Some of my peculiarities

Daniel Lemire recently wrote about his kindergarten experience, how he couldn't tie his shoes and couldn't memorize numbers for counting. I had similar experiences. I was a smart kid (not just my mom's opinion :-), but I couldn't memorize how to count to 5 until first grade (which I started at 5 years old --which is another story). My mom was a primary school teacher, and she was worried that she couldn't teach me how to count. She invented some rhyming words for numbers to help me memorize them, but apparently that didn't work because I would say the rhyming words instead of the numbers.

Even up to third grade, I would occasionally put on my shoes the wrong foot. I couldn't learn how to tie my shoes properly till middle/high school. In middle/high school I started doing a single loop tie. I learned how to do double loop tie only after university. On the other hand, I had decent coordination. I played soccer and basketball fine.

I had a very hard time learning days of the week and months in a year (both in Turkish and later in English). It took me much much later than other kids to learn these. I am still not good with that stuff and mix the months occasionally. For some holidays, I still don't know which month they fall in. And overall I don't have a good appraisal of time.

I am clumsy and awkward in a peculiar way. I activated the fire alarm in my rental apartment at my sabbatical by mistake.

I can also be dense in stuff I don't like to learn, such as stock market, investing, etc. Once I label a topic as bad/boring/useless/tedious, it is as if I make it a point not to understand anything about it.

I procrastinate on some things for no good reason. In my twenties, I was very bad with paying bills, and got many late fee charges. This was a stupid form of procrastination. I would be stressed about these, but not do anything about them. (This wasn't depression. Luckily I have been able to avoid depression so far.) In my thirties, I learned how to be organized thanks to Emacs org-mode.

Being in academia, I was in the presence of people with similar peculiarities, and didn't stick out much. One of my lab mates at MIT kept procrastinating paying the utility bills in his apartment and his services disconnected couple of times. Then his mom started paying them instead. This guy was one of the smartest kids I knew, but he just couldn't pay his bills on time. Another person I know, kept his  car wash subscription in a city he moved out of for 6 months, because he wouldn't make a simple phone call---even after I started pleading him to make the call. (I also hate making phone calls.)

Ok, I am on a roll, let's keep going.

I can't touch peaches or apricots. Touching them makes me feel freezing cold. The mere mention of them used to make every hair on my arms stand up. I got better at tolerating their mention and appearance. Similar with touching chalk.

I have sensitive inner-ears. I get dizzy in an elevator and in a plane during takeoff. I cannot read anything in a car or bus.

When multiple conversations are going on in a dinner party, I cannot concentrate and understand what people say to me, because I can't tune out other conversations. When there is a TV in a room, I can't function, even thought the TV is on mute. Long flights are my nightmare: every seat there is a TV playing, and I go into a crazed/tired state after a couple hours.

I cannot function well in an open-office environment. I get depleted when I work in an open-office for a long duration. I love love love my private office.

I am not a very logical learner and a clear/organized thinker. I have a messy brain, and a messy learning/understanding style. I have much better intuition than rot logic learning power. I can form relationships/analogies with different things quickly and effortlessly.

I am good at catching typos. It is as if typos on a paper jump from the page to my attention. And in general I have a good visual memory.

I think I am good at reading emotions, and I am a pretty (probably too) sensitive person for emotions of others.

I think my peculiarities are just peculiarities. Like the stereotypical absentminded/clumsy professor. But, maybe, I am somewhere on the spectrum. I am not too bothered by this. But this occasionally leads to problems. My wife thinks I am feigning ignorance about some of our house routines (like whereabouts of things) and some of my behavior at social gatherings, even though I am genuinely confused and lost. Some of these, unfortunately, I cannot fix, even though I try hard. Probably some people find me peculiar, clumsy, or child-like, though I do a very good job of hiding this from people I interact infrequently.

MAD questions

1. What are your peculiarities?
I expect that some of you share some of my peculiarities. And some has other quirks. I like people with quirks, as long as they are harmless and not infringing to others.

2. Here is another good thing going for me, but probably this is a trick and not a peculiarity
I can stop my hiccups by just noticing that I have a hiccup and thinking it is silly to have a hickup. This works reliably and within one second for me. I picked this trick up 5-6 years ago after I saw a mention of this on a subreddit. Ever since that I didn't have a hiccup session with more than 2 hiccups (at which point I notice the hiccup and use the trick). Let's not jinx this, this is one good thing going for me.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for writing this piece proff. I kind of needed this today.
I took your class a couple of years back as part of my masters curriculum and now am just starting my doctoral journey.
Even though our research interests differ, you have always been a source of inspiration !


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