Kimberly Gabel | Lawtons, NY

Dear Mr. Vonnegut,

I will start by being honest, at this time 5 months ago, I did not know who you were. I was looking for classes to take during the spring semester of my sophomore year at SUNY Fredonia that would count towards any credits I still needed to fulfill. I came across a course titled “Vonnegut & the Cold War”, and thought that it would be cool to learn more about the history of the Cold War. Little did I know, I would learn more about you and your accomplishments than I ever thought possible.
Throughout most of my life, I’ve felt like a ‘black sheep.’ Being the only girl in a family of farmers and the first to go to college, I always felt as if I was spending my life trying to get people to take me seriously. Dinner table conversations were always about the rain, or lack thereof, and what needed to be done around the farm the next day, never evolution or coral reefs or the invention of CRISPR, something that I could talk about for hours on end. Even when I enrolled in the class dedicated to you, I quickly had that same feeling. After introducing ourselves, I realized that I was one of the very few that didn’t pursue an art, and the only one majoring in a STEM field. The black sheep, so it goes.
I am also slightly ashamed to say that I thought about dropping or withdrawing from the class on a few different occasions as well. But Kurt, by gosh, you are the one that changed my mind. So many of your works focused on finding a glimpse of hope in the darkest places and choosing to do what makes you happy, and that is what truly inspired me. It made me realize that despite what anything else thinks, going to college and studying the sciences is what makes me happy. This class broke down every wall between my peers and I, and allowed us to pick at each other’s brains for and hour and twenty minutes every Tuesday and Thursday for a few months. I was able to support and debate when and where I saw fit and finally bring my opinions to ‘the dinner table’, all thanks to you.
You also made me realize that I do pursue an art. One day I was in the lab splitting a plate of cells for my research and it dawned on me, there was something ironically beautiful about what was going on. The motivating factor for pursuing a major in molecular genetics was that it intrigued me, and when I discovered new things I just wanted to share that with other people and see their reaction. I’d like to imagine that is what motivates and makes others artists as well.
Kurt, I have to thank you for urging me to notice when I am happy. With that being said, from the depths of my dorm room surrounded by my organic chemistry notebook and a detailed diagram of the heart you might just be able to hear me sigh and say, ” If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”
With love,
Kim

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