“When I got a review back for a paper in Science, one of the reviewers wrote “it’s at the 6th grade level.” I sent that review on to Alan [Alda] and he wrote back that it was the nicest compliment I’ve ever received. For my presentations, I give the same talk and show the same slides whether it’s a lay public audience or a science/medicine group of attendees.” ~ Eric Topol, Ground Truths, March 13, 2023
When I read this, I experienced a flash into an alternate universe, where instead of spending my nest egg on 35 acres of relatively wild forest, I used it to attend the science writing grad program at UCSC where I had been accepted. That was 31 years ago.
In this flash vision, I had graduated from that program with the credentials to follow one of my passions, understanding and communicating developments in science to the general public. In that universe, I had an exciting career that took me from the panda nurseries in China to the Australian outback and Great Barrier Reef, from the shrinking glaciers of Greenland to the drying Great Salt Lake in Utah. I had interviewed some of my idols including Anthony Fauci, and when the pandemic struck I had become a meaningful voice in translating its rapid public health implications for lay consumption, just like Eric Topol.
Oh well. The flash was over in an instant, washed away by a wave of reassuring recognition that I’ve lived a good life, and come to a place of contentment with internal balance, loving friendships, and meaningful work. Things could have been different, but they weren’t. My choices, along with conditions I had nothing to do with, led me to this place, and I’m grateful for the journey of discovery, continuing to pursue the question I’ve been asking since I settled on this beautiful wild land: Who am I, and how did I come to be here?