I am not speaking out of turn when I say that Hobbs, New Mexico in the nineties was filled with some of the most inspiring, loving, mind-blowing teachers that a public school system could have. I’m also not speaking out of turn when I say that if you had Mr. Sam Nichols, he was one of your favorites. Sam taught high school science. I had him for Human Anatomy and Physiology my Junior Year. He looked just like Dr. Green on ER (which also means he looks like Goose!), and was equally as endearing, as tempered, and engaging. I have to speak to the things that gripped my 16 year old brain and never left, of course – like our fruit fly DNA experiment showing how creatures evolve and how scientists can “see” DNA through gel electrophoresis, the live birth video which ensured I did not get pregnant until I was 34 (seriously, thank you Sam hahaha), the MTV experiment where we learned that the human brain retains images even when they are flashed at rapid speed- how rods and cones record and send all that stuff in there – how it can change what you think is real, the idea that deja vu may be triggered by similarity pushing your moment over an already created neuro-pathway, that in all the science and all the systems, there is something deeper. That humans start out as good little lumps of cells, and we have a million ways to be shaped and shape our own lives. Sam taught science as common sense, not as something reserved for an elite group – observe and question, test, fail, test again, hypothesize, prove, question, test….the cycle of learning that keeps us curious and discovering, keeping us the explorers that our ancestry ingrained in us. We all come from people who made it through lots and lots of stuff.

Sam went on to be a biology professor at the local college before retiring. He adopted a guard cat named Migs. He kept the title of explorer and has traveled extensively around the world seeing what makes us all tick. He has amazing stories of places and love and loss, of music (his concert T-shirt collection kicks ALL of your concert T-shirt collection’s ass), how the universe moves us all and why.

I have the very surreal and lucky honor of being Sam’s friend now. Not just former student. Not just “click like” on a photo…we are friends who share experiences and thoughts with one another. Seeing a former teacher as a person with a complete sphere of life around them is one of those cool things about “adulting.” He is a private person (and so you only get a photo of Green for reference hahaha), he is someone who deeply cares about individuals, and treats people with genuine respect and kindness.
Get back to Zermatt, Sam, keep traveling, and know that every one of your former students is a better adapted person to their world because of you.

❤ Thank you for being my friend. ‪#‎TheFacebookProject‬