This post is a rough amalgamation of notes app musings over the past few months—it’s interesting to see how my relationship with friendships, loneliness, and confidence has fluctuated in so little time.
Read to the end for some life updates or smth! :)
Read this post on my substack too!
The emptiness of a farewell at an airport. Nick’s morning meeting: the idea of a farewell being an exhalation. (all things end)
Somehow, it becomes a feeling of calm?
When I say goodbye to someone, there’s a feeling of numbness and silence afterward. My stomach drops, and I’m in a state of confusion—the thing that had given me a sort of active purpose has just disappeared. Maybe it is not quite me missing them, but more so an understanding that this excitement is now over.
If any of you are chronically online like I am, you might have seen those tiktok/reels that describe the feeling of the post-Facetime or the post-friend-hangout, where you’re half relieved that you’re alone now but suddenly left to deal with the fact that your life no longer revolves around this person.
It seems pretty apparent that there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely—one is an observation of fact, and the other has a connotation of unwilling sadness. I might even say I was a somewhat lonely child: I’ve dug around my childhood photos, and I’d sometimes see an old Polaroid of me staring sadly directly at the camera, holding a pail of water while other kids frolicked in the background. Regardless of how this all happened, it’s turned me into someone who constantly needs the presence of other people. I have to eat with other people (or I’d not eat); I can’t watch a movie alone; I don’t like solitary walks, etc…
It’s great, actually.
I love being around my friends, especially since there’s always at least one person down to do something or go somewhere stupid. Over this past summer, I’ve had friends visiting every week, and I’ve gotten to get to know so many people better now that the demands of a shared program, school, or job no longer constrain us. It takes agency, but there’s no better feeling in the world than when the people you care about return the effort. <3
(side: I think a lot about the concept of these horizontal and vertical communities—places where I am surrounded by wildly different but amazing people like Andover vs. online communities that find time out of their day to talk and connect—but looking back on this summer, I think my thoughts on it have changed once again. That’s a story for another time. Check this post out; I once spent 2 hours while AT a concert debating this…":
Ex. Horizontal Good (when it works)
- lots of unintentional touch points during your day to day
- You feel invested in and cared for by the people physically around you grounding. You are exposed to diverse viewpoints, diverse lifestyles, etc. it makes you feel plugged into society as a whole and gives you a background to “ground” your views about the world in
Cons (when it doesn’t work)
- hard to find a skill or viewpoint-specific role models, especially if they are marginalized skills, views, or identities
- lowest common denominator conversations
- Hard to be controversial. The risk of being ostracized is too high
–Zach Latta (of hack club)
One of my closest friends in high school who lived across from me and I had bonded over this problem: we both realized we so cared about not being alone we’d skip meals if there were no friends free at the time. My school/friend group had a “Schelling point”—there were always friends on the first floor of the library, so I’d dilly-dally on over whenever I was missing human contact. But in many ways, this drained our energies, because people are hard to deal with all the time, and I found that I had less time for introspection when surrounded by the noise of other voices.
Where am I getting the energy to be close to so many people? To always instant-reply texts, to almost always say yes to grabbing a coffee, to somehow always have mutuals with every stranger I meet. For a while, I fought valiantly against the idea of a person only having seven-or-so close friends; I’d try my hardest to become close to so many people in all the different communities I was in. And yet, especially recently, after spending half a term in college, I’ve realized it’s good to follow your gut, to know who you feel safe and close to, and let yourself stick with them.
I don’t know if this is me healing and finally dealing with the weird experiences I had in public school where it always felt like I was one step behind socially, awkwardly not understanding subtexts in conversation and therefore always preferring to keep my nose in a book. It was only after my gap year after 7th grade I decided I was going to make a change for the “better” and force myself to become an extrovert.
Maybe this sounds weird, to decide to become an extrovert, but I came back rejuvenated and honestly, it was nice to be able to make friends easily and get to know people when I was at Ad Astra. It exercised a totally different part of my personality, through which I grew to learn how to read people and really cared about making people feel welcome. And yet, this extroversion somewhat backfired in the same way the thesis of this post came to be: by senior year of high school, I realized I had made so, so many acquaintances but did not have many people I could say were my “ride or dies.” People who I could confide in and feel deeply comfortable with (maybe you have a different metric for this than I do, but it’s almost like a freedom from the feeling of being perceived). Many of my friends made jokes about me knowing literally everyone, but maybe that came at a cost? It was lucky I realized this before Andover ended, and I’m really proud of the close friendships I made by allowing myself to be alone and therefore be more intentional with the people I spent time with.
Back in May/April, when I was still deciding between colleges and trying to figure out what the fuck I wanted to do with my life (or if I could ever even know), another girl in my dorm gave me this somewhat vague quote about whether I’d like to “be of the world or in the world.”
Here’s the dichotomy, as I wrote incoherently that night at 1 a.m., after comMITting:
Let yourself be defined by external things is when you are being of a community, as opposed to letting yourself be yourself more and seeing past it
The goal, at least it seemed to me, is to be “in” the world? to think beyond how other people define you—to realize there’s more than just the small world you’re in
I guess for my rationality friends out there; it’s kind of like the whole “map vs. territory” discourse (something something scout mindset, I don’t know, I never read that book).
Your mindset is changeable, and it’s important to remember that you cannot let a feeling that your environment is going to fix things (at the time, I was somewhat hoping that going to college was going to “fix” my life). Going to MIT or being far from your parents (lol, Stanford) won’t help you learn more about yourself. You’ve got to imagine a life beyond college and a real plan A, B, C. What makes you happy and fulfilled? Do you think you’d be okay with living a life without being special?
Often, we are told that we’re special—that we aren’t meant for a life of academia or quiet x or y because we’re different. But we’re not, and if you’re able to come to terms with that and be willing to start from the very bottom, you’ll be okay. Believing that you will start from the middle/top will keep you stagnant forever. (reference: my delusions of grandeur post!)
What happens if research doesn’t work? What if your startup doesn’t work? Are you willing to put in time and effort into academia—would you be okay with a life of it? What’s a version of yourself that isn’t flashy or famous?
A crux: does fame or wealth matter to you? For me, I think fundamentally, it doesn’t matter as much as a feeling of being validated / known / liked? I’m still trying to figure out what explicitly drives me and why I gravitate towards the social contexts that I choose.
Returning to my weird relationship with being alone, I really focused on the idea that there’s so much external validation pushing me. It feels bad to think that I care somewhat about externalities, and it’s a rant for a whole other time on how I’ve tried to change that. Maybe the conclusion is that we’re fundamentally lonely people, and we must first be okay with being alone to become okay with finding joy in other people without basing our value on them.
on the one hand it’s exceedingly strange that finding yourself can be lonely and scary,
liberation in your hand
only to transform into confusion
self-peace always just
just out of reach
——but on the other hand, it makes perfect sense that this happens
the time we’re so used to devoting, putting aside for people and things and just everything that we’re supposed to do
once we stop trying to please everyone,
don’t tie ourselves to the buildings our friends are in
don’t tie ourselves to the obligations we once felt our own minds and hearts in
well, all of a sudden, we have all the free time in the world
because we know we must keep going with the big things
—but now that we feel untethered
nothing feels like true weight
what do i even care about anyway? all of the things i thought i was seem to just be other things
other things i was confusing with myself
who is me? who am i? what does this leave behind?
maybe drifting aimlessly waiting for some part of you to leap out and say, hey, this is me, permanently this time!
but lying in wait feels like nothing
and we’re left to do way too many possible things, with the strange threads of friendships and whatever else still there
a guilt in the back of the mind, over abandoning people and brushing them off
maybe you are
maybe that’s not their problem
do we owe explanations to the people we string up and leave hanging?
though that’s assuming we’d know those answers ourselves
–darla ripley (of andover’24 <3)
It’s been a hot sec, a lot of claire-lore has happened :D.
I was an RSI counselor! I had a lot of fun getting to know my kids and seeing the behind-the-scenes. Also got to work with Roman Dangovski, learning some RL!
Went to Japan for Hackuba, which also happened to be made up of exclusively my friends… I cavorted around Tokyo, learned the transit system, mountain biked for the first time, and played around with Amazon-bought tDCS/OpenBCI EEG systems. Neel and I finally tried to build our Nujjet project, but it seems that extracranial stimulation might be a pseudoscience?!
MIT, Fall Semester (first 1/2)
My roommate (Anjali) and I decked out our room so much it’s my safe haven now. I took some inspiration and tried to make it a “schelling dorm” and people always pull up to study together or listen to music / have fun!
Went to DC for the Davidson Fellow Summit! Michael and I are Davidson Fellows for our parallel algorithms research and had a lot of fun getting to know the other people.
Joined the HackMIT organizing team: I have many thoughts on collegiate hackathons, having gone to a few, and it was really interesting seeing how they are run + how different culturally they are from Hack Club-esque events.
I’ve started doing hella research (2 UROPs) in neuroscience!
At the Desimone Lab, I’m working under Haoran Xu and Beizhen Zheng, where I’m working on some behavioral analysis of freely-moving marmosets and studying their social behaviors (especially with ASD models)
At the Jasanoff Lab, I’m working under Kevin Chung and building phased-array RF coils to enhance live neurofeedback MRI imaging and building a new methodology that helps us understand neural circuits/reward pathways better, with a focus on working with live rats w/ electrodes. This is SO cool. I’m learning so much, it’s one of the highlights of my weeks.
Joined a startup to work on special projects (atm, focusing on eye tracking & Alzheimer’s treatment)
I’ve also joined Code for Good and the Harvard Policy Debate Team! Haven’t debated in years, so we’ll see how this goes…
On a whim, I auditioned for a Shakespeare play, and now I’m the lead character Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing
Went to NYC for (possibly redacted) Contrary retreat for new VPs! :)
Art & things.
Concert Lineup and reviews, because I’m kind of insane:
Jacob Collier w/ Neel & Rishi, in Japan — The Japan concert had maybe one of the most respectful crowds ever because almost no one was cheering alone. Maybe that was good, though, because I got to hear him play Time Alone with You and Sun is in Your Eyes, and it was kind of a religious experience. So worth it, even if I might have paid a bit too much for those last-minute tickets.
ICA: Joshua Redman Group, where are we w/ Seb!— One thing I love about Boston is how culturally cool it is. This was some blues jazz music, and the audience ranged from Berklee college students to us to old art museum enthusiasts. Plus, it was so fun escaping MIT and hearing Cavassa’s vocals.
ICA: serpentwithfeet Heart Of Brick w/ Seb— this was a dance show based on serpentwithfeet’s new unreleased R&B album about the beauty and psychology is Black gay culture, especially in New York. I’ve never seen people such such perfect control of their bodies, and the music was a nice blend of slow vocal rap and beautiful backing music.
Hozier w/ Rishi — we, uh, took a 3-hour bus ride to Connecticut to see him, but GOD was it WORTH IT. I love Hoizer. I breathe Hozier. I worship— anyways, beautiful new album, beautiful vocals; one of the few artists I’d say is hands down better live. It was at the Sound on Sound Festival too, so we also got to see Alanis Morisette and John Mayer!
Thundercat w/ Seb — I fully only knew, like, three of his songs, but the performance was really technically impressive (and the stage design was so creative!). He’s a fantastic bassist, and his drummer was insane with how fast he was playing. He had this one song where he just kept talking about anime, and it was so funny.
Tom Odell w/ Asher — You might know this guy from Another Love but honestly, his new album is amazing too. I was surprised (?) that he had such a dedicated fan base, but it was fun trying to figure out what song he was singing by frantically scrolling through the setlist.
I’m seeing Joji w/ the entire rat squad & Jeremy Zucker soon, too!
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
CHERRY!’s new album BITTERSWEET (AFTERTASTE) - this is a cool rec because I know no one has heard of them, but they made Fentanyl! with Penelope Scott, and I’ve loved them since.
sorry for the insane long rants on these I just like talking a lot. maybe my updates section was too long.
After these crazy few weeks of being so busy I couldn’t breathe, I hope to be able to have more slack- to have time to tinker around in MITERS or the various maker spaces and to have some fun just building stupid things. Maybe learn things on my own again? Code more? Anyways.
Thanks for reading, and comment if you have thoughts!