Monday, February 23, 2009

Nature vs Nurture

I was thinking about my childhood, and I reckon there's a chance I was groomed for academia. It surprises me, because when I was in high-school I asked my parents if they'd ever had any thoughts on what career they I'd eventually have, or what they'd like me to have, and they said no, and I thought no more about it.

I now have reason to believe that they lied to me. This is not unusual, if you look back on your life you discover that as a child people lied to you constantly. Incidentally they simultaneously try to teach you that lying is wrong. No generation to date has been successful in passing the virtue of unwavering truthfulness onto the next.

Anyway, it was thinking about the differences between my sister and I that lead me to this conclusion. We're a lot a like, both in general personality and appearance, though she's smaller than me and tends to die her hair red these days. Our parents claim to have tried to treat us both the same as they were raising us, and in the respect that they spent equal amounts of money and time on each of us both, they're claim is valid.

However, I'm on my way to becoming a physicist and she's on her way to becoming a photographer. I was always the academic one, and she was always artsy. I reckon its got a lot to do with the season in which we were born. I'm January, she's August. So when it came to birthdays she'd get a swing-set, or a sand pit, or a trampoline. I tended to get microscopes (yes, plural), chemistry sets and electronics sets to play with.

One year Steph got a Barbie and a "Make your own lipgloss kit" for Christmas. The same year there was two dictionaries amongst my gifts. An OED for students and a "Dictionary of Difficult words." No wonder I didn't mix well with my peers. I'd ask for a remote controlled car and get a book called "My First 100 Science Experiments." I didn't even know Fisher Price did such a thing!

And yet, as a child I never noticed. I pointed out the unfairness that I never got anything as cool as a trampoline, and was told I could always use Steph's and that it was only because you couldn't use trampolines in Winter. It made sense. So I absorbed all of it. The interactive encyclopedias, the 1000 piece world map jigsaws, all the books I could get my hands on. Lessons disguised as toys.

When I was home at Christmas last year, my Dad looked at a pile of my notes. He called me over and asked me to explain what they meant. It was some basic stuff on the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. I did my best, but the conversation ended like this:

Dad: Let me get this straight, not only are you doing maths when you should be doing physics, you're doing it with letters instead of numbers, and the letters are in Greek?
Me: Yes.
Dad. WTF?

Serves him right. I'm still bitter about that trampoline.

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