Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Melting Down, Building Up

In the five years since my “Meltdown” blog post, I’ve changed a lot—and so has MIT.

I spent my teens reading about p-set sunrises and grand academic adventures on the MIT Admissions blogs, scouring Popular Science and Technology Review for news of the scientific and technological progress that served as their backdrop. At my MIT interview seven years ago, I said I wanted, like the students and scientists I’d read about, to be broken down and rebuilt. And that’s exactly what happened in my time at MIT.

This story is part of the March/April 2017 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

I documented the breaking in a 2012 blog post for MIT Admissions, titled “Meltdown,” which I wrote from a low point that many MIT students have experienced: I was missing sleep and class to catch up on p-sets and falling further behind, not calling home, not hanging out with friends, not thinking past the next deadline. I worked alone in my dorm’s basement, watching the feet outside through the tiny window above the piano I’d forgotten how to play. But when “Meltdown” went viral, the outpouring of support at MIT and beyond made me feel far from isolated, and the post was followed by campus-wide introspection on MIT culture and student stress.

Another Admissions blogger, Anna Ho ’14, wrote about stripping away non-work activities and putting back the ones you aren’t you without. I think that is what it means to melt down and build back up: you gain a deeper understanding of what you care about and a deeper appreciation for the happiness it brings you. Rebuilding, for me, was making space for the things that have always made me me—calling and visiting my family, cooking and eating with people I care about, playing piano and reading, and taking long evening walks watching the warm lights of Cambridge come on after sunset.

After “Meltdown,” I learned to view health and education as common goals that I, my mentors, and my peers were all working toward together. It’s hard to disentangle my growth from MIT’s, but I think the key to both was decreased emphasis on being hardcore, more emphasis on lifting each other up; less elevation of lonely suffering, more encouragement to reach out to others. Life still felt like a battle, but it wasn’t a lonely fight. Classes seem to have gotten even more collaborative since my freshman year, with more opportunities for teamwork and peer teaching. And there is far less stigma around asking for help, both academically and medically.

I’ve learned to give myself time. I’ve gotten better at respecting that I need to sleep and eat and de-stress, and I’m better able to embrace the windingness of my life path and, sometimes, a slower pace. I try to avoid measuring myself in numbers or comparing myself with my peers. Instead, I try to measure time in walks taken, pages read, and songs learned. Though it is hard to hit pause, I try to remember that sometimes it is most productive to go home or do something different for an evening—or even a few months.

I think that thriving through delayed gratification, especially at MIT or in academia generally, requires seeing ourselves as more than our progress through a traditional technical career. For some of my friends, that has meant applying MIT-style problem solving to careers in education, journalism, and science video writing. My decision to include art and writing in my career grew out of Random Hall’s decision to let students to paint on its walls. Painting got me through things that were hard to put into words. I painted tiny melting cows bubbling over a radiator on the third floor (my grandfather’s cancer), tiny cows sucked into black holes (vortices of unabating work), tiny cows hiking up mountains, flying, and exploring—always open to adventure, despite the inherent dangers.

My own adventures were possible because MIT gave me a safe place to fail. In my time at MIT, I failed a lot, I got back up a lot, and I built a career out of second, third, and fourth chances. At graduation last June, the cranes hovering over the Great Dome seemed absurdly apposite—MIT was under construction, and so was I. MIT taught me that real progress plods to the rhythm of failures and growth, melting and rebuilding. Rebuilding is a never-­ending, conscious process, and MIT gave me, forever, solid bedrock to build on.

Lydia Krasilnikova ’14, MEng ’16, studied computational biology at MIT. She currently works across the street at the Broad Institute.

Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

Become an Insider
Already an Insider? Log in.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.