050. Reset

tldr: can’t we make it stop, for just a minute?

Another Tech article (with commentary at the end)!

In TV shows, there’s this cliché. Two characters (no matter their relationship) get into a fight and after some amount of time (whether it be a few episodes or an entire season), they decide that they want to move on. Except they don’t quite know how. It would be all too simple to just have one character say their actions were wrong; after extended fights like this, usually both parties are to blame for the situation in some respect. And so, through desperation (and possibly lazy writing), one character walks up to the other and says, “Hi. I’m [insert name here]. I don’t think we’ve met.”

They, much like the audience, want things to go back the way they were, give or take the minor/major dysfunctional aspects of the relationship. People like clean breaks. Ripping the bandaid off, no anesthesia. A nice reset button, in which everything is magically fixed, and everyone moves on.

I’ve been wanting to walk up to MIT, shake her hand, and say “Hi. I’m Paige. I don’t think we’ve met.”

I had a bad freshman year. I have been trying to accept this statement for a while now, yet every time it crosses my mind, I just can’t process it. Recently, I remembered that something was off last year. Everyone was hosed — this much I knew — but this was different. I think it’s relatively common to voluntarily hose yourself — with too many classes, too many clubs, too many bad decisions. But this was different. Something was off. Then, I started looking through my past writing and remembered. It felt like no one cared.

For those who don’t know, this spring, we didn’t get a spring break. Instead, we had a series of three-day weekends spread out over the course of a semester. This time off evolved into extra time for psetting and no time to destress. This sentiment was expressed everywhere I looked: The Tech, PNR Comics, MIT Admissions blogs, MIT Confessions. I just kept thinking:

Everyone knows how much pain we are in. Can’t we make it end, for just a minute?

But this never happened. The world kept on spinning, and we pushed through. And I forgot. I forgot the pain, the agony, the resentment. Towards myself, for putting myself through that.

Should I have taken a gap year?

Resentment towards MIT for letting it happen.

Do something. Do anything.

Mostly, I just felt numb. I understood the emotions of hating a world I worked so hard to be a part of, but I just never felt them. How could I have? There isn’t enough time; the world keeps on spinning. But that was the COVID era. Things this semester were going to be different. They needed to be. Someone was going to care.

I wanted to forget what last year was like. I wanted to start fresh. “Hi. I’m Paige. I don’t think we’ve met.” 

This never works in TV shows. Eventually, the characters fight again, and words left unsaid bubble to the surface leaving a bad taste in your mouth. From here, the TV cliché can go one of two ways. Either the characters reflect on how much they’ve grown and move past this (now understood to be) petty argument for the better, or their relationship doesn’t make it past another round of fighting.

I was desperate enough to ask for a reset — desperate enough to forget. A nice clean break from the hell that was last year, in hopes that this semester I could start fresh. MIT hasn’t changed. This is still the same relationship. We are burdened by the knowledge and experiences we wish to forget.

MIT will always be a struggle. Perhaps this statement would be easier to accept if last year was in person. I was more likely to feel alone and unseen when struggling in an online environment. But now, it feels like I was blindsided twice: once with the innocence of a freshman, and once again with the innocence of a sophomore excited to have things finally improve. Was I naive to hope for improvement? Did I truly think things could be better? I don’t know. Everything feels just slightly off. It would be naive not to acknowledge this. There will be no clean break, and no hard reset.

Hi. I’m Paige. We’ve met.

This piece (which can be found here), like the last one, also had an amazing art piece done by Gloria Lin (who kindly drew a good number of phenomenal art pieces for my articles). I highly encourage clicking on the link to see the art. Now, for the obligatory copyright notice:

This article originally appeared in The Tech, issue 26 volume 141. It may be freely distributed electronically as long as it includes this notice but cannot be reprinted without the express written permission of The Tech. Write to archive@tech.mit.edu for additional details.

So I wrote this piece after being on campus for a few months (with actual people, classes, chalk, etc.). I was really struggling with my relationship with MIT and my relationships some of my friends. I think it is generally true in life, but especially past high school, that things just break. Relationships, commitments, etc. At least, it is more noticeable that they are breaking.

In particular, I spent a lot of time thinking about relationships I had with other people. What felt particularly weird, was that the majority of them were online my freshman year. I, for some reason, was really good at reaching out to people virtually. Checking in, having a quick conversation, and feeling like I had friends. And it’s not that I don’t, but would I really consider every relationship like this to be a friendship? I don’t know. And with being in person, this distinction felt so much harder to make.

How do you ask someone who you’ve never seen in person to go grab a cup of coffee? Would they even be up for that? Did anything have meaning or substance my freshman year? I don’t know.

I was really struggling with questions like these. In the end, I sort of stopped at one of the key questions in the article: Should I have taken a gap year? I don’t honestly know. I don’t think there is a world in which I did; especially not with the COVID grant providing so much stability for myself and my family. But I don’t know if I got what I wanted out of freshman year, and I don’t think I ever will.

To some extent, we can forget and move on. Forget the struggles we had, and how little people seemed to care or do something about it. Except, I had been trying this and *it wasn’t working*. So, I finally got to use a metaphor I had been wanting to for a while in my writing: the one of friends asking for their relationship to reset.

All this being said, I think things are working out for the better now. Instead of trying to forgive and forget when it comes to the ‘tvte, friendships, etc, I have been trying to work through really difficult and confusing situations. As a result, I think I’ve grown into my place at MIT more.

Who knew that actually working through things can get you somewhere. Then again, so can choosing to move on. Now, the struggle is trying to figure out which applies when. But at least I am happier.

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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