IT’S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW
I lost my passion for science between the eighth and ninth grade, around the same time I quit a Saturday morning extra-curricular science class for gifted kids. I hadn’t been officially tested, but the principal at my private school told my mother I fell into that group. So she drove me to the class every weekend for three hours of learning.
I loved that class, until the day we had to dissect a pig heart and I was like “hell, no.” As an animal lover, and a 12-year-old with little stomach for cutting into flesh, I could not do it. The teacher did not force the issue. Instead, I was relegated to the back of the class, staring out the window as everyone else cut into the faded pink organ.
I didn’t last much longer after that. The teacher ignored me and didn’t let me answer questions. I raised my hand, but was never called on. To make matters worse, I was the only girl in the room. My mother withdrew me on the teacher’s advice.
“Girls don’t belong in the lab,” he said. “If she can’t handle the science, she needs to go.” I heard him and I believed him.
I never excelled in science after that. I sat in class, from the ninth to the twelfth grade doubting myself and my abilities.
It wasn’t until I was well into my 40s that I rediscovered my love of science. I really, really wanted to write science-based fiction for kids. And so, I dipped my toe into the complex world of geology. Much to my surprise, it was exactly like dipping my toe into a real ocean. Once I discovered the water—or in this case—the geological composition of the Earth—was warm and welcoming, I dove right in. I was reading academic papers about tectonic plates. I learned about mountain formation and subterranean heaters. I felt like I was 12 again, discovering the marvels of science.
But then came the tricky part.
I now had to drill down (pun fully intended) into the scientific lexicon and make it kid-friendly. If I didn’t fully understand the science, neither would the readers. I put my brain to work trying to find simple, but not ridiculous, ways to explain how this ground beneath our feet works.
The further I got into the research, the more I realized that I never stopped loving science. It took one person and his bias to wreck it for me. It wasn’t the subject matter that was the problem, it was the teacher. That is true of all things in life. An insensitive manager can make your job unbearable. A uninterested doctor can gaslight your symptoms. An insecure parent can make you doubt yourself.
If you have a dream, a desire, a passion, DO NOT let anything get in your way. There is only one voice to listen to: the one that comes from your heart and doesn’t know about the games people play with your head. Fight for what you love and do that thing.
It’s okay that I didn’t pursue science. I’m do that now in the books I write and during my downtime. Even if you’ve abandoned the thing that lights you up, it’s never too late to reignite the spark.
IT’S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW