At the end of 2017, I wrote a post expressing my contentment as I finally began to find my footing as a brand new nurse. In a couple months, I will have been employed at my hospital for a full calendar year and, though this is a short amount of time, I feel that I have more or less found my rhythm as I go about my work day. Since my departure from graduate nurse orientation on the unit, I have since gone on to educate myself in operating some of the more advanced medical equipment, take on my own nursing students, and even find myself as the second nurse on the unit in over eleven years to receive the DAISY Award, a globally renowned nursing distinction. I enjoy going to work, and my short time thus far in caring for so many families has already offered me the privilege of being a part of a myriad of meaningful experiences that have left families, at times, tearfully exclaiming that they will remember me for the rest of their lives.
It is an honor for me to be a part of the nursing field and I have never found myself regretting my decision to choose this path. Yet, every so often, I come across moments where my heart beats a little bit faster as I am reminded of my roots.
Surely, nurses are scientists, but I am talking about scientists — those whose hearts belong to their labs and their spirits to their lab coats. Time and time again, even during my studies in medical school, I would find myself pulled into the research lab. In nursing school, I was selected to take part in the school’s honors program and conduct research alongside the illustrious Dr. Hanneman. Then, as I left school altogether and began working at a hospital amidst the forefront of medical advancement itself, the Texas Medical Center, I did not even make it off my nursing orientation before attaining a seat on the hospital’s Nursing Research Council; my coworkers would joke that the roles get reversed during such meetings — though most of the time it is they who are teaching me to excel as a nurse, it is I who is able to educate them in meticulously critiquing research work.
Yet, it goes beyond that, honestly. In my undergraduate days, my friends would tell me that there was no way I could ever not be a scientist — my personality simply did not allow it and, in fact, would often directly lead them to get entangled in my ridiculous schemes. In high school, I got into my fair share of trouble on account of taking it upon myself to double my chemical ingredients when experimenting with exothermic reactions, yet my lab partners would be left howling with laughter. Even during middle school, I somehow managed to attract a gaggle of wannabe-nerds during science class who would sit around me and praise my scientific inquiries at every turn, a dynamic which ultimately culminated in me being presented a trophy by my science instructor for my enthusiasm for the subject. Though my logic was shaky and my methods very often unorthodox, the escapades that my friends would find themselves caught up in would leave them in mirthful spirits from the sheer absurdity of their situation. I insisted on combining earnest knowledge with sensational drama, garnering reactions that simultaneously caused those around me to agree with me and resign themselves with emphatic facepalms.
I was not merely a person who happened to enjoy studying the sciences — I was a mad scientist.
And though the connotation of being termed as such tends to usher forth a tone of horror, I consider the title a profession of one’s unrelenting dedication to the spirit behind experimentation. Paradigms rooted in reality become mere suggestions to consider during experimental design. Practicality becomes sacrificed for the dramatic and whimsy. Though efficiency and deliverance may border on the negligible, the spirit of science itself — experimentation — is steadfastly held on to for the sake of pursuing knowledge itself.
…and yet, a life like this is incompatible with the real world.
In actuality, the scientific method demands meticulous protocols and strict resource management. Ethical issues must be considered. A constant battle for funding steers the laboratory’s efforts to the whims of the benefactor. Absolute scientific freedom is contingent on the acceptability of results and, quite frustratingly, sometimes comes across as a finite resource.
These were the realities that, over the years, I had matured into accepting. Even now, I know that I’m supposed to play by the rules — I understand the game of research. Although the thought of once again donning a lab coat occasionally flits through my mind and quickens my pulse, I am quite content with the career I have entered; I know in my heart that the character of scientist that I would like to play, in this world, can only exist as a mere fantasy. Though research remained a part of my life, the raw wonder and runaway imagination that once emanated from the laboratory slowly faded to time.
Some months ago, as I was nearing the tail end of my orientation period as a new nurse, I found myself reclaiming my free time and revisited a show that had been suggested to me by a friend years ago: Steins;Gate. Since its debut back in 2011, I had been recommended this anime by multiple people, one of which noted that one of the main characters reminded him of me. Ever since I graduated high school, for some reason, I always maintained a very poor track record with regards to watching anime — it simply wasn’t a major presence in my free time anymore. I had of course seen anime that I adored since then, but I was never gripped by a strong desire to ardently watch an anime series the way that I used to — the last such show probably being Code Geass (which I eagerly awaited watching every week as it aired in Japan) back in 2008.
This did not happen with Steins;Gate either. I took my time watching the series and did not feel the compulsion to immediately dive into the next episode… for completely different reasons than I would have had years ago.
I watched Steins;Gate slowly — because I didn’t want it to end. The story was enthralling, but it was truly the setting and the characters that seemed to remind me of bygone days. The great Hououin Kyōma — a man detached from society and its conventions, the reluctant maturation past young adulthood, and any protestations questioning the soundness behind his fantastical soliloquies. He was a mad scientist dedicated to experimentation and the impractical, all while living a simple life surrounded by his room mate, chance happenings, and his loving friends. I was charmed by the propensity of his friends to play along with his delusions (a charade that I too often found myself on the receiving end) only for the “lab” to actually realize Okabe’s flights of fancy. A lot of Okabe’s life reminded me of the wonder I felt during my college days when I first began to formally pursue science, as well as my first time working as part of a laboratory. My heart was pained as I watched Okabe’s fantasy world start to fall apart as he too began to experience the realities of the world and, by its extension, the dark politics that can surround scientific discovery. As the series came to an end, as did Okabe’s time traveling adventures, I couldn’t help but feel a familiar sense of contentment as I watched the young protagonist will himself to step back to reality: his everyday life. It was as if I had watched him grow up — a path that, in the recent years, I had recently been forced to travel.
Nevertheless, I treasure such stories that remind us of our own experiences. Steins;Gate reminded me about how I used to feel about research and the world of science. I’ve never once disliked either disciplines, but I was reminded again of the excitement I once felt and somehow left behind as I grew older. Such reminders, from time to time, are important in maintaining our sense of identity.
Shows aside, these days, a substantial portion of my free time goes towards video gaming and chatting with my friends. A favorite pastime between my friends and I consists of hopping on voice chat and playing a few rounds of Overwatch. Though I used to spend most of my time as a Pharah main, the unveil of Moira as a new hero caught my attention; her character background told the tale of a vagabond geneticist whose controversial methods caused her work to be denounced by the scientific community. Moira’s depiction in game shows her as equally brilliant in her knowledge as she is unnervingly prim — although calm, her demeanor hints at a love for theatrics as she ceaselessly proclaims the virtues of science. Hilariously, the same friend who compared my person to Steins;Gate’s characters years ago felt compelled to mention that Moira reminds him of me.
Characters are characters of course, but just as with stories, I feel that sometimes certain characters and their outlooks serve as reminders of the various facets of our own personalities. Still, it speaks volumes that a discernible pattern can be seen in both my career path and interests during my free time. Science is who I am. In my heart, I’ve always been a mad scientist despite outwardly appearing as a student, nurse, or even a real-world scientist. All of my career interests have followed the path of science, and even my favorite genres of fiction tend to gravitate towards the science variety. Longtime readers of this blog would already know that I am a Star Trek fan, and scientific intrigue is definitely one of the primary reasons why I continue to so enjoy shows such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Guilty Crown, and (my first absolutely relentless anime obsession in over a decade) DARLING in the FRANXX.
With a heart trapped between the world of science in reality and the universe of science in fantasy, perhaps this is why sometimes I’m guilty of placing real world affairs on the back burner — it’s never been my primary concern. Could it be a mental illness on my part? Perhaps, but I welcome it as a part of who I am; many famous minds were eccentric, after all. At any rate, I continue to strive for a life full of science and adventure. This June, I will be flying to a research conference in South Korea and perhaps in the future I may find myself in other parts of the globe. With a world full of so many countries, so many cultures, and so many great minds, in the meantime, I am content spending time at work caring for those who drive its evolution every day — the people within it.