Before Christmas, many things I wanted to upgrade or try for the first time went on sale. It takes a strong will to resist a good sale, and I succumbed to purchasing two: upgrading from a yearly subscription to a lifetime membership on an editing software I use, and taking advantage of a special offer on two DNA testing kits. For the latter, my husband and I shipped off sealed containers of (an insane amount of) our saliva and waited.

On Christmas Eve, I received an email that my results were ready. I abandoned all holiday preparations and dove into a genealogy rabbit hole. First, I read the weightier reports: my dad and grandmother both had colorectal cancer, but I don’t have either of the two genetic variants they tested. The tests didn’t detect variants for a host of other conditions either, although they found one associated with age-related macular degeneration and another for a condition characterized by too much iron absorption. The reports said, however, I’m not at increased risk.

I found less serious, quirkier results in the Traits tab, divided into physical features, taste and smell, and weird and wonderful. It confirmed things I already know: there’s a 63% chance I don’t have dimples (I don’t), a 52% chance I have blue eyes (I do), and a 65% chance my ring finger is longer than my index finger (it is). I have higher odds of disliking cilantro (I eat it, but it smells like stinkbugs), am less likely to be able to match a musical pitch (I didn’t need science to confirm this disappointing fact), and am less likely to have thick hair (sad, but true).

Five years ago, I developed an interest in my ancestry and spent hours researching it with help at a genealogy center and later on my own at home. If my results are accurate, I traced my family tree back hundreds of years. I became tangled in its branches, trying to verify relationships with leaders, entertainers, or authors, as if their accomplishments could enhance my own.

I’m not alone in my quest for information about myself and my family. Many of us look for answers about who we are and what makes us tick. We study the results of DNA testing and build ancestry charts. We take online quizzes and interest inventories. We interpret our behavior and personality through the lens of Enneagram numbers or Myers-Briggs types. But tests, even the scientific ones, don’t reveal the complexity of a human being.

Please join me at (in)courage for the rest of the article!

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