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Something I had forgotten

I was sitting down at my desk to take a break between lab tasks.  I have challenged myself to write and post compositions throughout the day today.

I was thinking about my future.  I asked myself if I had ever dreamed of this.  “This” being my life as a scientist.  I remembered that I had always wanted to change the world.  Then I reminded myself that, somewhere in the midst of life, I had convinced myself that my goal was a bit lofty and lacked specificity.  What did I want to do to change the world?

With that thought, I remember a long forgotten time in my life.  I was the ever wise sixteen year old.  I remember wanting to start a company that used science to change the world.  At that time, I had this idea that I would design and build a water production/cleaning system that would be a basis for providing potable water for drought ridden areas, particularly areas on the continent of Africa.  I even had a name for this company:  SCInternational Resolutions:  my first two initials (hey!  I was still an adolescent), the beginning letter of the word science, international, resolutions.   I can’t remember why I chose “resolutions” over “solutions”; surely, for some altruistic reason.  I wanted to invent and educate.  I thought that I would design tools and devices and teach the people who I designed them for how to use them and how to build off of the concepts that I used.

I remember standing on the top of the highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountains later that summer.  It was on my seventeenth birthday.  I was at a point so high that I thought I could see the curvature of the Earth.  I was in awe.  I thought about what it meant that I was standing there on that day.  I wondered whether the things I had hoped for were near or far away.  High school graduation seemed to be an eternity away.  I thought about being a chemist.  I thought about being a fashion designer.  I wondered how many dreams one person was allowed to have.  I was still a shy, mature-for-her-age, yet noticeably inexperienced young lady and I hated it.  What would I be when I grew up?  What was going to be my role in making the world a better place than when I had joined it?

Today, I am a scientist.  I am nearing the end of a long tunnel that has been my life as a PhD student.  These days I still ask myself “what will I be when I grow up?”  I remember that little girl and ponder what she has grown into in the past (more than a) decade of her life.  Have I made a difference?  Have I given someone a voice who didn’t have one?  Have I educated?  Have I invented?  Have I created?  Have I helped?  Have I inspired?  Have I done anything to answer those questions from my younger self?  Have I made her proud?

Remembering something I had forgotten makes me believe that life has a way of coming full circle.  I thought that my dream of becoming a scientist was something that popped into my head while I was considering my love of bench work as an engineering undergrad then as a biology grad major.  I had forgotten that this was a dream that was a part of me for a really long time.  I had fostered it when I designed my prize winning science fair project in the sixth grade.  I breathed life into it when I stood on top of that mountain and chose to bury my dreams deep down in what I thought was the safest place, my heart.  I gave it wings when I took a chance on myself and submitted an application to one of the top PhD programs in my field.

Remembering something I had forgotten has brought to my recollection the challenge of finding that “thing” that I will do to affect some aspect of this world.  Maybe I’m closer than I think.  If only I could say that to my seventeen year old self.

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