Sunday, July 8, 2012
Out of Sync
*dusts off the old blog*
I spend a lot of time thinking about this place. It's part of why I update so irregularly - I want the things I say to be accessible to the people who are, (at least hypothetically), reading them.
It's a bad habit for a writer to be in, even an amateur like me.
I come by it honestly, though. I've spent most of my life having difficulty communicating what I think and what I know.
Part of that is simply that I'm very bright. A favorite story of mine about my teen years was the time I skipped from 2nd to 4th year Japanese, while teaching myself Latin. I kept my Japanese notes in Latin for a while, just to maximize study time for both. All this, while managing a full International Baccalaureate course load. I held a B+ average for that program, despite being a very brooding and depressed teenager, and piling on extra things like that.
And I know how that sounds: "I'm super smart, and everyone else is too dumb to understand me!"
I don't mean that at all.
My point is that most people learn to socialize as children. They play with other kids, learn how to get along together. They get a sense for acceptable behavior, figure out how to read unspoken social cues and other very important skills for interacting with people and sharing ideas.
If you're smart enough, you lack a proper peer group at that critical age. Other children are too slow and limited to be interesting. Adults are better, and when I was very young, I mostly leaned on them for human contact... but they're a different species. A smart child is not a miniature adult. The gulf of experience is too wide. When you're that age, you can't even map the differences.
So if you're smart enough, you miss out in a vital skill set.
I know: I did.
Worse, being smart can be an obstacle to learning what to do. When you're smart, you're used to being right. You go to school, and you know the answers. You solve problems more quickly than everybody else. You remember things better. You correct people a lot. It's easy to get caught up in the notion that everyone else should be doing things your way, rather than accepting some need to change yourself. The whole 'everyone else is stupid' thing?
I know about this one too. I felt like that as a kid. Indeed, I only escaped it because of an epiphany in the 8th grade. I didn't talk to the other students at my middle school much. They were mostly nice kids, and looking around FB, I think they mostly grew up to be very fine people.
We just... didn't have anything to talk about at the time.
Well, one day? I realized that by the time I was grown up, all the people I actually spoke to would be old. My classmates would be running the show. You know, like they are today. I also realized that they would have no real incentive to bridge the gap. It didn't matter what a special snowflake I was, they would never even know. The rest of them had each other. There was no pressing need for them to tease me out of my shell. (I should note that a few did try. The problem was not that I was surrounded by jerks. They were good kids.)
I realized that if I wanted to be a part of the world, a world that would belong to them, I'd have to figure it out myself.
I'm still working on that. I always feel like I'm about a half step out of sync with the whole world, forever bumping into things nobody else would stumble on. Indeed, I mostly see my life as a struggle to solve this. The language thing I mentioned above isn't just idle boasting: I was trying to get a handle on this at the time. I wondered what you could learn about societies from how they used language*. Latin and Japanese weren't the only ones I took a stab at, either - I learned that Greek has irregular nouns, Czech has sounds I didn't know existed and cannot replicate, and Gaelic is just an all around pain. :)
That has gotten easier with age. Life experience helps. Time helps. However, it's still hard to know how to navigate this, some days.
... and so sometimes, I don't talk at all. Particularly if I regard it as important.
I'm going to talk about some other problems with this a different time. Maybe soon, maybe in a year - whenever I settle on an approach I'm happy with. In the meantime, if anybody is still reading this, thanks.
As an aside: language differences really are fascinating. Just learning how and when to be formal in different cultures offers a lot of insight into what people value or fear, I think.