Wrong Planet
February 3, 2011

Interesting. I'm seeing a lot of these "I am enough" and "Me is {more than} enough" posts recently.

Maybe it's because the winter introspective season has really begun, but I know this is where my brain has been recently as well. So I guess I should explain the last few posts a little bit - they've been fairly deep for someone who has seemingly taken a vacation from this blog.

Many of my stories start the same way: I was a weird kid. I was a weirdly logical kid. I was an outsider.

I love starting stories about me this way. I have always reveled in the fact that I am different and have always been considered different. I have never been one to do or say something just to fit in with the crowd. When I say never, I am fairly certain that is not an exaggeration. It has bit me on the ass more times than I care to remember, but it hasn't changed my belief that changing my core self just to fit in is a mistake.

My mother knew this about me from very early on and so, when Austin looked like it was going to force de-segregation via busing, I was moved out of public school to private school. Mom feared that I would see words exchanged or fists thrown and feel a need to step in. It wouldn't matter if it was a commonplace disagreement or a racially motivated fight - nor what colours the combatants were - I would step in and try to make peace. Or at least make sure the underdog didn't get whomped. She was correct in that. I could no more stay out of a fight or an injustice than I could stop breathing.

It was that particular move from public elementary school to a Catholic school for second grade where I came to realize just how different I was. I related better to the adults than to the kids. I don't think I made a single friend my age during that year. I walked the edges of the schoolyard during recess singing a little song to myself that I was too old to play now ... and I kind of admired and marveled at the other kids and their ability to still play. In retrospect, it wasn't that I was too old to play and I didn't really feel that ... but it was the only way I could articulate what I was going through - I couldn't make friends. I had no idea how to read my peers and react appropriately.

I was hyper-logical where the other second graders were roiling masses of constantly shifting emotions that I couldn't read. And they changed so very quickly from one to the next. Being around that was not just confusing to me, it was physically painful. So I held myself out on the edges.

When it became obvious there was a personality conflict between myself and my homeroom teacher, I asked to see the principal. It was the logical thing to do. Why make either Mrs. Rowan or myself suffer through a personality conflict. Other kids didn't hate her, but it was obvious she and I just weren't compatible and were driving each other nuts. She didn't know how to respond to such a logical little kid who was most emphatically not like the other kids. The principal was wonderful about the meeting - met me where I was and gave me logical reasons for not moving me to another homeroom teacher ... and she was quite kind about the whole thing.

The next year, I was back to my beloved public school and I thought my year of being amongst the oddly emotional children was over. This school tossed any 30 or so kids into one class and you stayed there all day (the Catholic school was tracked and you moved from classroom to classroom for various subjects). Upon my return, I was put in a class which had only one of the kids I'd known prior to my Catholic school experience. And I realized it wasn't just the Catholic school kids who were unreadable maelstroms of emotion.

I was still an outsider.

Even my teacher noticed it and became concerned - she called a conference with my mother and noted that I seemed to not be bonding with any of the children despite the fact that I interacted so well with the adults.

Six weeks later, we moved four hour north and I was on my third elementary school and it was just October of my third grade year. And I was still an outsider who got along wonderfully with almost all of the teachers, but really didn't fit in with the other kids. I was the weirdo. The one everyone loved making fun of ... until they realized that not only did I often not get that they were making fun of me, but I didn't particularly care, either.

My nickname, when anyone actually bothered to think about me, was the fetus. To this day, I have no idea why. I just remember the look of hatred? disgust? meanness and somehow a desperation for this barb to land on Greg Frisina's face as he told me my nickname was fetus.

And I remember my confusion and dismissal of it.

I was a stranger in a strange land. These people had social rituals that apparently you had to be born into in order to understand ... and I just didn't get it.

It was a strange place to be. So comfortable in my own skin, in my own world ... but still mindful of the fact that I never seemed to find a place or a group where I fit in for very long. It was as if other kids could tolerate me for a few months and then my inherent strangeness just became too much for them. They were confused by my inability to pick up social cues. Sometimes I couldn't pick it up, sometimes it seemed that I was deliberately ignoring them.

Truth was, I just didn't understand most social cues. At all.

And, I was unwilling ... actually, I think I am incapable ... of not being me. My personality has always been so strong that I find it nearly impossible to "just fit in" by hiding some part of my self.

The first teacher who noticed it was my junior year Spanish teacher. Otherwise I was considered that weird honors kid who just doesn't ... get it.

This Spanish teacher took me aside one day. The other kids in the class had been making fun of me for something or another. This was a matter of course. I didn't even register it because it happened so frequently and because I didn't, once again, understand why they were picking on me. Meh. Whatever. She asked if they were bothering me and I know she found my confusion a little odd. It was nice to know that she saw it, too, though. Nice that she cared enough to ask about it. I let her know that I appreciated that.

I found out a couple of years later, that she was a licensed counselor and had left the high school to work with abused kids. I was unsurprised.

I've spent my whole life wondering why I'm so different. Not unhappy with myself. Not trying to change. Just trying to classify the difference and figure out why my brain works so very differently. I don't get emotions, most of the time. I don't understand a lot of other peoples' emotions. I don't understand why they react the way they do much of the time (although I can parse the reasons that film or book characters behave a certain way with an uncanny accuracy). I do not register faces and names, which I take it is a form of mild face-blindness.

I am the quintessential outsider.

Even online, the place where I thought my social skills were finally excelling instead of holding me back ... I realized this week that it was a false positive. Once again, I know many people who find me pleasant enough ... but have not actually made close friends. Seems no one on Twitter noticed I've been absent for three full days. (Save one person who also knows me IRL.) That skill of making friends seems destined to elude me forever.

So. I had put some hope in a diagnosis over the last several years as I read more and more about Asperger's. Liane Holliday Willey seemed to describe so very much of my life in Pretending to be Normal. Attwood's book on Asperger's - I could see so much of myself in there as well. And I thought, well, maybe here's a reason for my differences. Maybe here is something that explains why I don't fit in. Why I don't get things that seem to come so damned naturally for other people.

But, apparently, the search for an explanation continues for me.

A pastor once told me that I was a seeker.

I think she is quite right. I constantly seek explanations and knowledge and try to put everything into a pattern and get quite frustrated when I can't find or recognize that pattern.

And so, while I am quite content with who I am ...

... I am still seeking why I am the way that I am.

The pattern that explains the differences.


Posted by Red Monkey at February 3, 2011 5:17 AM | Blog | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


inthefastlane said:

I think Twitter is sometimes more noise than actual relationships. I left twitter for a few days a while back and I think only 2 people actually noticed AND checked on me. And I was kinda hurt by that.

I am interested in the fact that your "logicalness" has set you apart from others all of your life. Do you think that some of this is a result of your upbringing? I have talked to 2 7th grade girls, in the same week who are frustrated with the "immaturity, the drama, and the ignorance" of most 7th graders." And the don't fit in. And they might be ok about not fitting in except that they have to spend most of their day with these kids that they don't fit in with. There were many commonalities and differences with these girls. But the key to my question is that they are both struggling with depression/anxiety issues stemming from family issues. But are both VERY nice girls who can relate well with adults.

February 3, 2011 8:50 AM
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