By Emily Gardner
I could sit here and list my daily elements of existence, rattling off so many biology terms that you grow queasy. Yes, I guess that is what I’ve been doing here, in a very physical sense. In my 100 square feet of lab space and a freezer full of things that would make you ill, I’ve been watching all your Snapchat stories and liking all your Instagrams. I guess that’s what one is to do when isolated for some time. I’m not complaining; I enjoy the many photos of endless green in Ireland, snow in France, laser tag in Carmel, yet I haven’t seen a high school student in 20 days. And now that I have this opportunity to address you, I don’t want to give you a piece about how much PCR is executed daily, or how many gels I ran, but how it feels to not see anyone under the age of 18 for 2 months. It goes a bit like this: no one is going to care whether or not you’re dating someone or how much money you spent on your shirt today. Your peers are no longer your judges. There is no fear of anyone other than yourself, for you are the independent variable. Your self definition becomes your ego, changed only by the world of opportunity you create.
You’re growing up. Someday you’re going to realize that you’re 22 now and suddenly you’re not playing GTA anymore, and no one told you how to do taxes or balance a checkbook; but you’re there. And maybe the meaning of growth has become so broad that the moustache that grew as peach fuzz became a beard and made you entitled to vote. We define ourselves with yearbooks and school ID’s, the thickness of your wallet and the size of your jeans. Say goodbye to your uncrustables and starve yourself for “fashion,” your bones getting weaker but your mind still 13 years old. Our snap judgements of life on the face of this world are arbitrary. You grew 5 years that summer you were all alone, a year per month. What you saw with your eyes goes straight to your mind, but now tell me again why you’re sleeping through history class? Every day I’ve walked through halls of unknown faces, anonymity as my long lost right. As you get older, the world grows larger, or perhaps it is that as the world grows larger, you grow older. What happens when you stay within the same 4,000 square feet, talk to the same faces, and never meet a new soul— do you stay the same? Does your hair grow longer and your skin lose its collagen, but your mind remain the eager clump of protein that you began with?
You’ve seen every inch of your own corner a million times. Your eyes are the landscapers of your mind, so keep them open, keep them curious. When you take your last breath, what are you going to be proud of? The person you are, or the person others view you to be? So perhaps I did spend my time cutting and transforming plasmid DNA, running polymerase chain reactions over and over until we had the sequencing requests we needed. But I’ve gained a sense of independence, a promise to myself that I will not let others define me. So say all you want, all your heart desires— in the end, it’s only going to come back to your lips, which uttered every syllable.