Last summer I saw myself in a test tube.
Watching my amateur-ly extracted DNA swirling in a glass tube, I remember panicking at the enormity of the situation. This was it. This was all there was to me. A strand of proteins and four letters with the ability to write out my life. But, on the other hand, THIS was it. This tiny, barely visible molecule contained unfathomable mysteries, just waiting to be discovered.
Fast forward to Berkeley – I’m an MCB major, hoping to pursue an emphasis in genetics. All the ‘BiOLoGy iS nOt a ReAL SCiEncE” jokes aside, I classify as a STEM major. I should be cynical, clinical and calculating, logical to a fault. I should never ever let myself get sucked into the whirlpool of idealism, and I am meant to keep my feet firmly grounded in factual knowledge. Intuition and rational thought are meant to be my weapons of choice, not emotion.
And yet, I find myself marveling at the symmetry in biology, the beauty in chemistry and the synchrony in mathematics as opposed to being awed by hard proofs and tabled data. The mysticism behind a single strand of DNA determining who I have the potential to be never fails to thrill me. The juxtaposition between the lifeless organic molecules that seamlessly come together to give us life inspires me. The heart is more than just four valves, the brain is more than just a computer and feelings are more than just neurochemical reactions. And that’s where the conflict arises. Because the scientist in me is taught to treat life as an incidence, a culmination of chemical reactions that happened to lead to something more. But the writer, the artist, the creator in me can never bring myself to ignore the poetry behind it.
So, if I can’t ignore the cosmic beauty behind the creation of life, if I can’t ignore the lyricism in the relentless beating of the heart, if I can’t ignore the tragic romanticism linked with pain – does it make me a stifling writer, or does it make me a bad scientist? Did the dozens of college interviewers, who sat opposite me and asked me perplexedly why I was pursuing genetics and not English as my major, actually voice a valid concern?
Of course not! In fact, I consider myself lucky to have two interdisciplinary pursuits to cultivate my intellect as well as my individuality.
There are very few times in life that an individual can point to something about themselves and know with an all-consuming certainty that it defines their very being. That without that particular thing they wouldn’t even be a fraction of who they are right now – they wouldn’t be human.
And for me, that characteristic is writing.
If you laid every piece of my writing side by side, it’d tell you my story better than I ever could. For me, writing is more than just a form of creative expression. It’s a mode of cathartic release – an intensely vulnerable method of translating chaotic internal thoughts into something that vaguely resembles sanity. But being in love with words is also a responsibility. I owe it to myself and this love to share my views and opinions with the world, regardless of whether or not it makes a big impact. At the very least, these opinions might just make someone else in the world feel less alone.
Which is why I knew that there was no way I could spend an entire semester abroad focused solely on scientific pursuits without continuing to write. And being an opinion columnist with the Daily Californian gave me the perfect opportunity for that. The Daily Cal wasn’t just a platform for me to freely express my views on topics that mattered, but also a community of friendly and progressive artists. Artists by nature are eclectic and here I had the opportunity to interact with some of the boldest people I’ve ever met. Irrespective of whether it was someone who (refreshingly) wrote about the raw power dynamics behind the act of sex or someone who maintained an ever-growing list of “cool words” on a Stickies tab on their desktop, they’ve enriched my life in ways that I could not possibly describe. And to be but a mere cog in the well-oiled machine that the Daily Cal is has been an absolute honor. I’ve been educated. I’ve been validated. And most importantly, I’ve been heard.
My point here is that no matter what I do in life, where I go, what I pursue or study, I’ll always find a way to link it back to my love for words. It’ll always boil down to the fact that I find language beautiful. Because without prose and poetry, we stop at definitions. Our body is just a machine, language is just a system and life is just a condition. I’ve often been told that a writer always leaves a piece of their soul in everything that they write. And in this, I offer you a piece of mine.