Posted by: rbbadger | February 13, 2012

On being different

I’ve always been a bit different from other members of my family.  This difference is manifested physically, both by my dark hair and my left-handedness.  Of my seven living siblings, I’m the only one who isn’t right-handed.  It is marked in my personality and temperament as well. 

That being said, my differences did not make school easy for me in the least.  Quite honestly, it was sheer torture.  A few years ago, I went to help out with the Academic Decathalon at my old high school.  I had the opportunity to help some wonderfully bright high school students understand what makes Beethoven work.  Walking down those halls after an absence of some 15 years made me feel nauseous.  Happily, it subsided and I enjoyed teaching those students about how to listen to Beethoven.  (Basically, it takes attentiveness and a little bit of work.  These are not attractive attributes in our days of mass consumerism and pop culture.  However, anything that is worthwhile takes work.)  I cannot say that I love my hometown.  I like it a little more than I did, but I don’t necessarily love it.  I am an extremely private person and I really dislike the lack of privacy that comes along with living in a small town.

As a child, I developed some interests which were a bit unusual.  I’ve always been a huge history buff.  Classical music has always been very important.  As you can see by my website, I feature an awful lot of music, some of it old and others of it no so old.  When I was about 14, I developed an appreciation for the work of Schönberg, Berg, and Webern.  I learned an awful lot about permutations of tone rows, only to find out that what I thought was contemporary music had been largely abandoned.  Happily, there has been a return to tonality.  I still love Webern, though.  I had an interest in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, something which did not aid my popularity in the least.   Foreign languages remain important to me.  I love philosophy and theology, too.  So many of my interests are, shall we say, a tad intellectual?

So, I was a child who was physically very clumsy (I still am so, today) and not at all interested in sports.  I think I’ve made some progress, as I now enjoy watching baseball, as long it is in the company of friends.  However, I retain an aversion to football which is as strong as ever.  By and large, my classmates were not interested in my interests.  I could relate better with my teachers than with my classmates.

I was the vicitim some degree of bullying and persecution on the part of my classmates.  I remain, as ever, grateful to those who befriended me during my school years.  When I first started school, I really didn’t have any friends, but that changed later on when I was about seven.  And I am thankful to those who remained friends, despite my weird interests and sometimes strange behaviour.

I’m rather sensitive to sounds, something which has been a blessing.  It is because of this sensitivity that I have been able to have quite good accents in the languages I speak.  I’m not sure where it comes from.  Perhaps from my musical training.  I am very sensitive to touch.  I don’t really like being touched, but I’ve gotten used to it.  And since I teach young children, I have to deal with students grabbing me.

One trait of mine is a need for silence and solitude.  I enjoy being around my students and I enjoy being around people.  However, there comes a time when I have to duck out.  I come from a large family and my mother’s side of the family is absolutely huge.  She was one of 11 children.  I’m not sure exactly how many first cousins I have, as I’ve stopped counting at around the fifties.  I enjoy being around my uncles, but again, there comes a moment when I have to get away.  Our family gatherings were huge affairs and while I enjoyed visiting, I had to get away and find a quiet place.  I used to seek refuge either behind my grandparents’ garage or in it.  At home, the bathroom was my sanctuary, as it was the only place, other than the backyard, where I could get some quiet and regain my bearings.  I’m not complaining, though.  My dear sisters had it much worse.  There was a time when four of them shared a bedroom.  I still cringe at the memory of the trip from hell, that time when my late Uncle Steve and his family were visiting the States from Italy.  (He was in the Army.)  They didn’t have a car, so we crammed my brothers, my sisters, and myself into our van, along with my Uncle Steve, my Aunt Nancy, and their children.  13 people in an 11 passenger van going from Salt Lake City to St. Johns, Arizona is not my idea of fun.  I was claustrophobic for quite a while, though living in Seoul forced me to come to terms with it.  I’ve now learned how to teem along with the teeming crowds.  In so many ways, I admire Japan’s courteous ways.  The Japanese actually line up in orderly queues to get onto the subway.  It’s not like the free-for-all that the Seoul subway is.  That being said, I’ve always been impressed how the Confucian virtues still remain.  Even in Seoul, it’s not unusual to see younger people give up their seat to older people.  Korean old women are tough.  They’ve been through a lot.  Actually, knowing what Korea’s elderly experienced in their lifetimes has made me want to always treat them with the greatest respect and deference.  They’ve lived through chaotic times most of us cannot even begin to fathom.  I once saw an 80 year-old woman smack a 13 year-old boy on the back of the head for sitting in the elderly and handicapped section of the bus.  And yes, he moved right away.

Relating to people has not been easy.  In fact, it has often been very difficult.  I’ve come to accept that I will always be quirky and that there will always be people who cant stand quirkiness.  My struggle, then, is to live with the quirks and get along with others as best I can.  I realise that I will always be different.  The best I can do is accept the differences, do my best to get on well with people, and hope that others can accept the differences as well.



  1. Dear Robert,
    Great post! We’re all quirky! Who’s to say who is more quirky than who? Good job in learning to accept everyone’s differences! We all need to do that! I’m sooo proud of you and all of your many gifts! The Lord has blessed you in sooo many ways. You have talents in music, and in retaining what you read, and a love of learning a wide variety of subjects! I’m so glad that you overcame your claustrophobia and have learned to teem along with the teeming crowds in Korea! 🙂 We all have weaknesses and we are all learning to either cope with or overcome them. I learned today that sometimes our strengths can be our weakness. Like a very friendly outgoing person who not take the time to ever be introspective. We all need to have a balance and being around different people helps us keep balanced. That’s why we need each other! Yes, growing up in a large family was challenging (especially my eight brothers), but it made me who I am. I think someone who grows up as an only child has a big disadvantage. I could go on & on, but enough for now. Thanks for a great post! I love you!

  2. Thank you for this post – there is a lot here that resonates with my own experience, perhaps especially these lines: I cannot say that I love my hometown. I like it a little more than I did, but I don’t necessarily love it. I am an extremely private person and I really dislike the lack of privacy that comes along with living in a small town.

    I think I feel the same way about my own small-town upbringing. I can appreciate some aspects of the place better now than I did growing up, but even a short visit is enough to remind me that I could never live there again. The privacy point is one I find myself raising every time I hear friends (usually people who grew up in cities, or suburbs in large metro areas) wax poetic about what they perceive as the benefits and virtues of small-town life. I prefer large cities – not just for the privacy, but also because one can find a diversity and a degree of tolerance there that I have not seen in smaller communities.

  3. Yes, in so many ways, cities are more tolerant than small towns often are. My own hometown is remarkably provincial. Founded in the 1840s by descendants of Spanish settlers of New Mexico, Mormon settlers later moved in during the 1850s or 1860s. So many of the people who are from there are descendants of the original settlers. We moved there in 1978.

    I’m not going to dismiss it all as utterly horrible, but I had the distinct impression that we were seen a second class citizens, those who moved in following the construction of an unwanted power plant. (My father still works there today.) Things have changed and newcomers are more accepted than they were in 1978.

    I go back because of family and friends who live there. Those city dwellers who wax nostalgic about small town America have no idea what would await them. I rather think that the lack of privacy, resentment on the part of the locals in some communities, and so forth would drive them quite insane.

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