044. We Aren’t Kids Anymore

tldr: were we ever

I am not a frosh. I can feel the slow approach of cruftiness and a semi-false-superiority-complex. However, I don’t feel like a sophomore. Freshmen have their innocence and way too much energy, and upperclassmen have the anticipation and build up of returning to a home they had to leave too soon. But I don’t feel like I am returning to something.

Almost every upperclassman I have talked to is excited to be back; a common phrase used by ’23s and above (below?) is “after 1.5 years…”. Maybe it is that I was here in the spring. It’s similar to the feeling of slight existential dread on your birthday. Even though just yesterday you were n years old, and today you are simply n years old + 1 day, a feeling of hollowness still remains. The inevitable ending approaches closer, even though it approaches at the same rate as the day before, and the day before that.

Being on campus is nice in many ways: getting to meet people in person, eating many rush burgers, and playing board games. I might even join a frat that I have been hanging around at (Mass Delta). I like being able to run into people and walk with them for a bit, even if it’s to discuss classes. Discussing classes on zoom just feels like awkward small talk but now it feels like awkward (and enjoyable) small talk with walking involved. But nothing feels normal.

For freshmen, not knowing things is expected, anticipated, and often addressed. Between FPOPs, orientation, and REX (not to include the many other ways frosh might know about campus/campus culture), I feel there are freshmen who know more about campus than I do. Hell, just today (9/7/21 as of the writing of this) two sophomores asked me where Killian Court was for the 2024 class photo. It isn’t that we don’t know anything– being at MIT for a year [even if online] is knowledge in itself that the ’25s won’t know until they’ve done it. It’s that I don’t even know what sophomores would know; like how dining can take 30 minutes just to get food, and where major landmarks (see Killian Court) are located.

Do the ’24s need an orientation like the freshmen get? No, I don’t think so. At this point we have already had to do 2; one for the fall and one for being on campus in the spring. But something would be better than what we have now. A tour of “The 20 places you should know on campus from 26-100 to where your major’s lounge is”, or even a simple email telling us that the academic and activities midways are going on. Any guidelines or bumpers, or simply informational events would have proven useful.

When I got to Massachusetts, the first few items on the agenda were clear.
– Go to the Next House,
– Get my room key,
– Get Covid tested.
But then? I don’t know. There were no requirements besides these three, at least not ’til the next week. Granted, I got an early return to campus for associate advising, so I did have things eventually, but even then 90% of my time was eaten up by the sheer and terrifying freedom to do whatever I want and whatever I needed to. Freedom feels great, but this was just confusing. For sophomores in previous years I imagine that this would be the time to visit friends, grab Tosci’s, and go on a spontaneous trip to Revere Beach. Instead, I was left wondering what the number for campus police is, and if sophomores could go to REX events, and when I would get to finally register for classes (as it turns out, this happens the day before classes begin). I didn’t know what I didn’t know but it felt like I should at this point in my academic career.

There is not an Office of the Second Year who would run such sophomore orientation events, and generally speaking I imagine that this is for the better. Who wants to go to events where they tell you that going to lectures is good, and who wants to go on an 8am [mandatory] tour of campus? Especially if they were at school the previous year. But there has to be a happy medium, right? Events where I can meet upperclassmen, go to the aquarium, and simply try to muster the slight innocence and energy of the frosh year that the ’24s never got.

Should I have taken a gap year? I don’t know. The Covid grant [a scholarship from MIT for doing school online] made it hard to want to– I was literally getting paid to do classes. Maybe that’s because doing things online is worse. This statement is undoubtedly true, but I also know that last year also had major advantages, like getting to stay in New York and being able to wake up 3 minutes after classes started and still attending lectures (yay MIT time). But another part of me knows that I am not a frosh. And I will never get to be a frosh again. Did I ever really get to be one?

I struggle with wanting to feel/be whatever normal is, and I know at MIT there is no normal. But this doesn’t feel right. One sentiment a lot of sophomores have expressed to me is that it seems like no one cares. At least there is comfort in knowing that I made it through one year, and the next one begins in less than 24 hrs.

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.

6 thoughts on “044. We Aren’t Kids Anymore

  1. hmmm yeah. the sophomores are all in this weird liminal state that we havent had before. its interesting. but like, mentally, im just treating yall as “frosh” with respect to in-person campus things and idk.

    Liked by 1 person

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