A Personal Finance Letter to Myself

As my time in college comes to an end, I have been particularly reflective on how my financial habits have formed. I’ve found that even with limited financial resources, I’m still able to learn how to manage my money well. Here’s a couple of lessons of personal finance wisdom I’ve acquired throughout college.

Choosing A School – Understanding Your Financial Aid Award(s)

Late in the Spring Semester of my senior year in high school, I was deciding between two highly selective colleges. The educational prospects at both universities were excellent. The only stark difference between the was the culture of the student body. One was clearly more nerdy, introverted, and geared towards STEM, while the other sported a preppy, social, and outgoing liberal arts focus. For me, the choice hinged on which environment best suited my career goals.

That is not to say I didn’t take the cost of attendance into my decision. While I ended up enrolling in the STEM school, the liberal arts college actually offered me a noticeable addition of money. My parents, who were still surprised and excited that I was in the position to decide between these two prestigious schools, were comfortable with my decision.

One thing I want to point out is that I did not do my due diligence in examining my school’s financial package close enough. The financial aid package had a line item named “Suggested Federal Student Loans” for an amount around a couple thousand dollars. The school had included this amount in their total financial aid package, but it would technically not show up when I came to pay for my first semester of school. My aid package was artificially inflated with this non-existent loan amount.

The school’s financial aid office assumed that I would take on these student loans automatically to pay for my education. I found this practice to be deceptive on their part. I ended up complaining to the school’s aid office as a result.

Although this oversight of my financial aid on my part did not affect my family in the long run, it’s still something I pay close attention to now in all of my finances. Read the fine print. Then you will know what you’re getting yourself into when you sign on the dotted line. Be sure to look into what your financial options are after graduating as well. Whether it’s deferment or refinancing your student loans, these options can save you headaches or even a bunch of money in the long run.

Choosing Your Major – Do What You Love Or What Will Pay The Bills?

I find myself lucky when it comes to the major I selected. Aerospace engineering happens to be my passion as well as something that will pay the bills. I knew this going into college because I come from a town where the aerospace and defense industry is large and booming. I knew being employed in the aerospace field was a clear possibility, and one that I would enjoy to boot.

Unfortunately, with the cost of college going endlessly increasing, picking your college major is more crucial than ever. As much as I am endeared to the idea of doing what you love for a living, my belief lies on a pragmatic approach to position yourself for employment in an industry with strong prospects, even if you’re not head over heels for it.

If you’re not able to major in what you love due to your passion lacking in its employment outlook, then at least do it as a hobby or even side hustle as you can.

Learning to Live Within Your Means

College is a great time to develop an intuitive feel for the value of a dollar. When it comes to the essentials, such as food, clothing, and other necessities, it’s important to find the best deals. Some restaurants and food trucks carry large servings of meals for cheap prices. I’ve always relied on these good bargains to feed myself outside of my meal plan for lunch. When it came to clothes, I always waited for the best sales to arrive in order to get discounted prices. Textbooks for class were either borrowed or bought cheap from other students.

Not having a lot of disposable income forces you to be resourceful in order to make your money last longer. Make sure you build good financial habits through your daily purchases. These habits will serve you well in the future.

Fred

2016 Ends. 2017 Begins.

Hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday season with family, friends, and loved ones!

With 2016 coming to an end, now is the time to reflect. I’m not only reflecting on 2016 alone, but the past three-and-a-half years I’ve spent in college.

I’m still trying to make sense of my experience at MIT. Letting all the pieces come together.

Hoping that it’ll all make sense by the time I walk the stage this upcoming June.

When I was writing my autobiography, I noticed that I was able to have a much deeper understanding of my high school years rather than my time in college so far.

I guess being years removed from a certain event or time period can allow you to examine it more objectively in retrospect.

I don’t expect to make sense of my college years by the time I graduate, but the opportunity to reflect is valuable in of itself.

Looking forward, I don’t have any grand New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never really been a fan on these “resolutions” because if you need to make a change in your life, it’s better to start right now than the start of a new year.

If anything, my main goals for 2017 are continuing to listen, learn, and observe. I’ve heard, absorbed, and seen plenty of things throughout these years in the classroom and workplace. Yet, sometimes I feel that I am not as aware as I should be of myself, others, and where I am headed in life.

I’m hoping with more awareness and wisdom, I’ll be able to carve out my own unconventional career by taking risks and betting on myself to succeed.

Here’s to 2017! Let’s make the most of this.

P.S. – Next Sunday, I’ll be making an announcement regarding the future of the blog. Stay tuned!

Post-Election Thoughts: The Need For Empathy and Understanding of the Other Side

This will be one of the last things I write about regarding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election on my blog. I generally don’t like talking about politics on here, but I’ve made an exception given recent events.

It’s been a pretty rough week for those of us who supported Hillary Rodham Clinton in the general election. Her loss Tuesday night was a huge downer. Especially so because I was at Wellesley – Clinton’s alma mater – where I watched the election with friends.

The past three days, I haven’t been able to sleep well, worried about the safety and well-being of my friends who the President-Elect has singled out based on race, sex, country of birth, and other factors.

But after waking up this morning after a long night of discussion with friends, I find myself at ease regarding the prospects of our country in four years.

Also, what helped spur along that calming sensation was from watching this video:

Michael Moore joined Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzeznski, and other panelists on Morning Joe to discuss the election results, how they came to be, and how we move forward together as a country.

This is probably one of the most intelligent and well-reasoned dialogues I have seen in mainstream media news in a long time. I would certainly rate this as the best discussion I’ve heard throughout this presidential race.

If you want answers to the following:

  • What the was rationale behind the votes for Trump
  • Why Democrats had a smaller turnout than necessary
  • How Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump had essentially the same economic message, but both did poorly when considering the racial component of economics
  • What it will take to move forward together

Then you should watch this video.

I won’t bother trying to explain the full details of what was discussed. I don’t want to taint this incredibly pure discussion with my interpretation of what was said, so I strongly encourage you to watch the clip for yourself (warning, it’s 45 minutes long, but worth every second, I promise!).

I will say this though: the need for understanding and empathy of both Clinton and Trump voters is paramount to making it through these next four years. If anything, this mature discussion makes me more hopeful that we can come out of this stronger together when the time is right.

If you don’t pay attention to most of it, then the one thing I want you to take away is that both Clinton and Trump voters have legitimate, but not equal, concerns regarding the future of this country.

If you can walk away with understanding both sets of grievances from each side, you will be a lot closer to solving the problems in this country.

It would be wise if you’re on one side to listen carefully to the other’s opinion without judging or shaming them for voting the way that they did.

If anything, I’m looking forward to discussions around the Thanksgiving table, for there so much to learn from one another in strained times like these.

Fred

 

 

To Those Who Supported Donald Trump

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Hello,

If you’re reading this, you are either in one of the three following parties:

  1. A supporter of the now President-elect Donald Trump
  2. A heart-broken Hillary Clinton voter
  3. Someone who doesn’t give a shit about US Electoral Politics

If you are in the first group, then this blog post is meant for you. If you’re in the second or third group, I hope you’ll keep reading, because I think there’s something we all can learn from this election.

To those who supported Donald Trump, I want to offer my congratulations. Although I neither voted for him nor agreed with his vision for America on multiple counts, he will be our 45th President of the United States of America. This, I must accept.

It’s better to gracious in defeat, rather than arrogant in victory. I hope both sides can at least agree with that statement.

Throughout this election, those who have supported Donald Trump have been portrayed as racist, sexist, xenophobic, intolerant, etc. Every slur in the book has been used to paint his supporters in a negative light.

I, on the other hand, do not believe that at all. You all are hard-working Americans who struggle day in, day out, like the rest of us to achieve the American Dream. Your communities are hurting terribly, and you all are afraid of being left behind in an era of globalization and progressivism. I have many friends from home in Alabama who voted for Donald Trump. He held held a rally in my hometown’s football stadium. While it was disappointing that he was well-received, that doesn’t make me think any less of my friends back home who I see at work or at church everyday.

It is undeniable that Donald Trump’s campaign has attracted some of the most intolerant, nativist portions of our electorate, but I don’t believe that all of his supporters are like that.

It is neither fair nor fitting to paint you all as bigots because the candidate you supported employed racist rhetoric against a variety of different races and ethnicities in our melting pot of a culture. Just because you support a candidate who says nasty things doesn’t automatically make you a person who does the same. If that were the case, then everyone who supported Hillary Clinton is an elitist, corrupt crony who only cares about serving themselves, their friends, and their own interests.

We know that both generalizations of each group of supporters isn’t true at all.

The language that the mainstream media has used to describe you all is at best paternalistic, and at worst, downright mean. It’s the same language that my friends use here in Northeast at their liberal, elite schools to describe ‘Donald Trump supporters.’

That phrase – ‘Donald Trump supporter’ – immediately carries the negative stigma of being seen as uneducated, uncultured, and intolerant. It is incredibly easy to tear down someone’s personality when you resign their identity to being nothing but a “Donald Trump supporter.” And the same goes for when you call someone a “Hillary Clinton supporter”, you strip down their identity to qualities you abhor to see in a person.

And I’ve been guilty of this too. Instead of listening closely to those who support President-elect Trump, I only heard the mainstream media presenting rather tired tropes of what a ‘Donald Trump supporter’ is and is not.

This election has been a wake-up call for me to not trust wide, sweeping generalizations of the American electorate. It’s pretty clear that both parties did that and paid a heavy price (if you were part of/seen to be part of the Washington establishment, you lost in either the Republican or Democratic primaries or in the general election).

Clearly, with Donald Trump being the President-elect, shutting one another out because we don’t agree with one another wont get us anywhere as a country.

Which is why I’m writing this as an invitation to better understand the plight of those who support Donald Trump. It’s clear that both parties have ignored the demographics that Donald Trump (and to a certain extent, Bernie Sanders) have so successfully attracted.

This election has shown me that it is a lack of understanding of one another that is driving the divide in this country. 

Still, I do have one question to those who supported Donald Trump. If by electing Donald Trump, you all sent a message to the “establishment” which engendered your discontent with the current status quo and your desire for it to be changed, then why did you waste of all of your anger, frustration, fear and most of all, desperation on a Presidential election?

The truth is, voting one man (or woman) into the most powerful office in the world will not get rid of the Washington establishment. It’s clear that Clinton represented the establishment is in many ways, but her losing this election doesn’t change the status quo at all.

It’s the same naive hope that America had in 2008 when electing then-Senator Barack Obama. We thought that the establishment (Congress, lobbyists, etc.) would give way to Obama as he would bring into reality the hope and change that he manifested throughout the election.

They resisted him at every turn. The Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives for the majority of President Obama’s time in office. They have been the main obstacle in passing a variety of legislation focused on improving the lives of all Americans, especially those hurting most in rural areas, which happened to be the bastion of Donald Trump supporters.

And now, with this election over, they control both the House and Senate. These same obstructionist Republicans remain, undeterred and even bolstered by this election, to continue the same politics, year in, and year out. Republicans and Trump don’t see eye to eye on multiple issues, and with the same obstructionist tactics in place, the establishment will continue to run things as they are.

The truth is that your ‘protest vote’ against the status quo has only sustained it in all its entirety. You hate the establishment, yet you vote for the same Republican (and Democrat) congressmen, election cycle after election cycle.

You traded hope for fear.

You traded your fellow citizens sense of safety and belonging in this country for your own economic security.

You traded progress for the status quo.

Was it worth it?

Fred

 

The Last Goal I Want to Accomplish While in College

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(Currently writing this while listening to a mashup of Desiigner’s infamous Panda song.)

I’m feeling hype right now.

This semester has started off on a strong note, and I’m ready to take it to the highest pitch. This weekend has shown me when the right people, the right timing, and the right opportunity come together all at once, great things can happen.

I’ve always had an affinity for meeting new people, and I’m blessed that my senior year is still giving plenty of opportunities to do just that. I had a bit of a dream come freshman year that I would be able to connect people to one another, and I’ve been able to build steadily towards that goal through being on the 2017 Class Council, the Undergraduate Association Events Committee, and so many other organizations.

But now I’m ready to take this vision and turn it into reality – I’ve managed to run into a couple of other people who have this same interest and are ready to make it happen as well.

It’s interesting how Boston has the highest college students per capita in the world, yet these colleges rather disconnected from one another. I would have imagined running to different college students on a more frequent basis (I say this as someone who’s an avid networker).

Shouldn’t that change?

I’ve dared to do a lot here at MIT – I never been afraid to try something new, charting my own path in the process. I know that what I’m trying to do is bizarre to some, and downright confusing to others. Most of my peers and classmates won’t understand what I’m trying to achieve or why I’m trying to do this in the first place.

Don’t worry. You’ll experience it soon enough.

I just feel compelled to at least give this goal one last shot.

Call it a new approach to an old dream.

What else can I say? If there’s one thing I can say I’m truly good at (MIT does a great job of showing you how much you suck at everything else, academics primarily), it’s bringing people together have a great time.

Time to go finish what I’ve started.

Fred

 

Laying the Foundation

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We’re almost a third of the way into October.

Time isn’t slowing done for anyone, especially us Seniors.

As we head towards the close of our undergraduate tenure here at MIT, the atmosphere around my fellow seniors feels like one of closure.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe we’re almost done!”

“We’ve almost made it out alive of here!”

“I can’t wait to enter the real world.” (Idk if anyone really means that though)

“IHTFP!” (I feel you on that one).

Yet, when I think of Senior Year, I don’t see it as the end of a chapter.

I only see it as the beginning.

Imagine – you’ve spent the last 18 years of your life building a house. This house represents all of your years in the educational system – from the time that you stumbled into pre-school to walking the stage at your high school graduation.

You’ve painstakingly poured the cement which is the base of your knowledge, then laid brick after brick to form subsequent layers to represent every grade you successfully completed.

And now, for the past three years, you’ve worked on adding the next extravagant layer to your house – your undergraduate degree. For some, this will be their crowning achievement with regards to the higher education system – you’ll be done and won’t step foot back in academia ever again! For others, this is just another layer to add onto your already burnished educational credentials – maybe you’ll stop at your Masters/Professional Degree, or you’ll go all the way for a Ph.D (heard getting tenure was a pain in the rear end though).

For me, I just see it as continuing to lay the foundation for the sure. When does your learning ever end? When does the opportunity to gain knowledge from new experiences ever cease?

When is one ever done building their house of knowledge and experience?

Although my time here at MIT is coming to an end, I know that the new opportunities are just beginning. Even in this semester, as late in the game as I am now, I still have the chance to accomplish the goals I set out to complete when I first arrived here as a freshman. It’s tougher now that I have more responsibilities and less time on my hands, but I’ll still continue to strive until the day is done.

I know that when I cross that stage on a hot and humid June summer day, it won’t be the end or the closing on any chapter of my life. I only see it as a beginning.

I’ve been laying the foundation for my house for so long, so why stop now?

Fred

Our Last September

 

2Today is October 1st, 2016.

That doesn’t sound so significant at first until you realize that if you’re a senior, this will be your last September as an undergraduate at MIT.

Scary right?

Doesn’t that make you feel old? Wondering where all the time went?

It doesn’t feel like it’s time to go yet, but there’s less than a year left on the clock.

I just finished my first month as a Senior at MIT.

Yet strangely enough, I’m feeling like a Freshman. This past month has led me to meet more new faces in the Class of 2017 than I have before in my freshman year. (You would think three years of Class Council would have introduced you to most of the class, but there’s always more people to meet!)

The feelings associated with meeting someone new are nostalgic at this point, with a bit of a twist. When I was a freshman, I didn’t really know how to introduce myself in a mature manner like I do now – I would spit out my name, major, and where I was from, hoping that would kick start the conversation. Usually that would be enough to get the other person or group of people interested in me, and chatter would flow from there on.

I would like to think my introduction is a bit more sophisticated than that now that I have three years of experience under my belt at MIT, but it’s not how you enter into someone’s life that counts (although first impressions can make or break you in the eyes of the other person), it’s how you exit that matters.

Whether your initial meeting with a new person ends up in just a general conversation or the beginning of a life-long friendship, it’s all about what sentiment you end up leaving the other person at the end of your first interaction. Do they have a positive or negative feeling about you? Were they turned off from where you come from or your background, or were they left dying to know more about you?

I’ve learned throughout my time here that an impressionable exit from a first encounter leaves others thinking well of you many years later. Even today, when I happen to stumble into a party, running into old friends at MIT here or from other Boston schools is an awesome time because we both remember how great it was to meet one another for the first time.

From there, wanting to catch up with one another takes care of itself as we book lunch or a night out on the town into our Google Calendars.

What can I say? Maybe this is just my fourth year as a freshman.

I might be a Senior on paper, but I’m truly a freshman at heart.

Fred

The Career Treadmill

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September is a month that holds a special place in my heart – it heralds the coming of the MIT Career Fair, and all of the sweet companies coming to take their pick of undergraduate and graduate students of this hallowed Institute.

It’s exciting, yet at the same time, exhausting. As someone who has only finished their latest internship just a little over two weeks ago (so that’s the beginning of September), I’m honestly not as ready as I should be to start hunting for either another internship for next summer, or a full-time job after graduation.

(Applying to graduate school can complicate near-future life plans. Do I go straight into grad school and then into the workforce? Or do I go into the workforce for like 1-3 years, then go back to school? Isn’t the latter harder to do than the former? But I can start living high off the hog and not like a destitute college student! But then I have to pay bills…help! Grad school can help delay the real world for a little bit longer :))

Don’t get me wrong – there are a plethora of benefits to having a large, expansive career fair very early in the start of the school year. If you’re a senior who has a return offer from last summer (assuming you interned), you can use that offer to leverage other offers from competing companies to ensure you get the best starting package for your first job right out of college. On the flip side, if you’re lazy and really like the company you’ve been working for that 10-12 week stint over the summer, you go ahead and sign on the dotted line, receive your signing bonus 3-6 weeks later, and chill out and enjoy your Senior Year! (You’ve earned it, champ!)

Even in the worst case scenario – you’re a senior who had a good internship, but somehow left empty-handed without a return offer to boot. The most important thing is that you have additional experience to bolster your resume, which will definitely help in getting recruiters to call you back for an interview. Kill the interview, and boom, you’re back on solid footing with a full-time offer.

However, sometimes I get the feeling that the day we entered MIT, we took our first steps on the career treadmill.

What do I mean by a ‘career treadmill’? Your first summer after freshman year, you’re either chilling back home, doing research as a grunt in a summer UROP, or if you’re a real baller, you already snagged a summer internship at a blue-chip company. You finish your internship with glowing recommendations and stellar work in your wake, leaving with a return offer for next summer on your way out. You decide to skip out on the opportunity to come back, looking to set your sights on bigger fish to fry.

Rinse and repeat until you’ve reached senior fall – you’re practically a veteran of the workforce, with all three summer internships (and maybe an IAP externship or two) under your belt. You know recruiters are going to be throwing major cash and benefits your way as they hope to draft you in the first round of the 2016 Full-Time Job Draft. You don’t know which company you’ll sign to, but you know it’s going to be a name-brand firm in the industry of your choice.

You’re a top-shelf, gold-plated, 4-star recruit ready to start your 30-year career.

Yet, you can’t help but wonder if things could have been different. Instead of the second summer internship, you could have traveled and gotten lost in some foreign country. Instead of externing over IAP, maybe you could had dedicated that time to learning a new skill or dabbling in entrepreneurship. Instead of obsessing over your GPA and your careful selection of classes, maybe you could have just been a bit more brave and tried out that grad-level class or HASS course.

It’s hard to look back with certainty to say that you did things right the first time around – hindsight instead 20/20 in this case. You did everything you were told by your parents, teachers, professors, friends, family, etc. But why isn’t “success’ as clear-cut as we’ve always imagined and have been told it would be?

Maybe because we were so busy sprinting just trying to keep up with the pace of the treadmill, instead of taking our time to meander through our four years here at the Institute.

Nevertheless, it’s ok. You did the best you could given your life circumstances, present knowledge at the time, and guidance and advice from family, friends, mentors, and loved ones. Whatever path you decide to go down, whether it’s a full-time job, graduate school, gap year (or tw0), you’ll make the most of it. You always have.

Everything will turn out alright in the end, no matter what happens at the Career Fair.

Just make sure you take your time to grab some free swag from all of the companies; it’s your last chance as a Senior! (well not all of them, your closet won’t have that much space, trust me)

Fred

The Power of Choice: Choosing Happiness

I wrote this sometime at the very beginning of freshman year. I won’t spoil the content by providing a backstory – just read it for yourself and enjoy.

Fred


It’s 1:39 AM as I’m begin to write this blog post.

I really should be asleep as this point so I can be ready for tomorrow, but I promised a friend that I would have this written, so I won’t put it off any longer.

————————

MIT has been a turbulent experience for me so far; I expect it to be like this for the next four years, but slowly I’m adjusting and finding my cruising altitude.

Choosing to be happy has been a game changer for me lately.

It sounds really silly right? I mean, why should I take time to make the conscious decision to be happy? Should that be automatic? Don’t we always desire to be happy? It’s not like anyone chooses to be unhappy, right?

We all know the answer to those questions, but does that answer reflect our mental states then? At MIT, it’s quite clear that the environment, while being unique and inspiring in one light, can also be likened to a pressure cooker.

The stress here will get to you in one way or another. Whether it’s grades, extracurriculars, sleep, or a combination of the three and more I’ve left out, MIT’s environment is as beneficial as is detrimental to a person’s psyche.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Why?

Choosing to be happy, for me, completely took out the alternative about being in a chronic state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

What I’m saying isn’t clear yet? Lemme ‘splain.

A couple days ago, I woke up absolutely pissed. Why does one wake up absolutely pissed and it’s only a week and a half into the first year of college?

Let’s list them:

1. My problem sets literally take up all of my time. ALL. OF. IT.

2. Because of staying up late to do my problem sets to get them finished on time, I only got FOUR HOURS OF SLEEP THAT NIGHT. My body can’t operate on four hours of sleep. I need at least seven to be functional and not black out from a lack of sleep in the middle of lecture.

3. I was beginning to come down with the Freshman Plague, a nasty sickness that goes through the campus, infecting any freshman who is unlucky to contract it.

4. That day happened to be a Thursday, which I have classes from 10-4 with no breaks in between.

In my mind, I had already presumed that my day would suck ass, and thus, I would not be happy about it.

In other words, consciously or subconsciously (more the latter), I chose to be unhappy.

The day hadn’t even started and I was already throwing in the towel, saying to myself, “Forget it, I’m done, let’s get this over with.”

But right after establishing myself in a rather dark, melancholy mood, I immediately paused and thought to myself, “Do things have to be this way? Do I really have to be unhappy even before the day has unfolded itself to me?”

And I said to myself, “No matter what happens today, I am going to be happy.

All it took was that brief moment to erode that foundation of unwarranted frustration at a day that hadn’t even begun and replace it with a base of optimism and joyfulness.

“Yeah, I may be rocking today on 4 hours of sleep with a ton of psets to do when I get back to the dorm, but at least I’ll make the most of it,” I tell myself.

Simply choosing to be happy set me up for one of my best days at MIT to date. Every day after that has been relatively positive, I’ve been enjoying my experience here a lot more even amidst the tough choices I have to make (pset vs sleep is a huge, neverending one).

The struggle may be real, but that doesn’t mean that your struggle can solely consist of sadness and despair.

Happiness does exist, it always does, and never goes away when things get tough.

You actively have to seek it out. 

Here at MIT, I’ve realized as a freshman, people get too engaged in their problem sets, clubs, and/or friends that they forget what makes them happy.

Sometimes you have to take some time for yourself and figure out what’s making you unhappy, and what your currently doing to change that so you do become happy again.

Which brings me to a more crucial point in my story:

At lunch at Maseeh, I was talking with my friends Tim and Kyle about how their day was.

Kyle says his was alright, Tim, not so much.

“Tim, what’s wrong?” I ask.

“Fred, I’m feeling stressed out all the time man.”

“Why is that Tim? It’s only the first couple weeks of school bud!”

“It’s just that I feel this responsibility all the time to get my work done, and if I try to take a break, I’m getting distracted and ignoring that responsibility!”

This is where a red flag was raised. I say to Tim, “Taking a break from doing hours upon hours of problem sets is not a distraction: it is necessary, I’ll go as far as to say it’s a responsibility in itself to yourself to keep yourself mentally balanced and reduce stress.”

“Tim, we both know that MIT is a tough place. And the reality is that its only going to get harder from here. You’re taking a cynical view on taking breaks from your psets to go talk to someone about your problems, or better yet, something other than psetting like tennis or Dance Troupe or other things you like to do! Taking a step back from your psets and other responsibilities is very important so you can clear your mind and approach those same things with the right perspective.”

“Fred, then how do you make it work?”

“Tim, I’m in the same boat as you dude; I’m still trying to make it work. But I know that my happiness will always come first. I had to talk to a couple of people in order to even start to get on the right track. I have a friend named Chance in Chocolate City, he’s like my mentor. He’s given me great advice on how to manage life here at MIT. I really do suggest you get a mentor, whether it be an upperclassman, brother from your frat, grad student, advisor, whoever, as long as they have your best interests in heart, confide in them your struggles.

One important thing I did with Chance was to help set up my goals. What did I want to become by the end of freshman year? By the time I graduate from MIT? And so on and so forth. We made a list of what I wanted to become and also what I was currently doing to get there.

Those goals were in a sense, the eventual happiness that I wanted to achieve and become. And the only way I could get there were to make the choices that would put me on the path to that happiness.

Keeping your goals in perspective helps you stay focused and happy because you know what you’re doing for sure in the long run will pay off.

The most dangerous thing you do is keep your stress inside, at least it is for me. It will it you up and before you know it, you’ll be in some real trouble as you won’t be able to function properly when it comes to responsibilities that demand your attention and time.

I’m not saying just punt your homework for the next day and procrastinate – no, what I’m saying is that you have to be able to relieve this stress in a healthy manner. I feel that it’s as just as important as getting your psets done: keeping yourself in mental balance.

Choosing happiness was simply the first step for me. It’s the first time I’ve had to consciously make this choice, but I know when times get tough, it won’t be the last. Why?

If I keep up this mentality of choosing to be happy, it will become more automatic. And when it becomes more automatic, I’ll slowly become more resilient to the stresses of MIT and life in general.”

“Wow Fred, that was a lot, I’ll have to sit and think on it, but thank you so much man.”

Now at this point, a person sitting right next to us just happened to be listening to our conversation about the whole time.

“Thank you so much for saying that, I’ve been having a really crappy day and this helped to turn it around,” the person said.

“You’re welcome! What’s your name?”

From there on I made a new friend named Allan.

See what choosing to be happy does for you?

Choose happiness. I promise you won’t regret it.

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