Letter from the former lab rat

Reprinted from November 25, 2008 blog journal entry


I really should probably listen to my former self.

I came across this email I wrote to a colleague/mentor/friend of mine when I was working in forensics. It was dated 11/9/99. I was 29 years old, married for 1.5 years, without children. I’m 38 now, still married, with three children, and a stay at home mom after 12 years in the field of biotechnology.

It’s incredibly strange and amazing that I should come across this at this point in my life, when I’m wondering where to go from here. How often do you really get a glimpse of the person you once were? How often do you really get to know what was on your mind when you were in the earlier stages of your life? I was an inconsistent journaler, always starting journals, but never completing them. I think that was in part due to poor penmanship. I’d always have fairly messy writing and I didn’t like even the smallest of mistakes. I’d end up starting over even for the smallest error. I guess you could say I was a perfectionist and that killed my journalling efforts. I had envy of others who had beautiful writing in nice even strokes.

But I digress…

A year after this email, I quit forensics to work in medical genetics for 3.5 years. I also had 2 kids in 2.5 years before I quit to be a SAHM. That was in 2004. After being home for 4.5 years, I’ve had varying degrees of restlessness and now it’s time to do something about that. It’s not a job that I necessarily need, but the need to learn and express my thoughts and share my knowledge that really makes me thrive.

It’s time to start paying attention to my former self. She had a burning desire to learn, to explore new ideas, to discuss and enrich her own experience of the world.

So, here is the email:

Dear D –

Well, here I am again, lab rat extraordinaire. I wonder why I’m still here. This is not the healthiest career I can think of. I am beginning to think that this is all my life will be. An endless stretch of writing labels on microfuge tubes and taking notes and making freakin’ dilutions. First you pick it up, then you put it in, bump, bump, bump (that’s from a Disney cartoon).

I wonder where my mind has gone. Where is all the curiosity I once had and the love of learning something new. I can’t tell, but I think I hate biology now. Of course, I’m really tired, too, so maybe I’m feeling the effects of that. But I really do feel my brain cells are sapped of all their knowledge. Okay, not all, just the science stuff. I can still handle basic bodily functions.

I have a few questions to ask you.

Of all the things you once wished you could accomplish in your lifetime, how many of them have you actually accomplished?

I always wanted to be a writer. Except that I never had the firm belief that anyone would read what I had to say. Or that whatever I did have to say has already been said a million times over. Isn’t that the saddest thing you’ve heard of in the last five minutes?

What would you say is your best God-given gifts, talents, whatever you want to call them?

Can you say you have developed them to their fullest potential? Would you want to?

Being married is kind of distracting to the endeavors of the mind and soul, isn’t it? I think you know what I mean. If you didn’t have anyone else to support or have to upkeep the house or run around, just think of all the things you could do just for the pure joy of it.

I think you and I should attempt to get back to that place within us that is creative and imaginative and soulful. In the poisoning society that we have to live in, I believe we should make a point of it. Think of some ideas that we could do to actually accomplish this.

Like, for instance, even if we can’t get together for whatever reason, we should pick out one piece of art, or one story or one poem, etc, that we can study for a while, then have a brief discussion about it, even via email.

What do you think?

Unfortunately, I don’t have his reply. My esteemed colleague, D, was 17 years older than me and much, much wiser.

But as I sit here reading this email, I realize that I have a different world-view than I had back then. 5 pregnancies, two job changes (still in biology), two miscarriages, three children and 9 years later, I am a bit of a different person than the young woman who wrote the above passage. And yet, I realize, I still have a lot of that young woman still inside me. Perhaps its been lying dormant, but she’s still very much a part of who I am and how I perceive the world.

I also realize that even without my friend D’s answer, I am in a good position to answer those questions.

And, with the advent of the holidays, I am finding a lot of loved ones going through some life-altering experiences.

I have one loved one in the hospital who will not be home in time for Thanksgiving, I’m going to a wake tonight for the father of a friend, I have another female friend who was just diagnosed with thyroid cancer, another male friend (actually, the recipient of the email) was diagnosed and underwent surgery for prostate cancer in October.

It makes me think that it’s probably a good time to really get all my awards and accomplishments and writings together in one spot, not just for me (even though it’s nice to reflect on all that I did). My biggest fear is that I will die before my girls grow up and they will not really know who their mother was as a person. I want them to know how I was able to have a career, but when it came time having a family, I did have the freedom and the desire to be with them. Even though being just a stay at home mom still conflicts with my high achieving nature, I still have the equally strong need to be the one to nurture them and guide them myself.

This is why I think I need to think more of fulfilling my heart’s desire with something that keeps me close to home.


And so, I am working on listening to the person I used to be.


About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in journal entries, Letters to Friends, Motherhood and writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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