Campus Life advice

Ready for it?

Auntie Matter on finding all you need in this life: love and summer employment

If you have questions for Auntie Matter, please submit them at Questions have been edited for length, clarity, and content.

Dear Auntie Matter,
How can you tell if a meeting was a date (besides asking)? And, how can you tell if you want/are ready for a close relationship? Thank you.
— Dating Ditherer

Dear Ditherer,

Auntie is a little concerned about the fact that you don’t want to ask this person whether you were on a date. If you won’t ask and you can’t determine it yourself, then this does not bode well for your relationship. Nevertheless, she will give you some hints for the clueless (tips for the tortured? Words for the weak?):

Now, to your second question. You ask how to know if you are ready to have a relationship, or if you even want one. In terms of wanting a relationship, to know if you want a relationship with a specific person, you can go on more dates with them. In the fullness of time, all will reveal itself, and you will know if you want a relationship with someone you are going on dates with. However, how to know if you want to date in general is something you must determine. If you have feelings for someone, you should probably attempt dating them and see how it goes.

On readiness for a relationship, Auntie would tend to think that most college-age people are ready to at least attempt a relationship. This error is also self-correcting: if you assume you are ready and give it a shot, then you (or your would-be partner) will quickly know if you were mistaken. Auntie thinks that even if your life is disorderly, you can still find love. You do not need to be perfect. You should probably be in relatively good working order (not totally dysfunctional), but a lot of young people struggle with many aspects of their lives. This does not mean young people should not have love affairs. This is not to say the bar is low, but that you could be flunking all your classes and nonetheless be quite ready to date. But I digress. If you still want guidance, here are some questions you might consider before embarking on a relationship:

  1. Do I think love is worth the possible pain of heartbreak? (It is not necessary to be ready for heartbreak itself: when it comes, you will meet it.)

  2. Can I admit to being in the wrong?

  3. Is my day-to-day life negatively affected by any previous relationships?

  4. Am I able to ask for what I want? Do I care to give others what they want?

  5. Will I notice if someone is treating me poorly? Will I leave someone who makes me unhappy?

  6. Am I willing to become a better person for the good of my lover?

Overall, as usual, Auntie encourages you to give love a shot. The fact that you are curious about relationships suggests you might want one — go forth and fall passionately in love.

Dear Auntie,
Everybody I know on my floor is Course 6. I’m CMS. Everyone on my floor is doing their interviews and getting offers now. I am applying to Course 6 internships, but I’m not sure if I want to do them. The CMS internships are my first choice, but they start letting you apply just as the Course 6 jobs make you decide on their offers. How do I stop being so anxious about this when I know the anxiety is unnecessary?
— Choosing: Media or Software?

Dear CMS,

Why are you applying to Course 6 internships?

Are you worried that you’re not going to get a CMS internship? Are they more competitive? If so, it seems sensible to have a fallback. The reasonable course of action in this scenario is to apply to the Course 6 jobs and ask for extensions on accepting offers. If the companies refuse to grant extensions, and you don’t get a CMS job, Auntie has heard rumors that there are still software engineering internships to be had in the spring, too. You will get an internship for next summer, never fear.

Are you feeling pressure from seeing floormates get Course 6 internships? If so, Auntie wants you to know that it’s okay that you want to do something different from the people on your floor. Auntie herself has experience doing, well, non-Course 6 internships. However, the pressure you feel is understandable. It is oft-repeated, yet true, that Career Fair gives a distorted image of the jobs that are out there, i.e., that the only possible professions are software engineer, trader, and consultant, with NSA codebreaker tossed in for good measure. However, the reality is that there are many people on this planet who are not software engineers, and you could join them.

Here’s a mental exercise Auntie likes to conduct: next time you feel like everyone in the world is a Course 6, look around you at the objects in your everyday life. There are lots of things involved in the creation and maintenance of those objects that are not software-engineering related. Take a book of poems, for example. You could be a poet, an editor, a marketer who works at a publishing house, a librarian, a critic who reviews poetry, a font designer, a person who engineers and maintains machines for printing books, a person who improves upon the types of paper or ink used in books, a person who decides how to distribute books, a teacher who teaches the poems in their classroom, a curriculum designer who figures out how to integrate them into a high school English curriculum, an SAT question writer who uses the poems for a section of the exam, and more.  

Finally, about your anxiety. Auntie’s philosophy on anxiety is that you should worry to a certain extent, but there is a line between paying attention to the things you need to do in a situation and constantly stressing out about what you can’t control. It seems like you are taking all the actions you need to in this situation, which itself might be a comfort. You already knew what to do! You’ll be fine.