Sunday, February 06, 2011

Be kind to nerds

To say that I didn't really enjoy my high school very much is a little bit of an understatement. Most of the time I felt very alone, very much an outsider. It would be wrong of me to say I didn't have any friends, because I did- the other girls who didn't fit in. I'd love to think that made us a little band of renegades, but it didn't. In fact, my two friends barely tolerated each other, as they only really had me in common. It was one of those 'lowest common denominator' Catholic schools, which my parents decided as a relatively new co-ed school was the best option in my town. My Dad, in particular, didn't think the school could do any wrong. I understand that -now- as Dad had been in the first intake of a new school in Melbourne where he grew up, and that school now is certainly fairly prestigious. Sadly, for my school, I don't think 'Prestige' is a word that will ever be tagged to it.

Both of my friends decided to leave after year 10- Renee to go to a state HSC college and then to Uni where she studied pure maths and the sciences, going on to score herself a PhD, and Susan to go to TAFE (not their real names). Susan in particular was let down by my high school: she went on, after a hiatus of working in low paid jobs, to score herself an Honours Degree in Fine Arts. In fact, she managed to sell one of her paintings to the dean of the arts school- not a small achievement. However, at our high school was in the ultra-low achiever class, and was forced to take the "life skills" type courses offered to the 'integrated' students. As her later achievements show, she is NOT at ALL of borderline intellect, as our school had her pegged.

By that time I had decided on a career in Medicine. Ironically it was one of the teachers at that school who had spurred me to it: I had dreams of becoming a Veterinarian, but he berated me for wasting my intellect on animals instead of helping the human race. He was an odd sort of fellow- a Maths teacher with a penchant for being 'matey' with the popular students. In fact he once threw a party to which all the cool kids were invited, and it went down as being the most legendary party of our high school life. Needless to say I wasn't invited. He didn't like me, and the feeling was mutual. In his maths class he would ignore and then ridicule me. I was also in an english class he taught, and although I scored very well, I was never asked to do any of the things the cool kids were- like acting out scenes from the books. Maybe he thought I didn't need any help with my work, so he ignored me. I remember him being very taken with the film "Dead Poets Society" and he wanted to emulate Robin Williams' character. Instead he came over as an overbearing suckhole. But being a good girl, a studious student, I put up with his berating, and believed it must mean I was rather dull when he berated me. In retrospect, maybe he had been jealous of my obvious ambition. Maybe I reminded him of the smart kids at his school who had belittled him. In any case, he was responsible for my ambition to study medicine, and I suppose I have to be kinda grateful for that, although I always wonder what my life would have turned out like if I had gone to Melbourne to do Vet Science. In an alternate universe, how would've I turned out? Hmmm, guess I'll never know.

Where was I going with this? Oh, now I remember.

All this serves to make a fair number of my "friends" on facebook rather risible. Most of the time they are 'friends' who have requested my friendship, rather than the other way around. Certainly there are a few 'friend requests' that I have ignored with pleasure- people who would never have acknowledged my prescence other than to tease or bully me. A few have admitted in later years they would have liked to be my friend at school, but that I didn't ever seem interested. Others said that they were intimidated by me, as I was never backward in speaking my mind in class, or offering an opinion. I guess that goes some of the way to explaining why I was often elected to the SRC, as all the other members just seemed to be elected because they were popular kids.

The school I changed to in my years 11 and 12 (the old Tasmanian HSC was two, rather than one year- a bloody good idea, I thought, because if you fucked around in year 11 you had another year to pull it together and hopefully matriculate). My new school could hardly be more different. I was instantly popular. A few girls remembered me from Primary school (I've earlier blogged about my prosopagnosia), and within only a year of being there, I was elected to Prefect. In fact, the popular rumour was that I was elected head prefect, but the teachers utilised their power of veto as I'd only attended the school one year, and thus didn't really know all the traditions. In any case, I really enjoyed my two years there, and if people ever ask me which school I attended in Hobart, I will nominate this as 'my' school, as it was the one I both chose and felt most at home in, despite having attended the other one for 6 years (including 2 years of primary school).

Where I was really going with this is to say that I often wonder which of the people I now work with would have been the few that were my friends in High School, and which ones would not have given me the time of day. And now, whose kids is Patrick making friends with? Sometimes when we're at a party, or even the park, I'll strike up a conversation with another mother, and it becomes clear to me that the woman I'm talking to has never felt lonely or shy. Has never walked into a classroom and found only one desk available- the one right at the front or next to the smelly kid. Has never struggled to make friends. Becasue when it comes down to it, I'm still that lonely shy kid who can't figure out why no-one talks to her.

I learned early on in my career that responding to "So what do you do?" with the honest answer "Oh, I'm a Doctor" made for either crickets or a breathy "Ohh, riiight". Followed by more crickets. It's like saying "Oh, I'm a nerd". I don't really understand why people find it so confronting. I'm just a person, after all.


Blogger E. from Pot o' Gold said...

Great post! My most favorite part was the addition of the crickets noise from YouTube. Brilliant! I wonder if people react that way when you tell them you're a doctor because they're jealous, or you intimidate them, rather than thinking you a nerd?

8/2/11 22:11  

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