Posted by

Richard Dawkins

I remember, a very long time ago (or so it seems), I was a young man seated in a chemistry class in college. It was the first chemistry class I had taken outside of high school and honestly, I just took it because I needed to fill my credit hours. It was the last semester of community college and I was eager to graduate and go on to university. However, I had a problem: I had no clue what I wanted to be nor what I wanted to do.

Throughout the years I had often entertained the idea of becoming a teacher, though topics had often jumped between literature and mathematics and maybe astronomy. Never had I considered chemistry because, simply put, I hated chemistry in high school. Not that I had a bad teacher, she just taught in a way I didn't understand. All paperwork and no hands on experience save for the labs which were really wonderful. I had always had such a fascination with space, astronomy, and physics, but never chemistry. Each night I would gaze upon the sky with a pair of binoculars and I would be amazed by the multitude of stars in the ocean of black. To this day, I still get excited when I see the stars and I'll have a full blown conversation with a complete stranger about how that slightly orange speck in the distance is Jupiter.

So there I was, in a chemistry class for the first time in years. We went through the motions like mass and molarity and chemical reactions. For the reactions, I devised something called Chem & M's, where I would use M&M's to make Lewis Dot Structures of the reactants and rearrange them to make the products. It turned out handy for me. But then... oh boy THEN we got into light emissions and particle decay. It was here that everything snapped into place. This was how stars worked, how the universe worked. Everything was a chemical reaction, everything was just interactions between electrons, protons, and neutrons. Now, the physics side of me hollered quantum physics and sub atomic particles, but this was the essence of it. This was what I wanted to study.

From then on, whenever I looked up at the night sky, I not only saw giant balls of gravity, but eternal (compared to my lifespan) forges which created the elements and would spit them out. I saw great machines that could potentially fuel life, giant cauldrons of photons just waiting to be seen by a retina. I saw majesty and grace, death and fury, I saw the universe.

After that poetic spell, I had made up my mind: I was going to be a chemist. A chemistry teacher, actually. I hadn't been taught well and I wanted to avoid that happening to other students still in their high school years. I wanted for them to have the opportunity to form a passion for science, not necessarily chemistry, but the study of science itself. I wanted them to feel pride in the accomplishments of mankind and look forward to contributing to the ever growing list. Thus, I started university.

BAM! It was awful. I didn't know what was going on, nothing made sense, and I was completely lost. Chemistry at uni was a LOT different from chemistry at community. Nonetheless, I remained adamant and pushed on. My efforts were rewarded as I fell and picked myself up. Alongside my teaching and chemistry classes, I learned German, which became fun to randomly yell at my friends. I only ran into one class that I had to drop, but it is currently being retaken. The will to learn never left me, nor did the desire to advance human progress.

In my later years at uni, I was lucky to have a lab professor who thought the world of me due to my ability to work alone with precision and accuracy along with super detailed lab reports that would answer any question the reader may have. This truly inspired me because for a while, I thought myself an average student. However, I soon came to realize that almost none of the other students knew the math or how to work some of the more complex lab equipment. This brought joy to me as I surpassed my classmates and the class soon became one of my most memorable.

And now, here I am, in the last year of my study before my teaching internship. After this semester, I will be ending my 18 year education streak to become an educator myself. Here I am, world. 18 years in the making. It's so hard to believe that this will be my last semester as a student. Well, an official student, that is. A true scientist is always a student, and a true student never stops learning. For without learning, we have nothing to be passionate about and, without passion, progress comes to a halt and discoveries are lost upon us. So stay diligent in your studies, keep pushing, fighting, slaying your courses. If I can do it then so can you. Stay curious my friends.

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