When I was in third grade, I asked for, and received, a microscope for Christmas. After receiving that microscope, I decided that I wanted to be a scientist. I like to think of myself as persistent, but stubborn might be a better word. I wrote an autobiography in the third grade, declaring that I’d like to be a scientist, and after that day, I didn’t question that decision once until I was a few years into my PhD program. I was looking back through old photos to find one of myself in high school, and was surprised to come across this one I’d forgotten.
That’s me, senior year in high school, at my kitchen table. Dissecting a rat. There are no more words.
In high school, I was definitely a bit of a math and science nerd. Maybe a bit of a nerd all around? I really liked those classes, I didn’t love history, and I really didn’t like English. Really, it was mostly the writing part I didn’t like, I’m pretty crazy about grammar. (It gives me great pride when my children use the word “well” as an adverb instead of incorrectly using the word “good” as so many do.) But the writing, oh, the writing. I didn’t enjoy it, and in a class whose grade depended largely on writing, I got my first quarterly grade of a “B.” I remember being outraged by that B, and so irritated that my GPA might suffer for it– I was’t going to be a writer. I was going to be a scientist. I wouldn’t believe anyone who tried to reason with me at the time, but of course I had no idea how much a scientist’s success depends on their writing skills. And while I’m very thankful for the perspective of my scientific training, these days I’m more writer than scientist.
I’m trying to think back on it and decide why I didn’t like the writing. Of course, there was the incident of the D-minus that I “earned” on a paper because though there were only three in the entire paper, I used two passive verbs in the same paragraph. That could sour any overachiever. But mostly, I remember struggling to find a topic, an opinion, a voice. Maybe I’m a bit of a late bloomer on the writing front. But I guess I’m a little glad that those teachers hammered in all the lessons when they did, so that now that I have found my topic, my voice, I can express it. Deep down, I still think of myself as a scientist. But now I’m a scientist who loves writing.