Picture this: you’re alone in your room, which is a mess, with a semester-long to-do list in which nothing has been checked off. Your finals are next week. You have one night to finish a semester’s worth of homework for one class. It sounds impossible, but that’s what my life was like for my first two years at Olin.
“How did the professors even let that happen?! That’s not even possible!” you say. Which—fair. You have a point. But the reason it got to that point is that I was depressed and anxious. And people at Olin are understanding. They give you the space you need to do the growing you need to do.
As many of you know, the people at Olin are just incredible. Each person you meet seems smarter and more talented than the last. They are talented, skilled and knowledgeable. They’ve done the coolest internship, the most complex projects, and have the best job lined up after graduation. It’s easy to feel like an imposter. It’s a lot, and it hit me hard. I felt completely out of place. I was just some not-American girl, who didn’t know how to code, who hadn’t done big engineering projects in high school. I pushed myself so hard after getting here thinking that I had to catch up. Two project teams, Robolab, and 20 credited on top of it. I thought if I became some kind of machine who was working all the time I could a) catch up with everybody else and finally get that internship, and b) not lose sleep agonizing over “what did I do to make everybody hate me today”.
Obviously, that crashed and burned real fast. I was barely able to keep up with that schedule for a week before I started falling behind, and I’d avoid people in shame, and then agonize over being ignored, and consequently not get anything done in the process of agonizing. I was burned out within the semester. I spent two years subjecting myself to this cycle, just so I could be good enough.
And then, COVID-19. We got sent home in March 2020. I was actually doing a little better that semester, adequately busy (but not too much), with some healthy social dynamics. I learned very quickly that online learning wasn’t for me. I decided to take the year off. At first, I was pushing myself hard to find an internship or some way of being productive. The internship didn’t work out, but I thought, “If I learn some theoretical content now, I won’t struggle when I’m at school, and I won’t be depressed!”
This turned out to be completely false. I was at home, learning at my own pace. No homework, no deadlines, no stress, but I was still lost. I felt hopeless all the time. I was living because of some invisible, inevitable, and incessant force pushing me forward, not because I had a dream of my own. And then one day, exactly five months ago, I put my foot down. I told myself, “For the rest of my break, I am going to do nothing.”
And that’s what I did. I would wake up whenever I felt like it and spend all day in bed binge-watching Modern Family and a random assortment of equally good, but equally trashy, K-Dramas and C-Dramas. I learned languages, sang terribly, ate the worst food, and did whatever I wanted to do, solely because I wanted to and it was good. So good that I don’t have any more eloquent words to describe it. I felt myself growing dreams and aspirations that I had given up on ever having again. I finally developed a passion for engineering beyond the point of it merely being a fleeting interest. For the first time ever, I want to be where I am, doing what I’m doing, with the people I’m with. And that’s all that really matters.
It’s really easy at Olin to fall victim to imposter syndrome and FOMO. For some, it’s worse than others. I only hope that you don’t get it as bad as I did. Because, honestly, it’s not worth it. Finding joy in what you’re doing, and being the best you that you can be, will bring a lot more value to your life than some stupid internship.
Editor’s Note: Please, please, please reach out to an ARC before it gets as bad as it did for me.