I am a member of a minority. It’s not a minority based on skin color, sexual preference, or fine parsing of gender vs. sex. It’s not a minority that’s considered “oppressed” and, therefore in need of “protection” by law (although believe me, we certainly have been the target of bullying).
Different subgroups of this minority go by many names: nerds, geeks, “basket cases,” and misfits among others. We’re the group that author Sarah A. Hoyt calls “Odds.” In any large group you’ll generally find us off on our own. We’re the ones nobody pays attention to, or if attention is paid, we’re the ones being teased (if being kind) or outright bullied (if not).
From no later than first grade I never fit in with the crowd around me. Add in that I was generally smaller and weaker than my peers (matured late–something I have discussed elsewhere) this meant I was usually picked on and bullied. My interests were radically different from most of those around me. (I was into space travel, which led me to Science Fiction. Later that led to fantasy and role playing games. Yes, I played DnD.) Because I was smaller and weaker and not terribly coordinated and was thus mocked for my lack of sports ability in school, I actively loathed anything to do with sports.
I had maybe five people total over the 13 years of public school who I could honestly call “friend”. (One of the people bullying me was my 2nd grade teacher which, in the end, led to my repeating 2nd grade. I’d “failed” math and English. Physicist and professional writer. I “failed” math and English.)
It was bad.
Growing up only helped a little. My military career? Don’t get me started. (Or go read where I wrote about it elsewhere). Even college, in the hard sciences didn’t help much. One of my professors told me “You’re going to have to give up that science fiction stuff if you want to be treated seriously as a scientist.” Considering that I knew several working scientists who were also science fiction writers of some repute, this was…odd. That he was wrong didn’t change that this was criticism directed at me because I “didn’t fit in” the conventional mold.
The result of all this is massive issues with insecurity that I still struggle with to this day, particularly in social interactions. Social cues that other people are socialized to learn from a young age? I never learned them. And trying to figure them out now? They’re just confusing–like trying to learn Mandarin from a teacher that only speaks French from a textbook written in Swahili.
And so, I was and remain an odd and one thing social animals such as humans dislike is the “odd” that sticks out.
But an interesting thing about “odds.” The occasional outlier, an “odd,” persists in existing in all sorts of social animals. Because, you see, in times of stress that “odd” becomes vital to the survival of the band. When there’s a drought and food is scarce it’s the odd that, in desperation, tries that berry nobody’s ever tried before (maybe it’s new to the area–seeds brought from the next valley over by birds. Or whatever). Maybe the odd just finds the berry to be poisonous and just succeeds in finding a quicker way to die than starvation. Or maybe the odd has found a new food source for the band. When a large predator starts munching on the band it’s the odd that first throws a rock at it. Maybe that just draws the attention of the predator so the odd gets munched first. Or maybe… Odds do things that nobody else does. And that leads to them finding answers nobody else finds.
Odds, always rare, usually despised, but important to the long term success and survival of the group when conditions change. And conditions always change. And so odds matter. Society needs odds.
And none of that, not one bit of it, helps when I, an odd, try to deal with “normal” society.