It is 12:43 PM, and we have just finished our last lunch at PMU. As I lay here on the teal carpet of the CHAS fourth floor, feeling the familiar post-lunch drowsiness, I’m really not sure how to open this last blog. I’m not sure what the readers of this post are expecting, or how I should frame everything I am feeling and wish to say but have absolutely zero idea how to do justice to.
So I am just going to write. Because SSP was not what I expected, and because words can rarely capture all that they are expected to. Eric, this is called stream of consciousness, a defining technique of the Modernist movement. I like it because it lets me ramble. 🙃
Anyways. This morning, I woke up with the dim realization that this was our last full day of SSP. I then proceeded to sleep through my alarm (as usual) before somehow sensing that I should reawaken (as usual), and sort of gently falling sideways out of my very high bed to stumble to the bathroom (as usual). I had expected to wake up fully feeling the gravity of this Last Full Day, but even now I am surprised by how … normal … the day feels. Mayhaps evidence that we have really developed some sort of lived-in routine and rhythm to our days here at SSP.
Before CHAS, Della, Sehyun, Eric, and I went on our first last Leaps Coffee run. I tried chia seed pudding for the first time, and we just talked. All I could think about was how wonderfully normal and safe it felt, like we had been and could continue doing these coffee runs for weeks, maybe years. As someone who deeply treasures this feeling of long-term stability and these solid but understated friendships, that means a lot. In terms of actual events happening today, we actually have a lot of down time to finish some last surveys, wrap up report revisions and data records, and pack. For now though, everyone has been pretty mellow, likely all experiencing their own thoughts and feelings regarding today and reflecting on their own individual SSP experience. For me, this constant awareness that I am just one of 36 people, each of us with our own stories, experiences, perspectives, and ways of processing the world, has been the biggest takeaway and gift from SSP. It is what I will miss most, and it is also what I will remember most when I think back on this summer.
I will also remember parking garage shenanigans, late night talking, late night ramen (thank you Alina, Xuan, and Brian) and the impromptu Open House photoshoot. I will remember romanticizing report writing and studying in au bon pain, then walking with Shelby through the horticulture garden as we passionately agreed on how mid Starbucks strawberry acai refreshers are (sorry Sehyun <3). Armory lectures, MOEing MOEments ❤️, late lab nights (spotlight on Assignment 2 and Dr. Wu’s organic chemistry lecture), and the best dinner conversations with Dr. Das. A heart-to-heart with Dr. Hall, jamming to the La La Land soundtrack with Jamilla at 10 PM in CHAS, teasing the Fearsome Four, “SOOOO TOUGH,” “THAT’S DIRRRRTY,” “THAT’S CRAAYYYZY” … dozing off on bus rides, Von’s, boba runs, Turkey Run hiking, that afternoon meal at Chinese BBQ … and of course the talent show, where I fulfilled my dual dreams of performing “You Belong With Me” and poetry in front of an actual audience (thank you, Nathan, for your ~beautiful~ poem, and for writing and performing with me).
There are countless other moments I cannot remember yet, and just listing the ones above has made me realize how impossible it is to capture everything that is SSP. Yet it was Dr. Hall’s final lecture during the Evening Program, then my last glimpses of MOE when the inhibitor design competition winners were announced, that finally drove me to tears. I guess I hadn’t realized until then how much I would miss sitting through one of Dr. Hall’s lectures and how much I would miss this specific SSP project and all it has taught us.
After the Evening Program concluded, you can guess where we went next … the parking garage. The déjà vu I felt as I climbed the stairs to the top almost made me tear up again; the Open House night parking garage photoshoot really does feel like both a long time ago and not that long ago. I wish I could be more poetic about this last parking garage trip, but honestly, all I felt as I stood there, snacking on strawberries and taking pictures and trying to commit this place and these people to my flimsy human memory, was an out-of-body surrealness—a prelude to Departure Day, as it turns out. But we aren’t quite there yet. Because SSP could not end before cricket with Dr. Das and our very last night together! Even though we could not pull an all-nighter, I am still grateful that we got to spend time together just walking around campus in the light rain, chatting and trying to soak in more and more “last” sights—of CHAS, the Armory, PMU, the Guest Lecture building, au bon pain, the fountain … Yes, it did feel sadly anticlimactic, but in hindsight, these smaller, seemingly duller moments—where we can all simply exist together and enjoy a shared experience—are the ones I will miss the most.
I was only supposed to cover Tuesday, but I am finishing this post on Wednesday (Departure Day), and it feels like a continuation of the Last Full Day. I’ve cried more today than I thought was humanly possible. I really will miss all of you so much. I wish I could say more but this tangled mess of emotion I feel will take me at least 39 more days to process. So I finish this blog now at 10:31 PM, in a different time zone and back in my room …
In “Goodbye to All That,” Joan Didion writes, “It is easy to see the beginning of things, and harder to see the ends.” For different people, SSP was the beginning of some things and the ending of others. We all began SSP with expectations and hopes about what it would be like and what we would get out of it. We are all likely ending it in a less defined or clear-cut way, because the long-term impact of SSP and the people we’ve met here will continue to play out in the coming weeks, months, and years. For me, SSP felt like the beginning of me finally gaining concrete insight into the lives and perspectives of people beyond my sleepy suburb bubble, and finally being able to pinpoint why I love science. I know for others, SSP has led to culture shock and immediate impacts on college plans and career aspirations. They said that SSP never ends, it just expands. I’m not sure because the pain in my chest right now feels a lot like an “ending” signal, but I do plan to stay in touch with everyone I’ve met here. To SSP 2022 in Biochemistry at Purdue University … thank you. The memories we’ve made, pictures we’ve taken, tears we’ve cried, dumb things we’ve done, smart things we’ve done, and relationships we’ve formed are all real, even though right now it all feels like one big dream. I’m going to stop rambling now, and finally end this blog post with, of course … some Taylor Swift:
Hold on, to the memories, they will hold on to you.
Hold on, to the memories they will hold on to you …
And I will hold on to you.
—“New Year’s Day”