Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why I no longer need to know everything... and why it's hard to let go

When I was little, maybe 10 or 11, I decided that the reason I didn't fit in with the other kids was because I didn't know what they knew.

I didn't feel comfortable at school with the swirling masses of people passing me by in the hallway, bumping into me, coming close to me, pricking me with barbs of derision at times. I knew that I wasn't the girl in the shiny clogging shoes confidently showing off her skills, I wasn't the little girl with ribbons in her hair and perfect panache in dress and speech. I wasn't the girl on stage giving a glorious rendition of Johnny Appleseeds mother.

I was the girl that didn't understand what was going on most of the time. I knew I should not draw attention to myself as my cousin Joe did. He bore more teasing and derision than any other kid in the classroom because of his outspoken way of making outlandish statements and smartaleck remarks during class.

I didn't know why there were some kids that naturally had a lot of friends and why I didn't have any. I always tried to be nice... being nice didn't work.

So, at some point in about the 3rd or 4th grade I decided that I needed to know everything so that I would know what to say in any given situation and then I would have friends.

It probably started when I was being pressured into giving the bully girls the answers to my math homework. I hated it and didn't know how to handle them so I decided that the only way to get away from them was to do all of the work in the book and request to be allowed to go up a level in math.

I went home and sat at my desk in my room, I had a pile of notebook paper and my math book. I sharpened some pencils and got down to work. I decided that I would have to do all of the problems for each chapter, because I didn't know if the teacher would assign even or odd questions for us to complete, a daunting task. I read each chapter trying to learn what I should do, then I worked on the problems. I would get up only to go use the bathroom and to eat something then went back to work. Eventually, I finished up the whole book, it probably took me the whole weekend to finish it. I remember going to class with my pile of completed work and handing it to the teacher... I can't quite recall what happened after that.

I do recall siting amongst the books in my parents basement, making piles of books to complete, trying to arrange them in a logical order from easier to harder in the subject.

Because I thought, I can do this, I can learn all of these subjects and I will be set free.

The thought never quite went past the organization phase of things.

But I did learn that determination could accomplish great things, even really hard and seemingly impossible things.

Throughout my life I've only had enough energy to put that determination to use on a very few selective goals. With stacks of other goals on the side that never quite got the benefit of my attention.

I can see now that I was somewhere on the autistic spectrum while growing up. I can see now that my obsessions with gathering together all of the relevant information I can on any given subject (most recently health and nutrition) has it's roots in the mindset that I grew up with.

To my benefit I focused on the right subject. Health and nutrition. I found answers to the questions that no one could answer for me. How to make friends, how to relate to people... hopefully someday how to set emotional boundaries and to follow through...

But I don't need to know everything, I no longer feel that if I don't read every book on my shelves, or in my parents basement that I will have failed. I no longer carry the burdens (as much) of compulsive organizing of books and data.

Sometimes it's hard to let go. Part of my mad passion for knowledge has dissipated, part of me doesn't need it because it's easier now to grasp what I need to know. But still I feel a vacancy there, emptiness where I felt mad desire for knowing.

I've learned some restraint, and it's a good thing, but sometimes I miss the madness. I don't know how to function without it. I'm still functioning, at some level, the same as I always have... each day I'm working towards moving past what was in some ways an organizational structure, but in other ways a disorganized framework for learning. Because it separated me from the subject that I wanted to learn. Now I'm engaging more with my subject, and learning more... but feeling slightly unnerved at the change.

I am a kid again. Taking steps in the dark. Pushing towards the future that I want.

1 comment:

Adullamite said...

You are not mad.
Everyone feels alienated at school, it's just so many others do not look like they are lost. All kids are the same. I wish I'd known that a hundred years ago.