I started Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers recently. I read it out of the book sometimes, and listen to the audiobook sometimes, like I did with Made to Stick. It’s pretty leisurely as absorption goes, but it’s enjoyable. Plenty of spaces between lines to think a little.
So I’ve been thinking.
Since I’m still early on in the book, I’ve been musing a lot about school. I was crap in school. I didn’t fail things (much) but I generally managed grades just good enough to scrape by. “Good grades” was not a worthy adversary.
Before college, I wrote stories and drew pictures. A new friend in middle school had introduced me to the idea of making comic books, and I was down with that. I could create whatever I wanted. They never saw the light of day, but they were my primary pursuit. The only really interesting thing around!
In college, I started to become aware that my family had money problems, and they started to affect me more dramatically than they’d used to—anyway, that’s what the memory feels like. I knew more about them in college, and I was more aware of a particularly cogent, familial financial climate. I can’t remember what I was driven by when I started learning about the internet and thinking about “running a business”. I could tell you that it was about bringing in more money for the family unit (that is what it turned into), but I don’t know how it started. I just don’t remember.
I think it was that I noticed something that felt worthy of doing. So I did it.
I don’t know where Gladwell is going with this book, but I know it’s making me wonder about myself. I can feel those tiny impulses—you have them, too—every moment I scan a sentence or parse a spoken phrase. These are impulses to find in the outside world proof that I am relevant.
Something that tells me for sure that I’m good enough.
My IQ is high. At least, it was when I was little—in the last fifteen years I’ve a) had a strange sensation that suggests it’s oozing downward along my spine and b) discovered that IQ truly doesn’t matter as much as I was originally taught. I know that I’m creative, and I clearly can do really nifty things. (Otherwise, I’m not sure how I’ve gone this long without a “job”. It’s been at least five years, technically… How have I been paying the rent, again?)
But I’m still looking for validation. I know we all are. I’m looking for a sign from the universe that I’m doing the Right Thing. That the path I want can really be reached from the path I’m on. And so the strange uneasy feeling engendered by the first few chapters of Gladwell’s book, I think, is a result of me wanting him to say what I want to hear.
You know. As if he might know!
I have a lot of things that are supposed to mean something. The IQ thing. Test scores, percentiles. Taught myself to read, ostensibly. Whatever else. But none of this really means anything. The sheer non-issue of my mediocre grades in school should prove that. I feel good about hearing that none of it really means anything past a certain point. I am down with that. But if he’s going to say that those things don’t count, what does?
And is it going to be something I can get my hands on?
Have you ever had this feeling?