being different

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being different

Post by spacefem » Sun Jan 24, 10:18 2016

some of us were talking about kids and STEM education and the topic of fitting in came up. is it cool to be smart? is it okay to have geeky interests? how do we tell kids to ignore the haters and do what they want?

and I had to stop and think for a second because I don't remember a time when I decided to ignore what people thought of me... for me, it was more realizing they were assholes and I wanted to pursue my STEM interests BECAUSE it was different from what the sheep around me were into.

when I found out I'd be one of the only girls in my engineering classes, that seemed to me like all the more reason to be an engineer. maybe I just like to pick fights? I was determined. So I have trouble relating to kids who are like, "I'll be the only girl in class? I don't know if I want to deal with that crap."

Have you ever been the minority on something, or felt different? How'd you get past it... did you decide to ignore your differences, or did you purposefully shun conformity? Have you ever done something just to BE different? How do you think most people feel about this vs. your opinion?
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Re: being different

Post by Charli! » Sun Jan 24, 12:27 2016

I was the same as you.. if I was the only girl in the class it was more reason to do it, and to try harder to prove that I could do it. I was the only girl studying woodwork in high school, I was the only girl in my course at University- the more people tell me I can't/shouldn't do things- the more obstinate and determined I become!

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Re: being different

Post by Enigma » Sun Jan 24, 15:46 2016

I have two different reactions to this kind of situation depending on a lot of different things. I actually feel different most of the time? My childhood was sorta odd I guess and it's pretty rare to find a situation quite like mine (mind you, I guess a lot of people can say that).

Most of the time I'm in the fuck 'em category and tend to loudly mention the things about me that are a bit weird so that everyone knows they can either deal or go away. (things like my obsession with reading, my nerdiness, my politics, etc.) And that's the zone I prefer to be in. But there are definitely times when I have a hard time walking into the brick wall of other people and could completely understand why someone might for example give up on a stem career because they're the only girl. At my work for example if I say loudly and proudly the stuff I'm into the most common response is like a creepy cross between pity and mistrust? It's super weird. Like if I'm fine with me please shut your face. So generally I try and keep myself under wraps there. Especially since they control my income. I don't know if you've ever had to be long term in a place where you can't be yourself but it does start to get to you. Plus I then had a few personal tragedies which put me in an even weirder place and I almost lost track of who I actually was. (To be clear I'm getting past this now and some younger people have moved into my work place which improved things too.) But that's the sort of thing which could really fuck you up and easily could get you to change majors.

I mean, I'm stubborn as fuck and have a solid sense of who I am and I got into that weird place? I can definitely see how people who were probably raised with internal sexism or maybe are less confident about themselves or have bigger shit going on in their lives could decide it might just be easier to try a different path. There's only so long a human being can forge on with zero support. We need someone by our side or someone who seems like us to model to hold out and some people aren't lucky enough to have that.
"Human beings are amazing... we might be horrible, horrible, but we're wonderful too. Otherwise, why go on?"

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Re: being different

Post by Nerd1987 » Mon Jan 25, 21:14 2016

I am one of the only men in my program at school. I also get the sense that people mistrust me being a straight male going into the psychotherapy profession. I guess it looks more normal if you are going for a PhD or MD (Psychiatrist). I struggle more with the income and opportunity for advancement through my future career. As much as you have to do what makes you happy it's hard not to consider the views of others if they affect you.

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Re: being different

Post by Unvoiced_Apollo » Tue Jan 26, 11:20 2016

spacefem wrote: Have you ever been the minority on something, or felt different? How'd you get past it... did you decide to ignore your differences, or did you purposefully shun conformity? Have you ever done something just to BE different? How do you think most people feel about this vs. your opinion?
It's interesting, & I'm just now realizing this, most of my recent life has been working with or socializing with women.

The office I work in is mostly women, with two of them being in top positioms (1 is director of Finance & the other is the CFO of the company I work for).

The organization I work with in getting animals adopted is run by women & has mostly female volunteers.

I joined a meetup group & they're mostly women. Hinestly this was the hardest thing to get over. A guy joining a group of mostly women seemed either effeminate or predarory to me. After awhile, their meetups were one of the few things occurring I could go to & thought "f*** it, I'm going". It was interesting because for awhile, I was the only guy. The first is a tough one because you don't know how cliquey the grouo is & how welcomed tou might be as a newcomer. I eventually got used to it, though when they started talking about things like hiw hot Henry Cavil I definitely felt like a fish out of water. The genders are now a tiny bit less buased, but the women still outbumber the men. Stil, I think I was a pioneer because I'm fairly certain it was me that helped others feel more comfortable in joining. Plus I'm a co-organizer of the group.

As for shunning conformity, I didn't really shun so much as not try. I didn't care about trends but I wasn't wild in my choices either. I never dhose to be different for different sake, but did choose to explore things I never thought I'd do (like performing folk dances, which was fun but very different from what my personality would lead you to believe).

As half-white, half-Asian, the most difficult thing for me was choosing a race on standardized tests when I was in elementary school. They didn't have the option to choose more than one & even at that young an age, I felt like I was denying a part of me. I chose "white" then because I lived with that side of my family. I'm glad this has changed, at least where I went to high school.

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Re: being different

Post by antfancier » Tue Jan 26, 18:13 2016

Unvoiced_Apollo wrote: As half-white, half-Asian, the most difficult thing for me was choosing a race on standardized tests when I was in elementary school. They didn't have the option to choose more than one & even at that young an age, I felt like I was denying a part of me. I chose "white" then because I lived with that side of my family. I'm glad this has changed, at least where I went to high school.
I'm curious, was that box compulsory to fill in or was it just if you wanted to? I mean, it's hard to make a choice like that even as an adult, let alone an elementary school kid being forced to decide. I'm glad they've changed it, too.

I always felt different. Most of it was because I was smart and where I went to school you weren't supposed to be smart (my friend laughed at me and told everyone in class that we had a whole wall of books in our house - we did, which I think is cool but at the time I was very self-conscious about it). At elementary school I would purposely keep quiet and not answer the teacher, even when I knew the right answer because I didn't want to be picked on by other kids. It got better when I got older, but then the general awkwardness of being a teenager took over and I would avoid social situations where I felt I didn't fit in (which was just about everywhere!). After graduation from university, I worked with a lot of international people and began to realise that everyone was different. Then I moved abroad and haven't been back to my home country since. I became a minority, but it's always been a privileged position. Suddenly I could blame any 'weirdness' on my status as a foreigner. It gave me the confidence to explore different aspects of myself that I'd always kept hidden and I'm a much stronger person for it.

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Re: being different

Post by Unvoiced_Apollo » Tue Jan 26, 18:37 2016

antfancier wrote:
I'm curious, was that box compulsory to fill in or was it just if you wanted to? I mean, it's hard to make a choice like that even as an adult, let alone an elementary school kid being forced to decide. I'm glad they've changed it, too.
It was compulsory as far as I know, or at least felt like it.

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Re: being different

Post by Sonic# » Tue Jan 26, 22:17 2016

I frequently stuck out like a sore thumb at school. I was smart, somewhat shy, and very geeky. Up to fourth grade it wasn't really an issue. I ended up in classes with enough other smart kids and we ended up being friends. But after two years in a row of switching schools (yay zoning), I ended up in a class with absolutely no one I knew where my smarts marked me out as an overachiever. That was a hard grade. Teasing got to me, and I'd continue to be teased to various extents through middle school and most of high school. I didn't master shutting up or pretending to be dumber than I am. Perhaps the teachers and my parents recognized me for being smart enough that I just blazed through anyway. Maybe being a boy helped in the math classes. Maybe I'm proud and stubborn like that.

It bothered me in some ways. I still made my friends and did my thing. I didn't really have best friends though. I didn't want the teasers to be my friends. I just wanted them to leave me alone.

It was both a benefit and a detriment. I think I learned to be self-reliant, to excel in the ways I know I can and to cover my own ass. The detriment is that I'm still wary of appearing vulnerable. Something of that always-can-do rubbed off too well, so when there are tasks that require knowledge I don't have, it takes me longer than it should to reach out for human help. I'm working on it.

--
The other point I thought of - right now I'm the minority in my bowling league. I've always bowled in leagues that were fairly diverse and integrated. Decent gender representation, people of various races. It was a shock when I went to join a league where I'm at (deep south of the US) for the first time in a long time. At the organizational meeting, my friend and I were the only white people. At any given week, I'm one of two or three white people there. Almost all of the rest are black people.

Being there is fine. I felt worried I might make people uncomfortable by my presence at first, but each week I banter and give high fives with other people in the same way I've always done bowling. I like my teammates and think they like me, ordinary social awkwardnesses aside. I'm still curious about the demographics that led to this, what appears to be an instance of voluntary segregation. And I'm respectful. I'm aware when I bowl that I need to have a great attitude, laughing off bad shots and not lashing out any frustration at others. I normally try to stay positive anyway, but especially here I'm aware that there's a power dynamic that may make my participation here easier than the first weeks of a black person in a hitherto nearly-all-white league. I don't want to encroach or make things weird.

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Re: being different

Post by Aum » Wed Jan 27, 0:55 2016

I was bullied for being smart, for being gay, for being too tall, for being "too..." something. When you're in an abusive environment there's always something. To me, the people being bullied for being smart got off easy, because in my schools the smart people camp got the favour of all the teachers, so if bullies attacked them it could easily be chalked up to jealousy. And also, being smart is something that can be private. Nobody has to see your test scores or know just how well you're doing. The hard part is when you're bullied for things you can't hide.

I've since come to understand that most of the people who bullied me were trying to be different but actually weren't. They were incredibly mundane, insecure people and they came from families who reinforced bigotry. The problem for me has always been that I want to fit in, but it's impossible. I actually am different, not just in terms of marks and stats, but in how I perceive things and how I express myself. I've always been attracted to dating counter-culture men, like the ones with the piercings and tattoos, only to find out that I am way more counter-culture by nature than they are, and I look totally average. So I tend to run with people who look like how I feel. In school I was friendly with everyone, but my home base was the "other" camp... the exotic, undefinable species who bullies will attack but most of the time they don't really know why.

Advice for kids? Get out of public school, if you can. Heh... joking (sort of). I went to an alternative high school with a small base that was academically focused, so I got lucky. Even so, by then the damage had been done and I felt betrayed by the system. I happily dropped out in grade 12 and didn't even finish high school until I was about to enter university, which I did through adult education (which was sooo much more humane). Given the amount of trauma I went through in the education system, I don't think there is a solution. If the school itself is not setup to be achievement oriented with a positive community, then the foundation is already rotten. The teacher to student ratio is key, and also the teacher tenure system. The public system in general needs major overhaul... it's an industrial model in a post-industrial world. Like why do kids get grouped into grades based on age? I remember when I was in grade 3 and we went to one of the grade 6 classrooms to watch a movie together and I was like, "Oooooo... we're in the grade 6 classroom!" It felt like some advanced parallel universe. Meanwhile, in grade 9 I was doing coursework at the grade 12 level, so I probably should've been in that room!

IMO there should be separate schools that bullies get sent to, where there's additional support, and there should be more mandated involvement from their families. Growing up I saw the smart kids get punished and isolated for just doing what school is designed for, and it's not right. Most adults would go to jail for the things that kids got away with doing to me. There are some kids who shouldn't be in school. They aren't ready. They are violent, disrupt classes constantly, go to the office regularly, and show zero desire to be there. So why bother?
The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. -W.A.

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