science, writing clubs, and other things I’m grateful for in 2021

gif shows red, orange, and yellow leaves on strings, spelling out

I don’t like being told to produce gratitude, or much of anything else. I’m stubborn that way. And this has been a bad year, set in a series of bad years, a curse that definitely stretches back to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, and probably even before. (It’s the Cubs’ fault.) But, since nobody at work is telling me to perform gratitude right now, and since most of the house is asleep, I’ll talk about a few of the things for which I am grateful, in this second year of plague.

In the words of the gif starting this post off, I am grateful for vaccines. But it goes so much deeper than that, really, because a vaccine doesn’t form itself. Before any of us could get Pfizered or Modernaed, scientists had to spend decades—or longer—working on mRNA technology. They had to discover RNA in the first place. They designed things like CRISPR and explored—are exploring—new and different ways to treat diseases and conditions that have, often, gone without cure for generations. (CRISPR can actually edit out sickle cell anemia, which is nothing short of miraculous.)

Scientists have spent days and weeks and months and years hunched over equipment and fighting with machines in order to create the vaccines that are saving lives right now. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone wouldn’t be grateful for their sacrifice and dedication, but then again, I grew up among scientists. I know what they’re like and what this sort of work involves.

Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in StoryStudio’s Novel in a Year class. (It’s the one I mentioned here: that year-long class that was, at the time, coming up.) It brought with it a community, one which has carried me through this difficult year and meant that I was not so alone. And, you know, it’s also done a hell of a lot for my writing. It can be hard, when one isn’t good in a crowd, to find a community outside one’s family (and I am very lucky there). I think, in this case, that life online helped me, and I am eternally grateful for this community of mine.

Finally, I’ll turn back to science, and also to medicine. I’ve rarely had cause to be grateful to doctors, although I am grateful to the scientists whose work has given me some quality of life. This year, for the first time in my life, I’ve found doctors who listened to me. It’s been a slow process, and a lot of the damage has been done, and isn’t exactly repairable, but at least someone is listening. And, while I might be struggling, a bit, with some of the diagnoses I’ve carried away, I am also embarking on new treatments and new exercise plans, things that might help me live more comfortably with this body that continues to attack itself.

Today will be a long day, and I’ll worry about my cat, but it will, I hope, also be a good one. May your Thanksgivings, if you celebrate, be a moment of respite, and may you, too, have something out there which makes your year a bit brighter.