It’s just about 9 pm, and you finally sit down to write your long-anticipated blog post. No, not anticipated by the masses — just you. (Alright, and maybe your teammates. They’ve already written theirs, and you’re the last in the trio to leave your blog-tacular mark. They must be on the edges of their seats!) It’s the final week of SSP, you got about three hours of sleep last night finishing up your Orbital Determination Code — or “OD”, as we in the business of iterating, rotating, and ever-so-slightly miscalculating Mean Anomaly like fondly call it — and you have two reports (three? FOUR?? Nah, just messing with ya. *Probably* no more than three. Proooobably…) to write up, not to mention plenty of data to reduce (You finally got some more successful images of your asteroid last night! Woohoo!!). At this moment, though, you’re setting those things aside to write that blog post. You chose the last week of the program on purpose all those eons ago (oops, correction: sources are saying it’s only been weeks?) when the TAs announced that, yes, we all had to write an SSP blog post, and, no, it’s not optional. You wanted to have something meaningful to say about the program; something impactful. You wanted to have each and every fantastic SSP memory out on the writing table before you, little gems to weave into this glorious end-of-program blog post. Over the weeks (Has it really been weeks? You feel as though you only just began. Those last few sure flew by…), the impending blog post often crossed your mind, especially when you felt those little gems being unearthed. When something touching happened, you wondered if you’d offer a heartwarming retelling; during a frustrating late-night work session, you wondered if you’d type up a dramatic rendition of your psetting hardships, hopefully with a triumphant conclusion. Now, though, as your fingers rest on the keyboard and your name hovers in the blog-sign-up spreadsheet under a date that’s fast-approaching, you find yourself grasping at straws — how could something as humble as a blog post hope to capture the nuance, the wonder, the struggling-with-problems and discovering-of-solutions that defines SSP? Well, you reason, your fellow participants seemed to do it. With a truly fantastic (numpy.)array of well-worded, insightful, and spirited posts, you might add. (In fact, those teammates of yours — they wrote an incredible ode to the human side of SSP, and a *song*!!) If there’s one thing you learn at SSP, it’s that you’re all far more capable than you think. You hardly believe you can do the experience justice, but you decide you’ll give it a try.
Did you feel like you were in the shoes of an SSPer? Hopefully, if any curious reader stumbles upon our blog post page and finds themselves knee-deep in the wise and wonderful words of my peers, they’ll be able to get that in-the-moment feel of being an SSPer while reading from my perspective. It’s true, I’ve been anticipating this blog post for over a month; not dreading it, but imagining what I might have to say when all is said and done. These blog posts, if you’re wondering, are an apparent tradition at SSP. Each night, one participant (sometimes even two!) are given the rather nebulous task of “writing a blog post”. So far as I can see, there’s not much more in the way of guidelines. And yet, night after night, as faithfully as the sun rises along the ecliptic (well, ok, yes, as the Earth turns– but let’s stick to sunrises for poetry’s sake), a new link appears in our “blog” discord channel, always harboring a perfect mixture of heart, smarts, and wit.
“Why am I reading a blog about blogs?” you ask yourself. “Is this girl stalling or something??” No; I just love acknowledging things — like these blogs — in a “meta” sense. I suppose it’s my own unique SSPer way of exploring how I think and feel about something while bringing others with me into it. Bringing others in… that’s it, isn’t it? That’s SSP. Yes, it stands for “Summer Science Program” (although our “what is SSP?” discord channel will have you convinced it actually means “somehow still psetting”.) Indeed, it is supposed to be “the educational experience of a lifetime”, and I came into it expecting to be changed as a person, academically. In many respects, I think I can say that I really have. And yet, this is not what stands out to me most when I think of SSP. It’s that bringing others in, the sharing of thoughts, the being part of a flash flood of a community that forms almost instantly under the sweeping pressure of the curriculum and shares an enormously strong bond. Frankly, I was ever-so-slightly terrified going into SSP; I worried that I was ill-prepared and second-guessed myself endlessly. It was that community that leaves me feeling worlds away from that nervous person I initially was, that community that taught me definitively for the first time — more than any personal accomplishment ever could — that I am capable when “I” am part of a spectacular “we”, where I can lean on others and others can lean on me. (Hey! That rhymed! 🙂 ). I changed academically, sure — I can actually write a halfway decent code and I’m well on my way to being an expert in matters of celestial coordinates. But what I think has really left a mark on me is the taste of true synergy and genuine intellectual collaboration I’ve had the immeasurable privilege of coming to know. (There is no experience quite like finding yourself battling it out with incredible like-minded peers during an online game of codenames or gartic phone just minutes after engaging in a deep discussion about a tough calculus pset or coding assignment). Above all, this community we’ve built — one of creative and caring instructors, friendly and insightful TAs, and the most incredible, helpful, kind, hilarious group of peers I could ever hope to know (all the smartest people I think I’ve ever met) — has taught me that I’ll never be alone on my journey to the stars. That kind of sentiment bears tidings of a beautiful future. Or, at the very least, I’d like to think it makes for a pretty cool blog post. 🙂