Normally, I can get started on the PSETs earlier, preventing largely unnecessary amounts of stress from my back. But two weeks prior I had two midterms I was burnt out from. And the week following, I was barely keeping up. I hadn’t fully internalized what my mom had meant until this last week– the first week that I have ever felt behind in school.

In therapy [I started two weeks ago], I talked about this. Essentially saying, “I’ve been on top of my classes, so”. But honestly, the amount of stress I feel I must put myself through to get everything done has been lowkey scary. I constantly felt like I couldn’t sleep– sleep would only push me further back. Studying could best happen between 1am-5am. I can hardly believe its April 16th– I know I have been under stress but in Totality I can’t even fully remember what was going on last week.

But, I have always felt compelled to be good in school. In early elementary school, I realized that if I could be good at something– good at math— I had the slightest chance of getting into a school with good financial aid. So, I just kept pushing myself. In K-12, it was easier. I finished assignments in class/advisory/afterschool. Keep in mind– these were daily assignments to be turned in the next day, so granted, not as difficult as a PSET with 5 questions that we have a week to solve. So it was easy to be fully academically motivated, because it didn’t take that much out of me to do my work. I could put studying first, and have time to go to a sleepover, or watch all of Grey’s Anatomy, or hang out in a coffee shop every day afterschool. I was able to keep my relaxing separate from my stressing.

Now, my dorm room is my home. My own little bubble of eating, studying, stressing, working, burning out. All in 900 sq ft. I don’t know how people do it with more than five classes a semester.

I felt like the last burning candle on a sinking ship, about to be extinguished by the firehose. But, I made it to the weekend. I am, alive. Almost every night this week I wondered to myself “how am I supposed to do this”. And yet here I am, having done it. This doesn’t mean my behavior was healthy– in fact, this weekend is going to mark the beginning of more healthy behavior in this semester. But the point is, I am caught up.

Next week, 3 of my PSETs have been cancelled, and one made (supposedly) easier due on Friday. I am taking a break. I am going to take Saturday to rest, and spend Sunday-Tuesday working on this essay that I am really excited about. I can’t wait to share it with y’all. But for now, I am going to sleep. I am, exhausted.


Published by Paige Bright

Hi- my name is Paige Alexandria Bright. I am a rising junior at MIT interested in mathematics and philosophy. I have been writing this blog since the beginning of COVID. Lets see where this goes.

3 thoughts on “035. Behind

    1. You deserve a lot of praise for being a TA, honestly TAs are so helpful in all of my classes. I think the major difference with Mohammed is that he’s a professor, and so many students feel they don’t get physics from other profs until his review


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