Friday, December 10, 2021

Anti-Parallel DNA

My 9th grader was struggling with the concept of anti-parallel DNA.  I believe her confusion came from mixing up the biochemical term parallel and the term parallel in the field of geometry.  Regardless, this set off a chain reaction of building models with pipe cleaners, discussing the function of polymerase, ligase and telomerase.  All topics that I have conveniently been in the process of forgetting since roughly 1996, a quarter century ago.

Nevertheless, I was curious and pleased that I still enjoy biochemistry, can explain it at the 9th grade level and make the knowledge relevant in terms of 2021 news including mRNA vaccines, cancer and immune system function.  I related stories from when I was performing DNA sequencing at St Jude Children's Research Hospital and researching stability of hip implants at Northwestern University.

As I turned my thoughts back to my day job which lately has amounted to wordsmithing irrelevant specifications for minimally relevant construction processes and procedures, I was painfully struck by how different my life is from my potential 25 years ago.  I am careful to use the word potential rather than aspiration.

Steve Prefontaine said "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."  While I make a fair effort of giving my best in the moment, I have certainly sacrificed the gift of my potential contribution to society.

Having a lifetime plan of minimizing the pain and suffering of cancer is tremendously different from having a plan to clean the lint trap assembly in the household dryer on a Thursday evening.  I often find myself thinking small and living in the moment rather than thinking long, embracing a project of passion and allowing that obsession to put day to day decisions on autopilot.  Do my activities in the next 30 minutes support or not support my lifetime goal?

My learning has gone from general education, to a math and science emphasis in high school, to an engineering degree, to a biotechnology degree, to medicine, to robotics, to business administration and finance, to cybersecurity, to hydraulic fracturing to transportation.  This has happened without rhyme or reason and is simply the result of circumstance and short term thinking.

That short term thinking was devastating in my early twenties when I fell under the spell of alcohol to the detriment of my health, relationships and career aspirations.

My short term thinking has allowed my fitness to teeter from bodybuilding, to triathlon, to adventure sports, to team sports to interval training.

My short term thinking has allowed my hobbies to go from poker, to coin collecting, to gym equipment curation.

I do not have any regrets, but I am on the verge of making the decision to think long instead of short.

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