In biology, mitosis is defined the type of cell division that results in two identical daughter cells. These cells have the same number of chromosomes. They contain the same genes and the same replications of those genes. In that sense, that was how I felt most of the people around me were like: trying to conform. I tried to adapt to these circumstances--after all, natural selection is an incredibly prevalent force in our lives--and this came in the form of participating in science fair and observing the people who did. I think this moment when I saw this girl, who wanted so badly to achieve something but wasn’t even sure what she was achieving, solidified that for me.
For me, that goes far beyond just ordinary “fakeness.” I’ve always prized authenticity above all else. After the science fair, I realized that I had consciously made the decision to be around people that I hated--I was becoming someone I hated.
Today, I’m a person who looks at value in terms of not awards and grades and numbers, but real passion for the kinds of things one enjoys. That’s much more than saving lives, saving lives, saving lives, but real, authentic motivations. Maybe it is science and tumorous cancer cells, and that’s great. But that’s not me.
I choose to take risks with the things I do because I love doing them. That doesn’t just mean no more science fairs, but reading a lot and watching documentaries that are in some ways, just the real, necessary stories of others. And I can joke about my science fair experience now, say that everyone there was “fake news” and that all of them were just waiting and hoping for a plane ticket to Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the fall. But I also recognize that that experience has motivated me to become someone who I want to be: someone who also wants the same things, but who takes a different approach to getting them.
And I know there are people around me will say that I criticize them far too much, and yet I’m just the same. To them, I’d say that they’re thinking inside a “closed” mitosis--the kind fungi undergo. In a “closed” mitosis, chromosomes are only dividing inside a nucleus. I’d tell them to think in an “open mitosis,” the kind animal cells like you and me undergo. In an open mitosis, the nuclear envelope has already broken down before the chromosomes separate. I like to think that that’s me: already broken down, already at the very nucleolus, already at the very essence of who I am. And sometimes I look at those around me and imagine them as cells. They’re busy dividing and developing, regenerating and replacing.
Sometimes they split apart, reform again.
San Jose, CA
Valerie Wu is a Chinese American student at Presentation High School in San Jose. Find her on Twitter @valerie_wu.