The next post or two is going to be a one-sided conversation. All of blogging is a one-sided conversation, to some extent, but I want to take the opportunity of having an outlet on the internet to explain in full and excruciating detail some aspects of my life that people seem at once entirely engrossed in, begging to understand, and at the same time only asking because it’s a passing curiosity, not something they want to hear me pontificate on for minutes at a time. Next time, instead of sitting down to have these conversations for the 1293th time, I’ll just refer people to my blog.
So, part 1: My age.
I am, at the time of this writing, 17 years old. I was born on October 26, 1992, a Monday, in the Salt Lake City Holy Cross Hospital. It’s not a particularly interesting date, except that apparently Even James Ussher, the famous 17th century Irish archbishop who decided that the world was created in 4004 BC stated that while the world had begun on October 23, the Antichrist was born three days later. I’m actually rather proud of that kind of heritage, but other than that, the day is only important to me because of the way I track time with the sun and earth and moon and all that.
I lived a somewhat normal life for several years, growing up on Miami Beach, learning to swim at a very early age and falling in love with a Books and Books on Lincoln Road. When I was 4, I was placed into kindergarten. I don’t think my parents had their eyes set on a precocious future for me. They’re psychologists who study child development, especially learning and cognitive development. They know all of the studies that have demonstrated that slightly older children tend to do better and be overall more successful. I’ve never asked them, but I speculate that they felt, given that I could (and did, avidly and eagerly) read, that I was ready to enter formalized schooling.
The school wasn’t even all that formal; I went to Fairglade Elementary School, a gem in Southern Miami that is, unfortunately, no longer in existence. Its ideals were letting kids learn at their own pace, making sure they got outside, roughed around, played on the swings and learn in interesting and varied ways. I recall, for example, being given a math textbook for a grade higher than my own and learning long division in the grass outside. There was also an area with many trees and sticks and brush and bramble called “The Woods” which we just adored playing in.
But I digress. The point is, this school didn’t care that I was a little young. They took me right in. Then, at some point, I was in the kindergarten room, and I was asked by the teacher to go into the first grade room, where they were learning (and I may never forget this) about the layers of the earth using eggs. There was a chant, which was “Inner core, outer core, mantle, crust” which one said rhythmically and with glee. I began a motley schedule, taking some classes here and some there. I remember the next year, I took some classes with the first grade, some with the second, and naps with the kindergarten class.
I believe the reasoning of the school was that I was intellectually ready. One of my favorite teachers, Ms. Stacey, told me the story later that she had once encountered my four-year old self in the Quiet Room reading a Dr. Seuss book. Surprised, she asked me to read it to her. Once I did, she suspected that I’d memorized it, so she grabbed another book and asked me to read that one, too. As I recall, she was fairly impressed.
I never found out why my parents agreed to it, except that they probably were told by the school that it was in my best interest, and to be honest it probably was. I don’t recall elementary school being all that difficult. I wasn’t particularly mature, and was emotionally somewhat unstable, crying a fair bit. Then again, I was between four and eight.
It was middle school that was really difficult. I went to a small school, with all of thirty kids in my grade. I had told a girl named Grace Heisenbottle that I was nine years old the first day of class, because it hadn’t occurred to me that I shouldn’t. I had enough sense to ask her not to tell. As far as I can tell, she didn’t hate me until I started doing better than her in all of our classes (she had been the top of the class in the elementary school adjoining the middle school). At that point, she told some girl named Alex D. (we had so many Alex’s, they were differentiated by their last initials), and together they told everyone and allied the grade against me. I recall having all of two friends through 6th grade and 8th, with a blip of social success with some incoming students during seventh (who subsequently joined the popular crew the next year). I was fairly miserable for large portions of the time, but that definitely had less to do with my age than with my inability to comprehend why people would expend conscious and considerable effort making me unhappy.
Moving right along, high school was fine. I had a enough friends, and people didn’t really seem to care, except for a few bad apples (also known as a fourth of the male portion of my grade). They made fun of me, but by that time, I had accumulated a measurable amount of self-confidence, and I put it very much to use, making sure that they could hate me all they wanted, but I would always be an ambitious, intelligent, successful, quirky young girl I could be proud of. Looking back, of course, I realize that those qualities didn’t perhaps make me the most approachable of people, but I didn’t much care. I wouldn’t have traded that independent spirit for all the friends in the world.
I really didn’t understand why people disliked me so much. I hated being called annoying in middle school. It was such an easy way to dismiss the whole of who someone was, which felt absolutely awful. In all fairness, though, as someone who came from an unconventional primary schooling and was young, I probably was. Adults always told me that everyone else was jealous. As a child of low self-esteem, I couldn’t understand why anyone could possibly be jealous of me. It seemed the height of absurdity, not to mention arrogance, to think that I was ostracized because of something good about myself. Even as my self-assuredness grew, it was never really something I got my head around. But it continued nonetheless.
So, after a high school experience that was adequate, but left much to be desired, that gave me the notion of people who would love me for who I was but without fully fulfilling on the promise, I got to the University of Chicago. And I made a decision. I wasn’t going to tell a soul how old I was. I value truth, clarity, transparency and honesty, but not at the cost of my emotional well-being, especially as the knowledge wasn't exceptionally important to anyone but myself. I realized, of course, that anyone who cared wasn’t someone I would want to be friends with, but the first weeks in a new state, school and life stage aren’t exactly the time to be going through the torture of applying a litmus test to the population.
Anyway, it worked. No one knew, no one treated me differently. I made a name for myself as a loud, opinionated, argumentative, intelligent student who could hold her own or better with anyone, cared a great deal about the world, politics and deep thinking. When the news came out and got around, it was gradually, slowly, without any of the excitement of gossip. I could play nonchalant, showing by example that if it didn’t matter to me, it shouldn’t matter to anyone else, and that I would accept no change in attitude towards me. Of course, people hated me anyway. But now I knew; they couldn’t handle me, regardless of my date of manufacture. Admittedly, it’s difficult to have someone who’s present and takes up space and wants to talk about interesting, complicated things all. The. Time. And who just never lets up and who, by the way, is an easy target because she’s two years younger than you. But I finally understood that that really wasn’t my problem. Eventually, it became old news, something to joke about in lightness and jest, and something I could finally be completely proud of, without the tinge of social and emotional stress.
So the next year, I did it again. The age I am has affected my life in many ways, has given me a different perspective and vantage point. In that way, it is and will always be a part of me. But of the things people could know about me, it is one of least important and least interesting parts of me. So I decided if it was that irrelevant, I wouldn’t let people judge me for it. I expect a certain amount of respect from my peers, whether they like me or not, and if this was they way I was going to ensure the life that I wanted, then I was damn well going to do it. At this point, most people know, but again, it’s not important, it just happens to be the case. By the way, my birthday’s coming up.
And that is the story of my age, what it means to me and why I don’t tell people even though I am totally and completely proud of it.
I think I’m awesome, and I will never apologize for my birth certificate.