The human experience is one that has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I had a difficult childhood which only Neurodivergent folk would be able to relate to. Confused, anxious, high-strung, always alert, always watching, always analyzing. I was a skinny kid with low muscle tone. My appetite was just enough to keep my mental resources running and I burnt up so much energy that I think my body did not have a chance to develop properly in my preteen years.
I remember when puberty hit and all the hormonal changes flooded my system. There was a Nurse from the Government that visited our school and all the boys had to undress and queue only in their underwear in the school hall. She would sit on a chair with a file and a pen and call each student to stand in front of her, one at a time. This experience was a strange one for me, I have never really understood boundaries with regards to nudity and why we wear clothing and who may see you naked and what your ‘private parts’ were. I was still figuring it out. I did know that I should let someone other than my mother see me naked. So, when it was my turn and I had to stand in front of this Woman, I was not sure what to do and waited for her to give me instructions. She asked me to pull down my underwear and expose my bits. She inspected it and I remember thinking that something must be wrong because I could not read her expression. I was also wondering if I was allowed to this because she is a stranger. I also looked down as she was looking at my genitalia and I felt a strange sensation in my nether region. Blood was flowing towards a body part which, up to this point was mainly used to try and hit flowers or leaves or bugs when I urinated outside in the garden. I played outside a lot so it was the most efficient solution to relieve myself I figured at the time 🙂
Anyway, back to that moment. So here I am, skinny kid, in my undies, exposing myself to this lady who had an unreadable expression on her face, and my private member decided to ‘rise to the occasion’. I was alarmed and amazed at the same time! So was she! She made eye contact with me, I blushed and giggled, and she said: ‘It’s okay young man, at least we know everything is working fine.’ and she gave me a slight smile and motioned to me that I can pull up my pants and go put on the rest of my school uniform. I passed the examination, and I felt a sense of pride. I still don’t know why she was there to look at so many penises and I probably never will. I do however remember being fascinated by the changes I experienced during puberty but also the changes I witnessed in the fairer of the species, the females. But that is a whole different story. The pure magic of our physical world has been capturing my imagination ever since.
The one area where I felt kind of ahead of the developmental curve however, was mentally. I remember being able to ‘see’ an answer while the teacher was still explaining the concept. This caused a lot of ‘answering out of turn disrupting the class’ – situations. I had to bite my lip because it was the ‘polite thing to do’ to give the other students a chance to answer the questions.
In my final year in Primary School we wrote our National IQ tests. I was 12 years old. It was a fantastic experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I experienced a sense of delight for being able to answer almost all the questions.
After a couple of weeks a different lady from the government visited our school again and we each had a session with her where she explained what we might want to be when we grow up. My session went like this:
- Well done on your IQ Test
- The results are great
- You have talents in various fields
- You can actually become anything you want when you grow up.
That’s it, no additional guidance or pointers so I left it at that.
A week or two later the Principle at our school summoned me and explained that I have been earmarked as one of only two kids in our entire province who were invited to attend a School for Gifted Scholars at the University of Pretoria that coming winter. He will arrange everything with my mother and he was honored that they chose a pupil from his school to attend.
My mother made the arrangements, we drove three hours to the University that winter, I checked into the dormitory, and waited for the program to start the next day.
I woke up the next morning, got dressed and went to the first class on the roster they gave me. I took a seat in the front and the Teacher started talking about mathematics and the definition of a square. Whilst she was asking pupils to list what qualities were needed one would say 4 equal sides, or four equal corners, she kept on asking as if the answers weren’t entirely correct. I shouted out: “All of the qualities need be present!”. She looked at me and chased me out of the class because I did not raise my hand.
I took my books and left the classroom, embarrassed and confused because I did give the correct answer. I did not know where to go, so I phoned my mom and asked her to come and fetch me…
Looking back now I wish the teacher knew I was on the spectrum and handled the situation better. I wish I knew I was on the spectrum too. This might have put me on a different trajectory in life perhaps ending up designing rockets to go to Mars like my fellow South African, Elon Musk!
Alas, I was thrust onto the difficult journey that would bring me to where I am today. Do I have regrets? Only one, and that is that I have regrets…