Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How the {Softer} Sciences Saved Me

For a time, my husband worked at a very prestigious institute where everyone held doctoral degrees and impressive credentials.  I can remember attending a function with him and having this conversation.

Inquirer: "So, what do you do, Sarah?

Me: "Oh.  Well, I stay home right now.  Um, I write.  Um, I used to teach."

Inquirer (now interested): "Really?  Where did you teach?  I taught at 'insert prestigious secondary institute'."

Me (embarrassed): "Um, yah.  I taught elementary school.  Kindergarten and first grade primarily."

Ensue awkward silence.

For some reason, in certain situations I have felt such a sense of embarrassment over my resume.  Among my husband's field of mathematicians, statisticians and economists I could just hear the titters as I mentioned (or tried to hide) my Sociology degree...

As I have matured, though, I have come to see how my degree in the {softer} sciences saved me.

Growing up, I attended a prestigious and self-contained gifted program in my school district.  Prior to that, I was subject-accelerated and often learned with older peers.  At the time, I initially thought nothing of it because I was passionate about learning with parents who encouraged and advocated for me.

Within my gifted program, I was accepted and had friends.  Even though I knew I never {quite} fit in, I didn't stand out enough at the time to take real notice of it.  That didn't happen until middle school and high school.  At this point, I was mainstreamed into honors and advanced placement classes which in hindsight were barely challenging.  I phased out of math early on and pretty much coasted from that point.

Because I was not as stimulated mentally (through no one's fault but my own laziness) I was able to take notice of the social scene around me.  Suddenly, I realized the depth of my awkwardness.  I didn't dress right, I didn't act right, I just plain didn't fit in.

I was fully aware of my limitations with no ability to do anything about it.  At this point, I suffered with depression and poor self-image.  I dealt with my pain silently because I didn't want to upset anyone around me or draw anymore attention to myself than I already seemed to do.  I developed insufficient coping mechanisms and managed to create a facade that shielded me till college.

Then, the second semester of my freshman year, I stumbled into a Sociology course that was a prerequisite for my pre-law degree.  

Suddenly, I had a science that explained why I didn't fit in.  I had scientifically proven methods for how to approach social encounters to experience success.  I had the skills to evaluate other people's behavior and determine what response was appropriate to a given situation.  I suddenly had the ability to form meaningful relationships with people.

I think only a gifted person can understand what a gift this knowledge was to me.  

Through a series of events, I had found my calling.  I went on to receive my Bachelor's Degree in Sociology of Marriage and Family, receive training in family counseling, and then go on to earn my Master's of Education with an emphasis of Giftedness.  Fully equipped, I was able to go into the classroom and teach countless other parents and children the skills that I had learned in order to help them thrive both academically and socially.

I cannot count the number of parents who thanked me for helping their children learn at their own level but more importantly to grow as a person...  

While I may not have cured cancer or been to the moon, I have literally changed the lives for children who otherwise might have felt alone, misunderstood, and paralyzed to change.  

Over time, I have made peace with my choices.  It's not that I couldn't have earned a degree in a "real" science.  I have both the aptitude and determination within me.  More than that, Sociology chose me.  It reshaped me and opened the world to me in a way that nothing else had till that point.  Without it, I would have been a less-complete version of me. 

And without it, I would not have unlocked the skills to help scores of other gifted children to be successful socially and fully experience life.  

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