042. Lists

tldr: get ready for some lists

About a year ago (415 days, to be precise), I wrote two blogs entitled “Seventeen” and “Eighteen“; the former when I was still 17, and the latter when I turned 18 a week later. It was a MIRACLE that these blogs lined up the way that they did, given that they were also my 17th and 18th blogs. That will never happen again for me (unless I just stopped blogging now and wrote another one when I turn 43, but I don’t imagine I will stop blogging anytime soon). About an hour ago (58 minutes, to be precise), I realized that I didn’t write one for this year. So, here goes nothing.

Firstly, a response to the former two blogs.

In response to Seventeen:

“In a year when you are looking over your blogs, what do you want to bet you’ll find this idea excruciatingly stupid? Guess you will find out Future Me.”>>> Well Past Me, look who’s stupid now, I actually really like that these posts happened. And I am continuing the tradition.

This blog was a list of 17 things I like about myself, and it was so hard to write. I remember it taking me a While to get going and to write things down. Thankfully I have changed; I am better at finding characteristics I like about myself. I think this is due to being at MIT.

I honestly didn’t think much about myself (both in good and bad ways) because I never really felt self-conscious in the environment of high school. My classes were fun but not stressful, and I didn’t feel out of place with my gender expression. But at MIT, there is not a moment where I feel slightly out of my comfort zone, both academically and physically. Like, I am a running behind in a race I didn’t know I was participating in.

Academically, there are so many students that are just ahead. I knew that this was going to be the case but it is so weird actually Seeing that in person. However, this is not a healthy way to see things. Everyone starts off in completely different places out of high school, and in college everyone’s goals are different. For myself, I like to be strategic with my classes. If I do 18.701 as a freshman, then I can do 18.705 as a sophomore. Or, if I take 18.100B in the fall, then I can take 18.102 in the spring. I find this aspect of schedule making very enjoyable to think about. But I would be lying if I said that my friend’s schedule of 18.600, 18.510, 8.02, and a HASS more fun and less stressful. Maybe long term I will reach a point of wanting less academic stress, but for now that just isn’t our goal. And that’s okay.

Physically, I just feel behind in the process of being trans. Back in high school, I was the only trans woman in the class of 2020, and I had no one to compare to. Which is great, in that I liked feeling comfortable in what I wore. Except I never really did feel comfortable. I just couldn’t afford spending money on clothes, and I was okay with that. But now I can! So I have been making a new wardrobe, slowly but surely. And now that I am on MIT extended insurance, I am hopeful to get on HRT [Hormone Replacement Therapy] very soon.

All of this to say, that feeling “out-of-place” at MIT has forced me to explore my identity and my wants more; turning confusing anxiety into comforting acceptance. Later on in this blog I will make a list of things I like about myself, and it will be easier to write.

In response to Eighteen: [This references the numbers to Eighteen; it might be better to read these side-by-side.]

  • 1. I have been a bit better at picking up books and reading them for enjoyment? Granted, more often than not this occurs with math books, but you know what, I like math books. I also have been cross-stitching [obligatory thanks to Snively for getting me back into this], and doing jigsaw puzzles. I am excited to be on campus and do these activities in person with friends– it’s not quite as enjoyable on a zoom call.
  • 2. I am getting different clothes! Today, as it so happens. I am sure this will be a long process but at least I am starting.
  • 5. Turns out: you bite on your ballpoint pens a lot less when you do most of your homework on an iPad or on a laptop. Plus, I have learned new mindless things to do on calls, like spin pens in your hand. Not a “great” trait, but certainly less harmful than chewing on your writing utensils, and more socially acceptable.
  • 6. I certainly grew when it comes to maths– a natural consequence of taking 5 math classes.
  • 7. I haven’t been writing in journals as much, actually. I used to for classes, but then turned to writing on an iPad. But I did finish a small handwritten journal/agenda last year! In fact, just got a new one for 2021-2022.
  • 10. I moved to the east coast; first that fall to New York, and then spring to MIT.
  • 11. I got two tattoos! One of a spoon on my collarbone, and another of a greek Delta, line, and circle. The spoon one is for chronic illness/pain, and the Delta, line, and circle to represent change over time. I really like these, they help me feel more grounded. I used to be very existential, and these certainly help me feel more Concrete. Many more tattoos to come over the years I am sure.
  • 12. I can drink black coffee now.
  • 14. Freshman year went alright. Different than I thought it would be, but it was fun. I made friends.
  • 15. See 7..
  • 17. See 10..

I am a prime numbered age again!

Now for the lists– aforementioned in the tldr (which I still enjoy making with every blog). Part of me worries that this is lazy writing, but I enjoyed reflecting over last years posts today. Besides, it’s my blog.

18 Things I Like About Myself

  1. I was able to persevere through my classes last year. The course load got a bit busy when tests rolled around, but I made it to be a sophomore. One more year til I will get my Brass Rat, and three more years til I get my degree.
  2. I am open to the possibility of my career changing. I have always wanted to be a professor, but recently I have been more open to the possibility of something different. This isn’t to say I don’t want to teach any more– I very much do. But I want to be open to new opportunities as they happen to arise. Before college I would’ve laughed at the concept of doing anything other than teaching.
  3. I am in therapy, and that I have already set up an appointment for when I get back to Massachusetts. Therapy sessions took a while for me to get started on, but I am glad that they are a part of my college routine.
  4. I am putting in the effort to buy new clothes. It took forever to start buying clothes, and to get over the initial hurdle of accepting that it would cost money. Not that the cost is a huge factor to me, but I just don’t regularly spend much on myself. Self care, right?
  5. I like my ability to speak in front of others confidently.
  6. I have back up plans for my back up plans (especially when it comes to my classes).
  7. I feel comfortable cold-emailing someone. Sure, I never heard back from Sal Khan, but at least I tried. And more times than not, I hear back.
  8. I have been taking proactive steps to possibly start Hormone Replacement Therapy when back on campus.
  9. I am going to be an associate advisor for a class on Mathematical Symmetry. I think this is going to be a lot of fun, and I am glad that I decided to take on this responsibility.
  10. I like that this list is easier for me to make compared to last year.
  11. I am comfortable in uncertainty.
  12. I am good at having a conversation, even if I don’t know the person I am speaking with all that well.
  13. I have a good relationship with my academic advisor, Haynes Miller. He is the same person who ran the advising seminar I took last year, and the same person who I will be an associate advisor for this fall. He trusts that I have thought through my class schedule.
  14. I like that my friend and I thought to get two pairs of shoes (one with strawberries, one with lemons), and swap right shoes to get something perfectly mismatched. When I write something that requires a dedication page, I am going to say “Thank you to the man with my right shoe.”
  15. I like my humor, both in my speaking and writing.
  16. The people at the Revue still knew my coffee order when I came back home.
  17. This summer I tutored for precalculus and calculus, and I like that teaching how to solve problems in these subjects has become much easier for me. Can’t wait til real analysis and algebra feel this way too.
  18. I have continued to blog for over a year now. It is certainly worth the cost.

19 Things to Change/Do by 20

  1. Reach at least blog number 66. Blogging, though a bit of work to maintain, is something I enjoy doing. I want to keep making the space for it in my life.
  2. Update my legal name, and get all the new documents (IDs and such). On that note, get a passport, on the not-so-small chance I want to study abroad. I don’t know, I haven’t decided.
  3. Try to do one new thing a day, however small. The important thing isn’t to go out of your way to do something new, but rather to be able to point out something new that happened. But then again, can’t hurt to go out of your way to explore new opportunities.
  4. Read some classic books (I’m looking at you The Great Gatsby, sitting in my backpack in purgatory).
  5. Go to some of the Course 24 Philosophy tea times! I really want to explore my religious identity, specifically my thoughts on destiny and karma. Plus, this feels like a great way to get engaged in the philosophy department before I can declare a double major.
  6. Figure out if I want to double major.
  7. Get more MIT stickers for my laptop.
  8. Decorate my dorm room! Maybe it was a consequence of COVID, or a fear to spend money, but last year my room felt boring. I want my room to feel homey. My friend wants to do No Homework in her room this fall. Maybe I will try to do the same, for a bit.
  9. Apply to REUs! God it would be so cool to go to another school and learn more about math and math research. Also apply to UROP+ and SPUR. Honestly, anything with “math summer camp” vibes sounds really nice, if stressful.
  10. Learn how to do some basic makeup.
  11. Play some Dungeons and Dragons! I am debating if I want to run a game, but if not, certainly play in one once or twice.
  12. Learn the building numbers. Having not been on campus, I am further behind on this than I would like.
  13. Build a snowman (if tiny) on Killian Court.
  14. Get a plant!
  15. Engage with more clubs and organizations on campus. Everything just felt, sad to do online.
  16. Do at least one PE class, and certainly either bio or chem this spring. I will NOT wait until my senior spring to finish my major GIRs.
  17. Go on a date? I know, ambitious.
  18. Start building healthier habits. Perhaps a sleep schedule, or writing more. Perhaps a combination.
  19. Get another tattoo? I really like the ones I have so far. I would love another spoon, or something space related, or the quote “Do Good”. These tattoos may be permanent, but it helps me deal with the fact that I am not.

Well future me, this is it for now. Hope you enjoy looking back on this written time capsule in a year. Have a good last year being a teenager. Last year I will ever get to say that.


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.

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