I've been considering doing a post like this for a while now. Actually, I was saving it for Teacher's Day, but just found out that the date I was working to (May 5) is for the U.S. Teacher's Day - Canada's was back in October. Well, can't I just hold it 'til then? The answer is no, I can't, my brain has a holding capacity approximately equal to that of my bladder. (Hey, they've both been through a couple of pregnancies. Give them a break.)
Fortunately, Wikipedia tells me we're currently somewhere between Teacher's Day: Lebanon and Teacher's Day: Slovakia, so this seems as (in)appropriate a time as any.
This is the story of How I Became a Biologist. The story goes like this:
I hated science class when I was a kid. I just wanted to draw and write stories - I had grand designs on being an artist or an author. People praised me for being artistic and creative (as a parent, I now recognize this was probably in veiled gratitude for my actual valued characteristic, "silent"), which served to reinforce my decision. I hated science class when I was an older kid, too: bo-ring. It was way more fun to draw pictures, write stories and read books and, importantly, to continue to be patted on the head for my artistic(-ness? -tude?) and creativity. But going in to high school, the choice was to take "Science" class - at my school this was the term given to what was known among the students to be the dumb kids class - or pick one of Biology, Chemistry or Physics and suffer through it. So, science was like, bo-ring, but damned if I was going to be in the dumb kids' class... I picked the lesser of the three remaining evils: biology.
It was in Bio 10 that I encountered the best teacher I ever had. He was smart, funny, engaging, knowledgeable, passionate about his subject, and passionate about teaching. And I l-o-v-e-d biology. I loved it so much that I signed up for chemistry the next semester, in addition to more biology. Wouldn't you know, it turned out that I l-o-v-e-d chemistry, too! I loved biology and chemistry so much that I signed up for the dreaded physics the next semester, in addition to more biology and chemistry - this move actually necessitated the dropping of my longtime beau, Art, from my schedule entirely.
My art teacher was flabbergasted, and I still couldn't bring myself to like physics. But this isn't the story of how I became a physicist so that's really beside the point.
Eventually, I ended up in University, where I continued to lap up all the biology, ecology, chemistry, etc. courses I could wrangle into my schedule - and I l-o-v-e-d them all so much that I even tried a physics class again. (Er, not sure what I was thinking there.)
In the interest of achieving a "well-rounded education", and in an ironic reversal of my high school trajectory, I was forced by my degree's credit system to stand down on my devouring of science courses and pad my schedule with some fluffy liberal arts courses. Remind me one day to tell you about what a lousy African drummer I am.
Despite my lack of drumming and physics abilities, I found my first professional job (as a biological field technician) one summer between school years - and I was hooked. And every year since then, with every field season and cool plant find and every mile I get paid to hike, I've been hooked anew.
The story of How I Became a Biologist wouldn't have happened without the teachers in my life. So on this very special non-Teacher's Day, I would like to send out a big thank you to my high school biology teacher: Mr. Emerson, without your influence in my life, I might have been an art major. *shudder* I don't even like Starbucks.
And since it is non-Teacher's Day, I'd also like to thank all my informal biology teachers over the years as well: my colleagues, field partners, mentors and friends who have continued to help me learn and grow, both as a professional and as a person, and who make being a biologist the most damn fun job on earth.
Smooches to all y'all.