I was a painfully shy child. While my classmates named recess and lunch as their favorite parts of school, I played by myself during recess and ate lunch alone. I read a lot of books, and wrote stories, a lot of stories. I loved school. I wanted to dig deeper than what the teacher was talking about with the class. By fourth grade, I realized that my brain didn’t work like the other kids. I got bored easily by what was happening in class, and so I day-dreamed about the stories I would write. I had a very complex inner world that other kids didn’t even want to try to understand (none of them ever wanted to read my stories).
My sixth-grade math teacher let me work independently ahead of the other kids, and so I was doing advanced algebra while the other kids were still working on long division. When I asked my teacher about why the letters x, y, and z and a, b, and c were used more in algebraic equations than the middle letters, even the teacher teased me a bit for thinking too much. Really, I wanted to understand how letters and language worked together with numbers and mathematics. When I couldn’t find any teacher or book to explain it to me, I wrote a children’s book making up my own explanation.
The story I made up had to do with the feelings of the letters and numbers and how they wanted to be useful to the other letters and numbers and all work together. The main character was named Mr. Mean E, and he didn’t like to cooperate with the other letters of the alphabet. The letters were frustrated because he was important to them. To solve the problem, the letters asked the numbers to intervene. The numbers invited the letters to solve problems with them. Mr. Mean E was resistant to participating until the numbers explained to him that he was essential to the formula for transforming energy into matter. Mr. Mean E reluctantly complied, but quickly realized that his cooperation was vital and important. At the end of the story, E became best friends with N, R and G. I wish I kept that story. In hindsight, this story I made up at twelve years old was a rather astute analysis of the dangers of segregation on a community as well as a basic explanation of Einstein’s theory of relativity.
While I retreated into my inner world and remained a shy and quiet child, I soon realized I was an extreme form of an introvert. I eventually found one other friend, a best friend, who was more introverted than me. While the rest of the kids (and most of the adults) teased us for being weird, we silently understood each other as two people whose brains just worked differently than everyone else’s.