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Personal: Small Scale

Outside of general references to my employment I’ve not shared many personal things on this blog, so I’m goig to use the recently created Autobiographical category for talking about that sort of thing. Part of the reason I’ve fallen behind on the monthly reviews is because I’ve written out a bunch of these but hesitated to post them.

This first post is a fairly small step that covers something innocuous and just happened to be something I was thinking about recently, but we’ll see where things go from here.

I do not miss these days.

In 1998 (or thereabouts) I took my GCSE exams, the exams that for a lot of students mark the end of their education and the point at which they’re free to leave school and take their first steps into proper adulthood. My attempts to revise were fairly mixed, for some subjects doing little to no revision, for others working solely on what I felt were my weak spots (mathematics is one I remember taking this approach with), and others making a proper effort.

When the results came they weren’t too bad. An ‘A’ in History and a ‘B’ in almost everything else – Double Award Science (a general science course that covered all three sciences and awarded two GCSEs), Maths, Geography (an optional course most of us treated as a joke and learned little in, but our teacher seemed aware of that and prepared an excellent revision package), English Language, English Literature and French (the one I’m most disappointed that I didn’t stick with after finishing school).

Then there was my one ‘C’ result, in Humanities. Humanities was the catch-all subject for all kinds of social categories: religion, culture, social issues and the like. I think before the final two years of secondary education it also included history and geography, but once those two budded off into their own courses it was a subject I could never muster up much enthusiasm for as I didn’t find it very interesting.

I can vaguely recall just one question from the exam, which was a photo of a group of people (a family, I think). We had to explain what difficulties and prejudices they may face through their lives, though I don’t remember any details and don’t even recall if I answered it in a satisfactory manner. The different things people believed or did just weren’t things I was interested in knowing or devoting much thought to.

People aren’t that interesting to me, just as I’m surely not very interesting to other people (this blog’s visitor count is testament to that). Indeed, even nowadays people will ask me questions about my life – what did I do before my current job, what are my hobbies, am I single – and I’ll answer them in a fairly succinct manner and the conversation moves on, and it’s only later that I realise I should have asked them the same questions in reply, out of politeness if nothing else (in my more cynical moments I assume that that’s actually what they were after, trying to get me to ask the same thing about them so they can talk about it).

In the moment I essentially view the questions being asked of me as conversation filler, things people ask because they feel they have to say something, and as I have no such compulsion (I’m happy to say nothing when I have nothing to say and I don’t find silence awkward) I forget to reciprocate because I’m comfortable not knowing things about people. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just genuinely don’t think about such things.

After my GCSEs I stayed at school to study A Levels, one of which was Biology. The first two modules (covering the first year) were all about genetics, cells and the human body, all of which was fascinating to me (and still is, though I’ve not kept up with it). How we’ve come to be, how we function and how we pass on our characteristics were all wonderful things to learn about. It’s only looking at people on the larger scales, our beliefs and behaviours, which I mentally rebound from, sort of like somebody who loves putting cars together and learning about how they work but has little to no interesting in driving one or following racing. It’s all about the small scale.

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