One Job May Change My Life Scholarship Slam - "Numbers People"


I say science, and they see an endless string
of binary code and digits in single file,
test tubes and lab rats
and my eyes dead like mindlessness, like
a love of creation
can be muddied up
by academia, can be ruined
in institutionalization.  Like putting passion
into practice makes it less valuable, somehow.


They told me, “I don’t understand people with
brains for numbers,” and I said,
“All I ever wanted to do was help.”


What they don’t understand is that
one-dimensional people don’t exist,
that I can have this passion for poetry
pounding through my veins
while building a career in chemistry
from the ground up.


I was six years old when I decided
I wanted to be a scientist, saw my grandfather come home
from the lab in his white coat and thought
that’s what I want to be.  It’s a running joke,
that after years of formulas
and Bunsen burner and open flames,
I never changed my mind.


When I shut my eyes I dream
of a doctorate.  And yes, I think
“laboratory” more often than I do
“stage lights” but did you ever stop to think
that maybe it isn’t the glory
I’m looking for?


What I want
is a chance to make a difference.
Pharmaceutical research is no cake walk,
but think
children in hospital beds,
tricyclic antidepressants
that could save a person’s life,
one less light lost.


Medical technology isn’t glamorous,
but there are people that walk
on legs made of metal and silicone and the blood,
sweat, and tears
of biomedical engineers,
and the next time you tell me
that “numbers people” are heartless automatons,
think about the mathematician
whose equations could revolutionize the mechanics
behind heart transplants.


If I were to be a chemist, I’d come out of the lab
a different person every day.
I couldn’t tell you if compassion blooms
in the presence of microscopes, or if
the prospect of making a living
corrupts good intentions, but I can say
that even though the job would change my life,
it’s more than that.  See,
it isn’t just my life that I want to change.
All I ever wanted to do was help.



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