While thinking about the pros and cons of my situation, I often come back to the situation I was in as a kid, living around people who valued the ability to fit in a whole lot more than developing the talents you were born with. Throughout my childhood, I wondered countless times why other kids poked fun at me on one hand, and just plain avoided me on the other. Granted, I was a strange little kid, but I wasn’t all bad. Maybe it was my head injuries that kept me from getting along. I’ll never know for sure, probably. All I know was, being smart and being young didn’t always go well together.
School was the worst. It was full of bullies who weren’t properly policed by adults. It was so ironic — there, I was, in a world that was starting to wake up to the importance of nurturing young talent in the schools, yet it was the schools in particular that prevented me from really exploring and developing what I had.
Now, I have a lot of school teachers in my family, so I’m not about to start pointing fingers at our much maligned educational system …this post is much too short for that 😉 But let’s face it — when you’re surrounded every day, for most of your waking hours by peers who don’t appreciate what you’ve got going for you, and in fact they resent it, and they beat on you because of it, and by the time you get home you’re so exhausted from swimming up-up-up-stream, what chance is there of your parents’ encouragement (if they actually do encourage you) to sink in?
I don’t want to go off on some pity-party, but I do want to put it out there that being smart might be a liability in certain parts of the world. And being talented around people who don’t much care for smart people can be hazardous to your health — and your brain.
I can’t help but think back to all those times that kids in class not only made fun of me, but came to find me outside of class — during recess, before and after school, on weekends — to give me what-for, just ’cause I was different. It’s never easy to be different, to begin with. But when you’ve got above-average levels of smarts, and you can’t detect any logical reason that your peers should hate you with every fiber of their being, let alone hunt you down and beat up on you… well, things get more complicated.
I have to wonder how much of a toll the publicly acceptable peer hostility towards bright kids takes on our society. I was brain injured by some kids who attacked me out of viciousness and spite, when I was eight. And that injury had noticeable effects on my interpersional abilities, which made me even less adept at developing socially… which set the stage for yet more head injuries (getting knocked around in contact sports I played to be with the “in” crowd, drinking with friends to fit in, and taking risks in order to be seen as “cool” by peers).
I can’t say that I would have turned out totally differently, had I never been knocked out when I was a kid, it certainly didn’t help.
Well, anyway, it’s all water under the bridge. But for those adults who are in charge of herds of children, it’s well worth your while to keep an eye out for bullies and stop them before they do too much damage.
The brains of our future will thank you. And our future just might, too.