When we were fourteen years old, my best friend and I were the only freshman in our BC Calculus class. One of our friends, a senior, asked us if we ever felt ostracized for our intelligence.
My friend said no.
I asked him what “ostracized” means, but I think I would have said yes had I known.
It’s not the first time I’ve been told I’m smart for my age.
I know, I know; it’s a little immodest, isn’t it? But who can ever get that right? Be smart, but not so smart that you isolate others. Be confident, but appropriately bashful. As smart as I was, I never was smart enough to jump through all the loops to reach anyone’s idea of “perfect.” I just stuck with smart. Smart I could do.
Because I was expected to.
I had the best motivator there is: pain.
For whatever reason, I believe I came into the world more acutely aware of pain than most people. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was surrounded by chaos from the time I was gestating, forget from the time I was born. What was that study that came out recently? Mentioned that people form their ideas of who they are and how the world works at a peak of six months old?
When I was six months old I was born into Domestic Armageddon. My parents had invited both grandmothers to live in our household from the time my mother was pregnant to the time I was two years old.
My grandmothers did not– do not– get along.
Four years prior my brother had been born into a world of sponge baths, Indian lullabies, and walks in the neighborhood. My adjustment to the world was accompanied by incessant bickering. I’m told my bath time regimen was quite different; one grandmother would dump buckets of water over me while I screamed and the other grandmother scrubbed.
Perhaps that had something to do it, and certainly my personality played another role. Either way, as far back as I can remember, I remember loneliness.
So how did I learn so fast? How did I mature so quickly?
To find the pain and make it stop. Thinking, thinking, thinking. I could find solutions to any other problem, I reasoned I could find one this problem as well.
The thinking never helped me much with this one. It took love. It took faith and feeling.
If that friend asked me now if I feel ostracized, I’d be much more prepared for the question. I now know what the word means and I now know that the answer is no.