Since I don’t have the mailing addresses of everyone who reads my online drivel, allow me to provide all of you with the holiday letter that everyone whose address I do have received. Pretend that you received this sandwiched in a square card displaying a close-up of Santa’s face done in sort of a non-threatening watercolor type of thing. Are you there? Theater of the mind? Got it? Okey dokey, then.
My belief in and appreciation of brevity compels me to not waste time on lamenting how much I miss being close to you and yours. I mean, seriously. Duh. So, allow me to get right to the point.
As you may recall, I’m involved in medical research, currently as a Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry. The primary goals of life as a graduate student in my field are to 1) Publish relevant findings that hasten the neverending pursuit of solutions to all of life’s problems and 2) Not starve. I’m happy to report my success in both fields to this point. Regarding the research, I specifically tackle ailments attached to autoimmune diseases like lupus and a few other lesser-known, but equally devastating disorders.
Some work that I did this year was published in a peer-reviewed science journal, which was a huge and somewhat unexpected perk. As a mere graduate student still relatively new to the world of biomedical research, such publishing bona fides qualify as a rather gratifying success. Additionally, our particular area of expertise has recently been implicated in disease pathways directly related to HIV/AIDS, which has expanded the scope of our research exponentially. The moral here is that I’ve found myself actively involved in the search for explanations to clinical suffering in ways I’d previously thought unimaginable. This is gratifying in a number of nearly miraculous and unexpected ways. So, there’s that.
I also turned over a new leaf this year in the area of physical training by deciding, in a truly groundbreaking maneuver, to train for something without doing damage to myself. My track record to this point had been monopolized by an insistence upon breaking, straining, pulling, or otherwise maiming some part of myself during the course of any kind of training, military or otherwise. Upon having sufficiently healed from a foot-related disaster the previous year, I started training in the Spring for a marathon that I’d planned on running in the Fall. After a couple of REALLY long runs that made me question the point of running for a seriously long time, I said something that rhymes with, ‘Fullslit’, and proceeded to sign up for and complete a half-marathon in North Carolina’s outer banks in November.
Let me simply say that my competitive nature will be killing me before it ever does me any good. I started the race way too fast, drank and ate nothing during the early stages, died with gusto just over halfway through, and finished at around 2:04 (2 hours, 4 minutes), which was ~15 minutes slower than I’d planned. Things for which I’m thankful:
I didn’t hobble myself in the process.
I didn’t fling myself into the briny deep as I climbed the steep bridge over the Roanoke Sound.
I lived to fight again.
The next year will consist of many half-marathons, to say the least. I have the bug. Something is daring me and I have to respond.
Finally, I’ve been writing more after a very long hiatus. Mostly just essays, one-pagers containing primarily baloney from the recesses of the brain that don’t get used during days spent slinging chemicals hither and yon. Still, it’s a much-needed outlet. At some point down the road, this may end up manifesting itself as a full-time gig explaining science to people, which would be nice. If I’ve learned nothing else as a full-time elderly student of the sciences these last six years it’s that the world is in constant and desperate need of an understanding of the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of biomedical science. The nutshell explanation is that mammals are complicated. Quite frankly, it’s a wonder any of us survive. And yet, we do. This is also miraculous in it’s own way. I believe that constitutes two things qualifying as ‘miraculous’ in a single holiday letter. A rare thing, indeed.
Of all the things that have become clear during the course of my work this year it’s how fragile and blessed a thing good health can be. I genuinely hope that your reading of this letter finds you and your family in good health and spirits and that the coming year brings nothing but continued health and happiness to all of you.
With sincerest best wishes,
Sir @ December 22, 2011