People are different. And it shows in every aspect of life. How we dress, how we choose our friends, what kind of work we like to do… Even as early as grade school, differences between pupils are apparent. Some enjoy language and literature; others, science and math. It might have a lot to do with Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence or we can just call it personality differences. By whatever name or label, it boils down to the same thing — no two people are alike.
It’s true even among siblings. My daughters, for instance, started to show different inclinations long before high school. Sam was the writer and the philosopher who wrote impressive analytic essays before she was 10. She also happened to assimilate everything computer related almost as soon as she started using computers. Alex was the math wiz and the artist.
The curious thing is that these personal preferences — or strengths, if you prefer to call them that — are not constant throughout life. Before the third grade, I never really know I could write and write well. I was a science person. And I excelled in sports. I could outrun most boys, I hit and threw balls better, faster and farther. But science was my passion. I loved reading about the stars, the constellations, solar systems and galaxies, the planets, the moons and the asteroids. In fact, in all the slum books I signed, I always stated that my ambition was “to be a scientist.”
Then, came the third grade and theme writing and I learned how writing and telling stories came so naturally to me. And I started loving it — enough to get me the Associate Editor post in the school paper. But I didn’t stop loving science. I didn’t even shun math at that point. That came later in high school. Our Algebra teacher wasn’t exactly the nicest nor the most approachable nor the most inspiring. And I started hating math with as much passion as my hatred for her. And because, except for Biology, high school science was mostly math (Chemistry and Physics), I started losing my interest in the sciences too. As if to offset what I was losing, I started writing better and better.
And that’s where Howard Gardner’s theory goes every which way. At least, based on my experience. Although, in essence, I do believe that every person has a unique area of intelligence, I also believe that what a person is good at is not always constant and may sometimes be influenced by external factors. Perhaps, I would never have gone into serious writing — and become a lawyer — if it were not for that unspeakable Algebra teacher back in high school. Perhaps, I’d be a rocket scientist by now. Or the inventor of some alternative source of energy that would have put the OPEC and the oil companies out of business long ago. I’ll never know. But I know I’m good at something and I love doing it. So, I write. And I wonder how many others out there became what they are today because they lost interest in something they were most passionate about or because they discovered they were better at something else.