By Andrew Y.
I pen this as the third blog post author, as the third day of SSP draws to a close. And after only three days, between the lectures and new tools and the confounded Labsters, there’s enough information to drown in. On top of that, we were told that today marked the last day of easier work. So before we dunk our heads fully underwater and before “things get real”, I want to share some thoughts about something I think is critical.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Every reader has heard this at least ten times, but it’s especially true now. In a program that teaches at way-past high school level with a community of astronomically intelligent peers, with a pre-packet that reads like a different language; I, for one, have been daunted by the prospect of being alone in not knowing.
Our fear is that they might laugh at you, might think you’re an idiot for not knowing. I’m immensely thankful to be in an environment where making mistakes is OK, and there’s room to explore and learn. If you don’t know how to read a Ramachandran plot, or if you lose your sanity in MOE, it’s OK to click that “Ask for Help” button. Because it’s supposed to be that hard.
I want to share a quote from the legendary Ludwig van Beethoven himself. In his letters, he talks about the value of a difficult task. He says, “What is difficult is also beautiful, good, great, etc, therefore every person understands that this is the greatest praise that one can give, because the difficult makes one sweat”.
Beethoven speaks of a difficult task being worthy of praise in itself. To build off of that, is to say that struggling in that task should be just as beautiful and good and great.
I laud SSP for their unabashedly difficult program, likened to “drinking from a fire hose” since the very beginning. But to each one of the students who feels a little lost: I believe that the courage to take that leap across the chasm of doubt, to ask that question that you thought was stupid, is just as difficult as the material—if not more. I have the utmost respect for each and every one of you who dares to say those words, “I don’t know”.
And to look back after that brave leap is infinitely as great and rewarding.