It’s funny what society considers to be normal.
As a kid my normal was (and still is) a world of science fiction & space, coupled with a thirst for knowledge - any knowledge, and the more trivial the better.
I had no hankering for cricket or football - mainly owing to an abject lack of hand-eye coordination. I couldn’t play it, so wasn’t interested in it.
Which made the weekly quizzes in my class at school excruciating.
Each of us would front the class with ten questions to test and tease our fellow students. And for a smart kid no one could understand why I always did so poorly at them.
Why should I? I couldn’t care less about the latest Sheffield Shield scores, who won the first State of Origin, or the Ford versus Holden battles on Mount Panorama.
My head was full of lightsaber battles, journeys through black holes (which I KNEW were impossible, but HOPED could be true), and the unfathomable fact that there were stars hundreds of times bigger than our own swirling above our heads billions of light years away.
Naturally, when my turn came to present the quiz it was an unmitigated disaster.
It wasn’t just the kids from my own class who made fun of me, news of my idiocy spread through the school like wildfire.
Q: Name three of the bounty hunters from The Empire Strikes Back.
Q: What is Star Wars real name?
(Acceptable answers of course include Boba Fett, Bossk, IG88, 4-LOM, Zuckuss & Dengar. And we all know it’s Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.)
I didn’t even get the chance to run through all the answers and mock those who had consistently mocked me. My teacher yelled at me, cutting me short with his abusive spittle about how stupid I was. It was a general knowledge quiz. Who in their right mind would know this rubbish?
My quiz and scores for that week were declared null and void.
At no point did anyone consider this was a kids’ cry for help. The only way he could say “I don’t understand your world, can you give me some leeway?”.
Of course not. I lived in a redneck town surrounded by ignorant yokels who were happy with their lot. No dreams of anything bigger or better. Hatred and fear of outsiders or the unknown. Or the odd.
A love of mindless violence, beer and petrol.
Not my world at all. Not by a long shot.
So as a kid this tiny, non-consequential event was earth-shatteringly humiliating. More fodder for the kids and bullies who called me faggot and made appointments to bash me under the water tower.
Gee. I wonder why I hate that town.
It wasn’t until I escaped to a city where I discovered like minds - and saw even more extremely odd behaviour that I realised it was ok to be who I was.
The barbs from those days made me think I wasn’t good enough. Because I wasn’t normal.
But I am normal to me.
These days it’s my oddness that attracts my friends. It’s my thirst for knowledge that has helped me continuously improve my life.
And it’s the very same stars burning in the night sky that continue to inspire and over-awe me.