By Jacob Jewell, Courier & Press, April 26, 2016 –
When I was younger, I used to think of diversity in wide brush strokes. To my young mind, diversity was obvious and categorical, involving things like race, religion and culture. It has taken time for me to realize certain types of diversity are more nuanced.
As a youth, I felt just a little bit left out at times. I spent most of my elementary school recesses in the classroom with my teacher, just the two of us occupying the room. I devoured whatever book I was reading, sitting at my desk while my teacher worked on her lesson plans.
I actually enjoyed this and really got a lot out of those breaks from the rest of my school day. Still, to some extent, I hated that I was so quiet in a culture with the motto, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
It was only later on, after reading a book by Susan Cain in high school, that I really understood what it meant to be “introverted,” which can largely be defined as a way of thinking.
What I mean by this is that extroverts tend to think aloud, whereas introverts, like me, largely benefit from a type of private, reserved thought. These tendencies are not categorically exclusive or etched in stone, but I do think they rely on different thought patterns.
I’ve also come to realize the differences between introversion and extroversion have a lot to do with ways of getting energy. I’m not shy at all, but do find that my extroverted counterparts tend to gain more energy in groups than I do. After a long day out with friends, I really start looking forward to time alone to recharge my batteries.
Nowadays, I see this minority identification as a mark of intelligence. Spending a bit of time in one’s own head can be a pretty productive enterprise.
I’ve also heard it said that we each have two ears but only one mouth and should use them in that proportion. After all, we have to listen to learn.
I really wish I had thought this way as an elementary school student. It would have made it a bit easier to recognize and understand the subtle differences and benefits that come with being a little outside of what is ostensibly “normal.”
As a child, I missed the “normal” mark by a long shot. I was slapped with the “nerdy stick” when it came to good books or Saturday morning projects like building marshmallow guns. If I could give a bit of advice to a youngster who is in a similar situation, I would tell him to rock this minority status.
When I was young, I never liked watching televised sports at all, even if I stuck out like a sore thumb. I’ve turned around a bit and really think LeBron James is a genius in his own right. I’d still encourage kids to enjoy other forms of genius that may not be so readily digestible.
Looking back on my middle school experience, I really don’t care that my lack of understanding basketball or video games limited my sixth grade talking points. I’ve also seen that one can be a great cross country runner without joining theteam. There is something sacred in solitude.
I’ve learned it’s OK to have hobbies that may take a little work to enjoy. It’s OK to be quiet and alone with your thoughts sometimes. It may take being different to be your best, but you’ll stand out for it in the end.