I would like to make the general assumption that all SSP participants entered this program with an addiction to academic validation. At times it is the only thing to keep you motivated to do the work (especially work you don’t want to do). It’s the satisfaction you get from that A, or the “Great Job!” in red ink, or in my sophomore year chemistry class’s case, the scratch and sniff stickers. Over the 11 years of schooling I’ve endured, I was bound to get addicted to that feeling. Then I started SSP a seemingly long 4 days ago. The idea of no grades initially was a relief, but that, in addition to me doing this from my bedroom, leaves the door open for a little green monster named Imposter Syndrome to creep in. The problems that can take up to 2 hours each, the weeks worth of content in a single day, and the greek letters you didn’t even know existed, it all makes you question yourself and the work you’ve done leading up to this.
However, I will follow that statement with another assumption about SSP participants: we all love learning. We crave all the information that we can cram into our skulls, and that’s why we were meant to be here. SSP reminds me why I did all of the work for the past 4 years, it’s because I love learning. There is little to no academic validation here, but there is learning validation (and there is a difference). Your biggest success may be a comment that says “you were one sanity check away from being right” or the confetti on canvas after you submit an assignment. And some people, including all three teachers that wrote my letters of recommendation, ask why I would give up my summer for more school. And in the late hours of the night I tend to ask myself the same question. But then, you finish that PSet and there is that moment, yes, that moment of bliss and so much self pride, more than I have ever experienced. It makes it worth it.
Regardless of the confusion, sleep deprivation, and insecurity, I find myself loving the lonely late nights, the 200 computer tabs open, and finding a solution that is definitely wrong. Why? Because I am learning just for the sake of learning (and maybe a T-shirt at the end) with a group of amazing people.