A seemingly recurrent theme throughout my years in school–even through college–was that I wasn’t popular. Not that this is particularly a bad thing. But what was clear to me as I got older and moved through school was that most people simply didn’t understand me. And, quite frankly, I didn’t understand them. I had a hard time getting on with most people.
I wanted so desperately just to fit in.But I stood out. I was not particularly good at most of the schoolyard games. I wasn’t really all that interested in most of what everyone else was doing anyway. I didn’t get most of the jokes–the ones that weren’t about me anyway. I was, supposedly, smarter than average. Smart enough that dad thought I should skip a grade. Probably wouldn’t have helped in hindsight.
One of the few things I had going for me was that I was good with computers. This skill didn’t really matter much until I was in high school when we all had to use computers for various tasks. I found I had a knack for showing people how to do things. I also discovered, through some cajoling from Mr. Hall, was that I was able to write it down to help other people over and over.
As people figured out I was “the computer guy,” I started having some limited popularity. I wasn’t someone you wanted to invite to the dance or anything, but if you needed help, yeah you called me. In college, I was able to prove myself enough to play a very important role in maintaining and managing the main engineering computer lab, which gave me some visibility too.
As I moved on from college, I ended up making a name for myself doing something else–knowing about Check Point FireWall-1 (now called something like VPN-1 Power/Pro/Whatever). I learned stuff and shared it well. Despite the fact I do little with the product today, it is perhaps what I am best known for, even in the group of people I work with. But whatever I’m working on, I find a way to share knowledge and help others.
I guess that’s my path towards popularity, or maybe it’s what others do too, I don’t really know. It’s what I’ve always done, I think, and it seems to work for me. It seems a little one-sided at times, though, but I guess that’s the nature of the beast.
I guess as an adult, the things we and other people obsess over as teenagers and earlier don’t really end up mattering all that much when you’re an adult. At least to some anyway. Popularity is one of those things. I don’t really think about that too much.