I did not speak during my kindergarten year. Maybe I grunted or audibly acknowledged the teacher’s scolding or orders (“David, was that really necessary?” when I tooted during class once), but I was not a talker. Literally. I didn’t utter a word all year and the teacher was a bit weary and spoke with my parents delicately. It was 1969 and the practice of modern culture’s pathologizing every behavioral quirk was a very distant future nightmare of the impending Orwellian wave that is Now; the teacher had a quick talk and a series of disjointed “just so you know” cautions. No shrinks or doctors or other meddling authorities were assembled or intruded. To parents of the era it was more like, “Figure it out yourself, this is your affair, not ours.”
A schoolyear passed and who knows, I might have said 10 words. I don’t recall what went through my head but I simply did not feel it important enough to say anything. To anyone.
First grade was another story. Something awful clicked over the summer and I would not shut up after school started in September.
If kindergarten was about “Hmm, what an odd quiet little child,” first grade was about, “This brat needs to shut up.”
The rest of my life has mostly echoed my kindergarten persona. Not a talker nor someone who enjoys listening to most people talk about small inanities (like about 93% of all talking in RL). Many people derive great deals of personal satisfaction from the mere activity of talking.
Me? It drains the living hell out of me. I once considered myself “bashful” and “shy,” not realizing, while mired in that dark recursive introversion, that I simply did not like conversation and my avoidance of it was greatly a function of my asocial personality. I’m not fearful of people or engagement (although I do dread public speaking), I simply find it a horrendous burden. If you were to meet me you wouldn’t guess any of this. I smile, I speak, I answer, but that’s only because I am a nice, well-mannered guy who doesn’t want to come across as the creep he really is.
In some respects the digital world was tailormade for someone like me. The spoken can be avoided and verbal interaction with others is self-regulated and can be confined to text which is easier on my soul. One might think that I would be verbose in written form to compensate for my reluctance to speak, but that’s not so. Most of my blog posts are relatively short; in fact, this one is becoming uncharacteristically long (red flag alert as I approach 500 words). My alter ego on Substack epitomizes my brevity and intolerance of gabbiness.
Especially on Substack where writers seem impelled to prioritize word count, which makes sense since they are asking for payment in exchange for their wall of text. In American culture, and throughout most of the world, consumers are presumed to pay more readily for quantity. I would never act as if my product here favors quality over quantity, but when I read other blogs the little hamster editor in my head compulsively inspects for fluff and semantic filler. It’s quite obvious when bloggers are elongating their piece for the sake of something having nothing to do with thematic integrity. When I write, the hamster editor is always hovering over my shoulder, so I have integrated the sparseness principle of writing. I strive to say the most with the least amount of words.
Verbal efficiency is my siren. I seek to not only use the fewest words but also the least lengthy pathways between concepts and complementary conjectures which require not more words but more useful words.
TLDR is my favorite internet acronym. Keep it real, keep it brief, and keep it insightful at all costs.
Anything else is just kindergarten.