I outdid myself.
I’ve been obsessed with trying to get to the bottom of why I feel like such an outsider. As I thought and talked about it, I started realizing something: most of my closest friends nowadays were to some extent nerdy kids. Maybe we had friends and maybe we found ways to fit in, and maybe we’ve outgrown the bulk of it by now, but our brains all operate at a slightly different wavelength from the rest of society. There’s always that piece of us that wants to get into debates and analyze and get all wrapped up in ideas.
So of course, the next thing I did was google “nerd personality type” and came across this article (for all its shortcomings, it was useful) which starts off with this anedcote:
One day when Erik Charles Nielsen was in seventh grade, his teacher taught a lesson on time zones. The first thing you needed to know, said the teacher, was that the International Date Line was at 180 degrees longitude. “Not exactly,” said Nielsen, piping up to interrupt the lesson. “It actually moves to avoid islands.” After a 15-minute argument, Nielsen was escorted from the room—despite being correct.
Reminds me almost EXACTLY of a time in 5th grade when we were learning bike safety and the gym teacher told us to stay 3 feet from the curb and other obstacles on the side of the road: about the distance from the line around the basketball court to the wall. I did what any well-adjusted 10 year old would do: I raised my hand. “I don’t think that’s three feet.” He looked at me in disbelief, then demonstated how the distance he’d indicated was exactly 3 of his foot lengths. “But is your foot really a ‘foot’?” I asked, regretting it almost immediately. After an awkward pause, during which the whole class looked over at me as I realized I’d messed up, he finally said: “It’s close enough to three feet.” I never did that again, but as we rode around town practicing turn signals and safe riding, I made sure to stick as close to the three feet rule as I could.
And that’s the thing. My brain was ALWAYS trying to figure out rules while my classmates were focusing elsewhere. For me, rules were important. They were foundational.
I was most. definitely. a nerd.
I also had to laugh because only a nerd would go through this amount of research to figure out whether they were in fact a nerd. Because I always knew I was an outsider, but I didn’t know why. There are a million reasons I was different. I’ve gone through them all. But ultimately, social interactions were so hard for me that only in adulthood am I really able to figure this shit out. Most sources (YES OKAY I RESEARCH WAY TOO MUCH) say that the nerdy personality is a mild form of Aspergers, which is a mild form of Autism. It’s not on the spectrum because it doesn’t interfere with daily functioning, but it shares a lot of characteristics of ASD.
Sometimes it BOGGLES my mind that I could be so different from someone else, that they don’t care about my amazing fact about blue pigmentation being COMPLETELY absent from the animal kingdom. That shit’s amazing to me.
But the thing is I’m a total extrovert. I don’t have particularly nerdy hobbies and I don’t like being alone for long periods of time. Academia is really hard for me in that sense. But it’s taken me years to learn how to socialize normally, and a LOT of trial and error. Nobody cares that it’s not exactly three feet but me. Maybe some other kid in the back of the class also wondered the same thing and had the good sense not to open their big mouth, but not me at the time.
It’s been causing a lot of growing pains. It’s been something I’ve denied for a really long time, thinking maybe I felt different because I was queer… or because I was bad at all sports… or because my parents were older… or because my brothers shamed me… or because I was a sensitive kid so I was picked on and/or ignored by my peers… or because I was brainy… or because I was first-generation…
Why do I want to crack this code? A dozen reasons. But mostly because I think that, for all its benefits, nerdiness means getting stuck in my own head and thought processes, which prevents me from really being there for others as a friend and daughter and sister and aunt and girlfriend. And cracking the code means being able to hack having community and a sense of belonging, and participating in this whole human race thing.
So yeah, I’m gonna research the shit out of this, keep analyzing. This is just how my brain operates. Don’t tell anyone, because being cool (or at least functional) is supposed to come easy.
But yeah. I outdid myself in nerdiness by researching nerdiness.