Not long ago, Dave and I were in the car meandering over the roads of SE Portland, and we passed by the stately campus of Reed College. Dave went to Reed right out of high school. He said it was hard. Very hard. But in a good way. I wondered aloud how I would do if I were to go to school, if I would be a better student now than back when, like when I actually was a student.
In my entire life, I’ve never been a good student. From first grade, all the way to the last day I graduated college. As a kid, I was inattentive and I never did homework. I wasn’t disruptive and I didn’t act out, and I don’t think I had an issue with authority. I’m not really sure what was wrong with me. I was smart enough, as my parents constantly reminded me. I just didn’t want to do school work. And despite my parents’ pleas at home to apply myself and just do some goddamned homework already, it didn’t take long at school to be cast by teachers and other kids as a square peg. As I said, I wasn’t dumb, and I could sense that I was expected not to live up to expectations. I gladly obliged.
To this day, I wonder why I couldn’t just do my school work like other kids. Was it laziness? Lack of focus? A giant character flaw? I suppose I could trace a lack of moral fiber all the way to my five year old self. And to this day, I’m pretty diligent about keeping up the appearance of a strong work ethic, sincere or not.
Instead of flagellating myself with the guilt that I must have some kind of inherent laziness or lack of fortitude, I’ve just come to terms with the idea that I have never been wired to learn the way same way the majority of other humans learn. Sitting in classrooms for hours a day. I never understood why it seemed like all the other kids were getting it, and I didn’t. I was bored.
It wasn’t laziness, but focus. Now I’m an adult and I’m still wired the same way. I still have a problem with focus. I’m now conditioned to sit in a chair and take directions and accomplish tasks, but it still doesn’t feel natural. I can be very enthusiastic about a subject and burn very brightly, but it only lasts so long. Now I can go back in my memory and I realize that I’ve had my “Ooh, Shiny!” syndrome since I was a kid. Now it all makes goddamned sense.
I do think I would be a better student now than I was in my college years. I know more stuff, I have a larger vocabulary, I’m more connected to the world. I would likely have a more adult faculty over my innate tendency to run off to the next shiny project.
But as I’ve gotten older, I have also come to terms with some of my particular quirks, in their various manifestations, and I feel less apologetic over them. I don’t feel so inclined to change my ways, just for the sake of going along, even if it would ultimately be for my own good. Perhaps it’s a bit of rigidity settling in as I get older, but it doesn’t feel like a bad thing. It doesn’t feel so unnatural to be a square peg. It’s just playing to my strengths. And instead of smoothing myself out, I’ll keep my edges sharp. Because trying to fit in that round hole hasn’t done a thing for me.