It occurs to me that I haven’t the first clue how to do this. I have spent most of my adult life in a lab. I mean that literally. When I was in high school we were in the band room (and now I cannot remember why there) and were asked what we wanted to do for a career. The words had never come out of my mouth before but suddenly in that room I said that I wanted to be a genetic engineer. Now we’d call it some version of molecular biology but at the time it seemed on track. It was weird because I didn’t think I was smart enough to do that nor did I have any idea how much university and training it would take or how I would ever pay for it. Looking back it was one of the most ballsy things I’ve ever said out loud. (And after doing a bit of a peek back at the crazy things I say – and write – this is quite the statement.)
I don’t know if anyone who finds their way here and actually reads this will relate but since I was in such a bad place at that age and really didn’t think I had what it took to even really contemplate such a huge place in the world, I did not pursue that path. I went to the smallest university available to me at the time and found myself being wooed by an unrelated department. Given my low feelings for both my value and that department (at the time) I did not take them up on their offer. I did however take the suggestion of applying for a bursary to take a term in another province. For once in my life, I didn’t care about the costs to me and I went anyway. This wasn’t the full turning point for my life yet but it may have been the beginning of that Titanic spin. Perhaps I’ll fill in the blanks at a later time (there are nearly 20 years between then and now – yikes – that wasn’t an expected thought) but I ended up at University of Calgary’s hospital campus and molecular biology.
OK, I think this part of the fall backwards into what you always wanted story is kinda cute so I’ll fill in this blank. So I had finished a BSc and had worked in that profession for several years and found it not only unfulfilling but also difficult to make a living at it. I went back for a couple of upgrade sessions and did what I had learned to do the first time around in school – ask a professor I felt I liked for a job. This was a very successful strategy for me. Just Ask. (I’ve had crazy things happen on this basic approach to life. Perhaps it comes of never asking for what I wanted as a child and surprise . . . never getting what I wanted.) So I asked a professor in biochemistry for a summer position and he said sure. (Now if you’re going to recommend this to someone else – note that timing is important. You’ve got to ask in November or perhaps as late as January. By February (or spring break) all the positions are filled. ) This prof was a young and easygoing fellow so I waited as long as I could to reintroduce the topic with him after attending his classes in winter session and not having any conversations with him that led me to believe that I was still going to be working for him. After class one day in late March, I asked him about the summer position and he told me ‘Oh, my lab is full’. I was devistated but true to form, I stood in front of him and didn’t say a word. He finally followed up with ‘my colleague at the hospital has room in his lab – go talk to him’. I took a few extra breaths, remembered that I had already quit my other lab job so that I could do this biochemistry summer post, and marched my way over to the hospital. Lucky for me, there was a job at the hospital campus and due to my inability to conceive of a way to begin to pay back my student loans, I started grad school in a field that does all it’s work using – you guessed it – molecular biology. The people I met there changed the course of my life professionally and personally. I have been lucky enough since those early days to teach and help teach molecular biology to 100s of people.
So what is this entry really all about? Yes, I wanted to share a beginning of a context for what I will be sharing. I also wanted (and I didn’t know this before I started typing) to remind myself (and perhaps you) that it’s OK to let your heart’s desire out into the world. I know I rarely do this. To this day, I hate to make plans because I feel like they either don’t come true or I am unable to fulfill the committment. But now that I’m looking back on the twisting path of my professional life, would I have gotten to molecular biology without having stated that I wanted to get there? I don’t know. I never will.
Funny how life can work. It seems I’ve pushed so hard, put up with a genuine portion of crap and still somehow landed on my feet. It’s not the admirable success of a life that anyone would look up to – don’t get me wrong. But when I watch CSI, I know when they are totally BSing and what makes sense. It isn’t much but it is miles away from what I was and didn’t want to be. That’s progress.
Eventually, I want this to be a forum for talking about life’s twists and how not only I have navigated them as an individual and mommy but I’d also love to hear from any readers on their experiences. Yes, I’m one of those people who have grown up with Oprah and followed Deepak Chopra. I love a good political skewering via Cobert or This Hour has 22 minutes. I’m into greening up our world (though I think this is going to take a paradigm shift) and treating all living beings with respect. So if you think that this might be the kind of conversation that you’d like to engage in over coffee, that’s what I’m aiming for with this blog.