Some time ago, I became rather obsessed with the PBS show Finding Your Roots -- have you seen this? The incredibly charismatic Dr. Henry Gates Jr. researches both the family trees and the genetic history of famous Americans, and tells them their stories, often for the first time. It's fascinating show, and I've watched every episode.
And then I decided I needed to know more.
So one day, I decided to go to the website of 23andMe, the organization that does all of the genetic testing for Finding Your Roots, and order myself up a genetic testing kit. You see, when you come from a country like Trinidad & Tobago, which is not only incredibly multicultural, but also multiracial (or, to put it less delicately, certain peoples in Trinidad have been getting busy with other peoples for a long time), most of us aren't entirely sure what our racial makeup is. For the longest time, if pressed, I've told people that I am approximately 50% African, 25% Indian (South Asia) and 25% Chinese (based on the ethnicities I know of my ancestors, only back a great-great or so), but the truth is, it was just a guess. I wanted to see how close I was.
Days later, the kit came. I spent 10 minutes spitting into a little vial, and sealed it up, and sent it back. Three weeks later, the results arrived, and it turns out I wasn't far off, give or take 5% here or there. What was shocking, however, was that the tests also gave me information about my pre-disposition to contract various diseases. For example, in addition to apparently having an elevated risk of developing diabetes (surprising, since I don't know of any relatives of mine who have ever developed diabetes; furthermore, I don't even like sweets) and various forms of cancer (not surprising -- cancer is everywhere in my family), I apparently also have an elevated risk of developing narcolepsy, Lou Gehrig's disease, and Tourette's.
(On the positive side, I have a decreased risk of contracting Restless Leg Syndrome and testicular cancer, so, you know, there's that.)
Needless to say, there's enough on this list to make me sit up and take notice, and so I'm back to trying to watch my diet and getting some exercise in. (Aside: why do I always get motivated to exercise when it's 100 degrees out? Is there a predisposition for crazy in my DNA that 23andMe failed to tell me about?) Here's the truth: I hate exercise. I really do. Don't tell me that I just haven't found what I love yet, because that's not true: even if I do what I love, like, say, dancing, for the purpose of exercising, I suddenly hate it. But I'm getting to an age that I don't have a whole lot of choice, so exercise I'm doing. Happily, my (hot humid) morning hikes include views of this, which takes a bit of the edge off:
Unhappily, my hike this morning included a view of this (<-- if venomous snakes bother you, I implore you, do not click that link.)
(You totally clicked that link, didn't you?)
Since doing the DNA test, every now and then 23andMe updates my profile with newer findings, but today I discovered that they did something sort of cool: they created a melody based on my DNA. In other words, you can actually listen to my genes.
Kind of weirdly awesome, right?
I have no idea what the science is behind this (if, indeed there is any at all), but I'd thought I'd share: Click here to listen to it (and set it to play using "steel drums." I like to think that if my genes played an instrument, it would be the steel drums. It's the music of my people, after all.).