Dear Messays,

I’m a first-year and I’m super excited to be at Olin, but honestly, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. There are so many clubs and other things to be involved in, and they all sound fun! I know it’s pass/no-record this first semester, but I’m still worried about overcommitting or stretching myself too thin. How do I say “no”, or even know what activities I should say “no” to? Everything seems so great, I don’t want to miss out on something amazing.

-Fear Of Missing Out

Dear FOMO,

When I was a first-year in college, we weren’t returning to a semblance of normalcy amidst a global pandemic that totally messed up our social lives and ability to interact with… well, anyone other than our nuclear families. But even still, I remember how exhilarating it felt to be away from home for one of the first times in my life, how both scary and enthralling it was to know that I had moved onto another stage in adulthood. It was tough for me not to overcommit myself, but it must be even harder for you after a year and a half of so much solitude and sheltering in place. I fully get why you’re worried about overextending yourself, and a few suggestions pop into mind:

  1. Remember, this is not only your first year, but your first semester at Olin, you sweet summer child, you. You have four more years to try different things. The right club/activity for you won’t be upset that you started halfway through sophomore year vs. the second you showed up to campus.
  2. Were there one or two clubs that really jumped out at you as the club you wanted to join? Club Fair is coming up soon, so even if you don’t know the answer to this yet, think about how you might try to focus on only one or two clubs/activities that have a special appeal to you. Remember, you’re not writing off all of the other ones; you’re just giving yourself a smaller pool of choices vs. trying to weigh the pros and cons and interesting-ness of every single club at Olin. Reduce that mental bandwidth, baby!
  3. Think about what you need, FOMO – not what your roommate needs or what your friends in class need. Are you an introvert to the degree that you need space away from social activities in order to recharge? That’s okay! Just realize that about yourself and try to work your “recharge time” into your schedule.
  4. Remember that all of us are in a period of exercising many of our social abilities for the first time in a year and a half. You might find that the transition to college itself, with or without the added stresses of COVID, is more than enough to wear you out at the end of the day – and that’s OK, FOMO. If you need to take a step back even as you’re raring to get more involved, that too is OK. Refer back to tip #1 – you’ve got so much more time to try out different things, and you can always stop doing an activity you try that just doesn’t feel like the right fit.
  5. Ask for help when you need it, whether that’s with your coursework or with activities you’re working on as a part of a club. It’s not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign that you have the courage to be vulnerable and honest about what you’re having trouble with. Olin is a very close-knit, supportive network; we bet we know someone who can help you with whatever you’re getting stuck on.

The long story short, FOMO, is you have nothing to be afraid of when it comes to missing out. You have so much more time at Olin to fill up with whatever strikes your fancy (or drives your car, or flies your rocket). Take care of yourself and spend time getting to understand your limits. You’re just getting started!




Dear Messays,

I feel like I’ve lost my ability to be a person in the last 18 months. How can I re-adjust to life on campus after being away for so long? I mean, there are so many people I haven’t met! How do I remember everyone’s name? Especially when half of their faces are covered? There’s one person who always says “Hi [Still Adjusting]!” every time they walk past me, and I have no idea what their name is! What should I do?

-Still Adjusting

Dear Still Adjusting,

What was it like to have the ability to be a person before the last 18 months? I have been masquerading as a human being for many decades now, so I get curious about these things. But I digress; back to you. My first thought here is that you are sooooo not alone. There’s many people in the world who had trouble putting names to faces before half of our faces were covered (and then sporadically uncovered when we’re outside and on Zoom!). I mean, many moons ago I worked with a lady who called me “Sarah” for three months in a job where my nametag was very much on every day, and my name is very much not “Sarah.” I also don’t know about you, S.A., but my brain, unbidden, always tries to fill in the masked part of a person’s face before I know what it looks like and it’s consistently wayyyyy off and then things get even more confusing. 

The one advantage I’d say you have in this current situation is that everyone should really be extra understanding and tolerant of people not recognizing each other, or people forgetting each other’s names right now. We have a very valid excuse for being confused and extra forgetful; we’re all being mentally taxed by the fear and uncertainty of continuing to live through a devastating pandemic, and we’re also shaking off those 18 months of lacking social interaction–we’re rusty. Given the circumstances, I think you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get away with a boldfaced “who are you?” to the unknown person who keeps saying “hi.” Or, if you don’t want to go that route, can you find someone nearby that might be able to identify the mystery person? If you want to be a little more surreptitious, one of my go-to strategies is to ask the person what their Olin email address is. My dayjob lends itself well to this trick, but you’re clever, S.A.; I bet you could find a way to work it into conversation.

Remembering names and faces of people you’re meeting for the first time is tough for anybody. I just fiddled around on the web for a bit looking for strategies to help you remember people’s names, and so many of them are useless in these mask-filled times. Without the visual cues of facial features and expressions, you might need to spend a higher amount of brainpower than usual on remembering names and faces. Make sure you’re focusing on and intentionally storing their name away in the ol’ filing cabinet of the mind when you’re meeting someone new, and try to repeat their name at least once.

I guarantee you’re going to be OK. We’re all screwing everything up right now, so let’s screw up together!