They Saw the Sign
A story from my childhood that tells you something about me.
Don’t you hate small talk? It’s the worst. But here’s a question I like to ask when I meet someone new: “Tell me a story from your childhood that tells me something about you now.”
Every family has a short list of legendary stories that get referenced at every reunion -- and usually, one or two are about you, and are top of mind, if only someone would ask.
In sixth grade, I was doing my best, but there’s no easy way to say it. I was a nerd. Glasses in full. Mouth full of braces. So small and awkward. Not good at sports, and the onset of puberty wasn’t making me more graceful: I played sports with the dexterity of a newborn giraffe. And my family didn’t have the funds to afford the coolest clothes that my friends started to get (T&C, Gotcha, No Fear - it was the 80s!).
Even though I was top of the elementary school hierarchy, I had everything working against me, except two things. I knew I was smart. And I had misguided confidence.
Somehow, I got it in my head that I was getting the best grades in the class. That I was acing every test and delivering top-tier homework. My book reports? Written like a Rhodes scholar. My math tests? 108% every time. I was killing the game.
But my popularity was inversely correlated to these feats of academia. How to explain this? There must have been an awareness problem. (facepalm)
Lucky for me, my deskmate and best friend Scott seemed to suffer from the same fate — he was incomparably smart and not getting the social props he deserved.
So I convinced him to help me make a giant sign to hang above our sixth-grade double-desk. We arrived at our classroom early the next day, hung the sign with string and paper clips (genius), and waited for the response. Picture it: me and Scott, sitting there, facing the doorway, waiting for the world to finally realize who and what we were…
The sign read, “SUPER BRAINS” with two arrows pointing down to us.
I wish I was making this up. I really do.
Did it go well? It did not. The immediate ridicule we received caused our teacher to advise us to take it down within minutes. (Hold up, why did Mrs Templeton even let us put that up?)
This was a move that bombed my social status, which never really recovered until I moved to Washington State a few years later, but let’s just say, everything worked out okay after that.
What should you know about me from this? I love self-promotion and I embrace the spotlight, but you should know that it’s sometimes coming from an insecure place.
I’m learning more and more that embracing both the showman and that vulnerable kid — is what makes me, well, me.
Now, it’s your turn. What is one story from your childhood that tells me (and us) something about you?