I Am Guilderland: Why am I here and not somewhere else?

ALICIA CHEN

I am here at home, in Guilderland, New York. I am here because my father is good at physics, and he got a job here. My father is good at physics because his brain neurons are connected in a certain way, and his environment gave him access to China’s top schools. My father’s physics skills are in large part because of his DNA and the DNA of the people who established accessible education in China. Formed by natural selection, these precise orderings of As, Cs, Ts, and Gs trace a straight path to the beginnings of life in a primordial soup.

Perhaps Guilderland is my home because of this deterministic world. My carbon atoms glided along the tracks of physical law, their paths decided by switches at each crossroad. If everything is predetermined, my presence is simply a summation of all the pasts. Each present moment, each infinitesimally small slice of time, is nothing on its own because for the present to exist, it must be integrated with what came before. If the laws of nature are the cogs of a perpetual world machine, I imagine my life to be a point on the singular thread of science that leads backwards into the beginning of time. If I live the deterministic life, I am clinging to this string and its rational logic. Trapped by the laws that connect me to the past, I am never deviating, never looking up.

Everything is knowable in the deterministic world, and such complete knowledge presses in on the mind, keeping it from growing and searching. If I want to make discoveries and to chart the unknown, I must believe that there are gaps in the string that led me here. There must be tangled knots and frayed ends. I do not want the moments of my life to be made up of prerequisites and reasons. My present condition must be independent and dynamic, even volatile. I choose to sink the roots of my hereness not into cold reason, but into shrouded mystery.

I do not need to argue with fate, but I must believe that fate is unsolvable and unknowable. Believing in the unknown– believing in wild guesses and discontinuous moments– may be a little foolish, but it is also quite profound. I am not scared of consequences I can not see, and this gives me boldness. My ignorance makes me blind enough to attempt the impossible, but when I succeed, I am in a place that transcends the fear of logical limitations. This daring, this faith that rests on hope, creates wrinkles in time and twirling loops in the thread of science. My presence is not based on the physical calculations of the world, but a deep understanding that presence finds meaning within itself.

I may be in Guilderland because my father is a physicist, but I am not truly here until I see this place as a creature with its own secret possibilities. Guilderland is a connection between somewheres, but my home is a place that stands right here. I am squeezing the vitality out of this moment, using it to play my guitar, to think on my words, and to love my family. When I do these things which fill my life, I do not attempt to solve all the reasons and backstories; I do not cogitate on the DNA sequences that code the motions of my fingers. I simply enjoy the moment and I know with my heart that being here is something unexplainable, something irrevocable. I am forging my own presence. It starts here.

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