MIT De-Techified: A Different Good-Bye

This past semester has involved a lot of time for reflection.  It’s hard to believe that I’ve been at MIT for two years now.  I’ve walked down the Infinite Corridor, de-stressed by the Charles River, watched the Boston skyline from the McCormick penthouses, and midnight-snacked on mozzarella sticks from the student center already for half of the time I will be here in this unique, incomparable part of my life.

But this semester there was also the looming realization that there were people above me, people who I have come to know in all sorts of times, who would soon complete this part of their journey.  When the video commemorating the seniors was played at our annual South Asian Culture Show, my reaction was much stronger than I expected.  Sure, there was a graduating class last year too, but my interaction with them was more of a freshman looking up in awe at accomplished seniors.  And I was pretty close to many in the high school graduating year before mine, but it was still high school.  College represents a different level of friendship that comes with not only interactions in an academic/work environment but also with living next to them, eating with them in dining halls, waking up at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning to practice with them in a dance studio.  MIT also doesn’t separate residences by class, which means that over my four years here I will live with and come to know the 2012’s all the way to the 2018’s (that number just sounds scary).

Drew Houston ’05 delivers the Commencement Address.
[from http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2013/commencement-address-houston-0607.html ]
Yesterday, Friday, June 7, 2013, the 147th graduating class of MIT received their degrees in the beautifully green Killian court with the famous dome for a backdrop.  The students heard commencement speaker Drew Houston, MIT alum and CEO of Dropbox, give an inspiring speech to the graduates, telling them to seek out the challenging experiences, the new “fire hoses,” and go “ever upward.”  They sat with the friends they’ve made over the past few years, took plenty of pictures, and I’m sure, shed a few tears.

Any MIT alum you talk to will always say that the most valuable part of their MIT experience was the people they met.  And undoubtedly, the 2013’s I know are people whom I hope to never actually have to say good-bye.  Almost before I even made close friends in my own year, I got to know 2013’s, who were juniors then, first through my a cappella group and a few other dance groups I performed in.  Over time in various classes, clubs, and experiences like LeaderShape, I got to know a lot of 2013’s.  They were crazy.  They were hilarious.  They all had strong, independent personalities, but you always knew you could come to them with anything.  They were involved in everything from social get-togethers to campus initiatives to performance groups, but they always made plenty of time for pure goofing-off.  They achieved everything they set out to do but were never oblivious to their faults, their humanness.

One of the biggest sources of my interactions with the current seniors was through my South Asian a cappella group, called the MIT Ohms (which should tell you something about the personality of this group).  These 2013’s were actually the ones who founded the group when they were sophomores, the year before I came. In them I immediately found close friends and a family of older brothers and sisters.  I will never forget preparing for our fall concert that semester–the hours of filming ridiculous skits that ended in fits of giggles, corny punch lines, ripped-pants and singing/rapping sessions.  In fact, my first “all-nighter” at MIT (term applied loosely because I still slept 1.5 hours) was born out of editing those videos the night before my concert.  And yes, I definitely learned from all of them that it’s never too late to pull off something amazing.

My beloved Ohmies.
[poster and photo credit: Rik Sengupta, Divya Panchanathan]
But they also showed me and the rest of us how to lead a group.   How to delegate.  How to organize.  How to bullshit your way through almost anything.  How to make connections.  And most importantly, how achieving everything we wanted and having pure, silly, everyday fun are never mutually exclusive.  Arun, Divya, Aditya, Swetha and Arvind, thank you for what will always be some of my favorite memories at MIT.

This morning I congratulated another one of my close friends, Nikita, who just graduated.  She immediately responded with her usual loving, big-sister personality, and told me that MIT flies by after sophomore year so I should make sure to “live it up and meet tons of people.”  I smiled a little to myself at how fitting her statement was—Nikki had been introducing me to people since the beginning of my freshman year.  It was from dancing with her in groups that she led that I learned what it meant to be friends with someone whom you also held accountable, and how to do what you knew and felt was right without worrying too much about what others think.  Thank you, Nikki, for listening to my complaints, worries, and fears, for always watching out for me, and for being an amazing role model.

And to all the MIT 2013’s—I’ve come to know and love many of you and I wish I could have spent more time with each of you.  I wish I hadn’t taken so many moments for granted.  And I wish I could have gotten to know even more of you.  I’ve only named a few of you here but I’ve crossed paths with so many more of you, and it always left me for the better.  Thank you for living up to the MIT spirit and leaving this community better and richer than when you came.

I know I shouldn’t be too sad or worried.  The connections that MIT forms are too strong for even graduation to break, and I know that all of you will always be there for fun, support, and laughter.  This is a different sort of good-bye, and hopefully much more of a see-you-soon.

But most importantly, thank you for showing me the importance of forming bonds that cross boundaries of age, class, residence, and interests, how to pass on the knowledge and experience you’ve learned to those younger than you, and how to make a sophomore at MIT realize she’s made some of the best friends of her life.  I only hope that I can inspire and support someone in the same way you guys did for me.  Congratulations, and don’t forget the rest of us here at your first home-away-from-home.  🙂

The Dome
[photo credit: Rik Sengupta]