UCSF lost and found

Monday, January 18, 2021

Officer: Hi, welcome to the UCSF lost and found, how may I help you today?

A: Hi… I lost my identity.

Officer: Oh, you mean your school badge? Well, we have many here. What is your name?

A: I don’t know… that’s what I said. I lost my identity.

Officer: Well, if you don’t tell me your name, how can I get your identity?

A: …

Officer: Let’s see, maybe retracing the steps before you realized you lost your identity will help?

A: Yes… I lost it, in a panel of figures, saved in a pdf, living deep in a folder on cloud storage.

Officer: What do you mean?

A: My paper got rejected. Ever since then, I don’t know what to do. That’s the day I lost my identity. That’s all my identity has ever been. Papers and medals. Result slips, good grades and certificates of achievement. I placed all that in 5 years of work for this. Everyone expects me to be the first to succeed. I have always been the top student with a bright future. That’s why I came to grad school. To make the next breakthrough. But now all that is gone.

Officer: You know, you could always try again?

A: But how? I poured my heart and soul into it, and now I am empty.

Officer: Indeed, you are. I feel no pulse and your eyes have no shine. But can your identity really be no more than a two-dimensional figure, living as a vector graphic on a cloud storage? That seems kind of one dimensional to me.

A: That is all I am, until I can redeem myself.

Officer: Well, according to our protocol, what I have here is a soulless, heartless being with no owner or identification. Please proceed to the back room, where you will be kept until we can find your owner.

A shuffles to the back room to find a whole cupboard of other graduate students, all with similar blank expressions and no heart, all waiting to find their identity again.

A: How long have you been here?

“5 years…” “6 years…” “30 years…” various voices from the crowd mutter. “You know, once you are in here, there’s no way out…” A runs for the door, but there is no handle.

The officer rubs his hands together in glee. Indeed, UCSF means U Can Stay Forever.

If only, our identity wasn’t measured by papers and medals. Our worth by the results we produce, the expectations we meet. If only, we start to realize that we have an identity rooted in who we were made to be rather than who society expects us to be. Then we can instead enjoy nature in its order and science for its beauty.