A thank-you for Alyssa’s birthday

When I sat down to write this piece, I fully intended it to be more of just a thank-you note that I’d post on Facebook. But as I reflected on the last nearly seven months – and actually, my entire life – I realized I had a bit more to say than a simple thank you.

When I was a senior in high school, I started to really think about my long-term future, and ultimately, the rest of my life. I aspired to be a doctor, but, as convinced as I was that that was the right career path for me, I’m not sure if I ever wholeheartedly believed there would be a day where I’d become a physician. It wasn’t a matter of if I could do it, not that it would have been easy; I wasn’t ever the smartest or hardest working person in my classes, but I hoped I’d muster the strength to make it through undergrad and eventually medical school.

No, the reason I wasn’t sure I’d ever become a physician was far heavier and more morbid than that. The truth was that I wasn’t sure I’d live that long. A benefit of thinking about my mortality and my emotions has been that it has made me a more effective communicator. It’s why I’m a writer now (and also, I’ve become a fan of the dramatic). I didn’t want to acknowledge these feelings because I was protecting both my family’s and my emotions. I never had the courage to discuss my mortality with my parents and I never wanted to broach that subject with Alyssa; I was far too concerned it would make her face a reality that she was consciously avoiding.

But as I grow older, wearing my emotions on my sleeve is only becoming more intoxicating. I’ve written pieces about science, social commentary, and other subjects, but it’s evident that the pieces where I discuss my emotions are the ones that people are most drawn to. I don’t believe that I’m a particularly interesting character, but rather, people are attracted to human stories. We love reading what we can’t put into words and seeing others experience emotions we didn’t know anybody else experienced. I believe that’s why these pieces resonate so much more than my others. Science is interesting! Social commentary pieces are interesting! But…that’s all they are. They don’t necessarily inspire us to be better people or invite us to live a more engaged life. Personal narrative pieces do, in ways that aren’t completely obvious to the writer or the reader.

All of this leads me to one concise point: thank you. Thank you to anybody that has been a friend, that has said something nice to me or my family, or really been even the slightest bit kind or positive to me, my sister, or my parents. I realize people have expended energy in worrying about my family and that means more than can possibly be expressed in any sort of thank you.

I am both a writer and scientist because of that support. For the years I was in college (writing about this seems arrogant, but I swear it has a point!), I was told on many occasions that people were excited to see me help discover the cure to CF. During that time, I shrugged it off as a thing people said as sort of encouragement or endorsement. I obviously appreciated these comments, but I really didn’t think about them because I never thought I’d be involved in that. As I reflect, though, those comments probably held more water than I anticipated.

We are very much a product of our circumstances. The fact that people have believed in me – for whatever reason that may be, whether it’s because of a reputation I’ve curated or if it’s a reputation others have curated for me – is affecting me more today than I expected. Over the years, when I reflect, I just sort of assume that people believed I’d be involved with CF research because I enjoyed science. While that may be partly true, the fact that people have believed in me – in science, writing, or otherwise – has encouraged me to pursue whatever the hell I want to. Through working in a science and talking to others and writing passively, I’ve realized I have unique stories to tell and that others are interested in consuming those stories.

I guess what I have to say is this: thank you for giving me a platform. Thank you for giving me a reason to believe I have valuable words to share and a platform to share. I have so, so much more to share, but the continuous encouragement and belief in me as a writer and a person is the crucial element to me continuing to pursue my dreams.

Thank you. I will never be able to thank those that have been supporters and readers, but I promise to try.

Reach out to me, let’s talk. I want to talk to you personally about ideas and feedback. If you direct/private message me, I will give you my number.

Thank you for being there for my sister over the years. The people that have been there for my family have been the ones that are directly responsible for giving Alyssa and my family a platform. Simply reading this stuff means more than any one person could ever know. Thank you sincerely.