Divergent

I’m not trying to compare myself with the protagonist of the novel, ‘Divergent,’ who jumps from the platform of a speeding train to land on the roof of a tall building. I’d be dead before the book got started. But I believe the title accurately describes the strange routes and mysterious highways inside my brain. 

A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out why my outdoor Christmas decoration wouldn’t light up. So I did what I always do when I can’t solve a problem. I googled it. (Well, I often pray when there’s a problem, but YouTube seemed the right fit at the moment.) Sure enough, a guy in a video told me it might be the fuses under the trap door of the plug.

Trap door?? Using a thin knife, I pushed a teensy cover back from the plug. Seeing the two tiny fuses nestled inside left me feeling like all the grown-ups had it wrong. There really was a North Pole where Santa lived with his reindeer and a bunch of elves. The discovery charmed my brain. And for some reason, it reminded me of those childhood days when I was forced to do something boring. Like be in church. ( I love church now. Go figure.) Back then, I would cup my hands and watch as the folds in my skin turned into ancient caves inhabited by tiny people. I was happily occupied for the next hour. 

When a teacher  (yes, this happened at school, too) asked, “Now, did everyone understand the directions I just gave you? Speak out now if you didn’t!”…did I put up my hand? Not a chance. I was too busy watching the cave dwellers being attacked by an ogre. Dear readers, if your report cards ever said that you needed to stop daydreaming, you are my people. 

Definition of divergent: tending to be different or develop in different directions

Until recently, I’d assumed that everyone had sensory issues. Loud music or sudden noises, itchy tags on shirts that cause discomfort verging on pain. Being forced to sit in a chair for long stretches without being allowed to move. Turns out, I was wrong about everyone feeling the same. It’s just some of us who experience the neural divide. 

I became an excellent reader in the second grade, but even today, road maps and sheet music can challenge my navigational skills. In my copies of our choir’s Christmas music, I felt the need to draw arrows pointing every which way,  highlight all musical notes, and scatter stern instructions all over the pages. (Pay attention! Look up! etc.) The sheets looked like a mad scientist’s plans for blowing up the world. 

I need to repeat trips a number of times before I feel comfortable with most routes. When I travel at night, even through a familiar city, it always feels like someone has moved all the buildings around just to mess with me. I took a personality test a year ago, and one of the suggestions was, ‘steer clear of board memberships. They’re not for the likes of you.’ But I sit on two boards, (the sitting part hurts!) and give myself permission to walk around if I’m feeling antsy. My desire to feel useful, to be a part of things, trumps my discomfort with meetings.

Having said all that, I’m glad I’m me. I like the way my brain works, especially my imagination. I could do without some of the discomforts that come with divergence, but I wouldn’t want to be anyone else. To badly paraphrase Walt Whitman’s poem, The Road Not Taken, 

                              Two brains diverged in a neural pathway.

                              Mine took the one less traveled by,

                              And that has made all the difference.  

I am mostly kind, empathetic, and occasionally blunt, (the words coming out of my mouth often take me by surprise.) And I sometimes view the world differently from other people. When something interests me, I am totally focused. My brain likes to be entertained…it wants to be charmed and distracted from the boring, everyday things in life. It’s why I like meeting new people, often accosting them in lineups at the grocery store with some friendly chatter. And yet I like daily routines and familiar food, and most of all, a life that involves lots of movement. In spite of past insecurities, I feel at home with myself. I also find daily life to be filled with the absurd…so many things that make me laugh. In light of that, please enjoy the following message from Stuart of SNL fame, who like the rest of us, is dealing with his own issues.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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