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I had an interesting, if not challenging, childhood.
As most of you already know, all a kid wants is to be part of the crowd and just fit in.
Standing out, regardless if it is from good or bad attributes, tends to bring unwanted attention and can effectively isolate you from your peers.
Nowadays I take great pride that I often zig when others zag.
Because of this I have accomplished things that most following normal convention could not (achieving early financial independence is just one example).
But back in the day I was not as emotionally equipped as I am now to handle these differences.
As I have mentioned before, I am of Indian descent and thus, growing up in the deep south (Louisiana), I automatically had one major layer of difference from other kids my age.
In fact I can only recall one other student in my entire school that was Indian and that student happened to be female.
Obviously that meant all my other well-intentioned classmates felt we should date each other (we never did by the way).
There was another difference, not as overt as my race, that also made fitting in a bit more challenging and the reason why I chose today to share it with you.
You see today, August 13, is International Lefthanders Day and I am indeed left handed.
It certainly is not the end of the world, but being left-handed does carry some drawbacks in a society that caters to right-handers.
Doctors, as a group, are already known for their poor penmanship.
Poor penmanship is often magnified by several factors when you are left handed as your hand tends to smudge the freshly laid ink.
To avoid this phenomenon, you will sometimes see a left handed person severely contort his or her arm/hand/wrist (I never could bring myself to write this way).
Being Indian and left-handed was a double whammy.
Indians typically eat a lot of food with their hands, and per custom, the hand that should be used for food is the right hand.
The left hand was relegated to the “dirtier tasks” such as wiping or washing your derriere.
[By the way this gives a completely different interpretation of the title of this post.]
I am sure that when I used my left hand to eat Indian food at cultural events there were many who were probably left aghast.
The cultural stigma of being left handed also was one of the driving forces of why my mom routinely tried to get me to use my right hand for writing and eating.
My mother was actually happy when I started writing with my right hand when I broke my left forearm in a skating accident in grade school.
However as soon as the cast came off I instantly reverted back to my left hand.
Perhaps it was this early prompting by my mother that caused me to become semi ambidextrous.
I am most comfortable writing with my left hand but can write with my right hand with only a slight drop in penmanship.
Also a bit unusual is that, besides eating and writing, everything else I prefer to do is similar with my right handed brethren.
This includes batting right handed, throwing a football or baseball right handed, etc.
In fact the ability to easily switch between hands depending on the task at hand did get me in trouble in the operating room when I was a surgery resident.
I would essentially hold the scalpel in whichever hand was best in position to make the incision depending on what side of the patient I was on.
After observing this, the program director told me that he did not approve of me switching hands when operating as I would never fully master any techniques unless I stick with one hand.
[As I soon transitioned out of surgery and into radiology a few months later, this criticism became a moot point.]
The Positives Of Being A Lefty/South-paw:
There is anecdotal evidence that lefties are more creative, rationalizing that they are right (creative) side of the brain dominant (there is research to the contrary which demonstrates that only 30% of lefties are right brain dominant or use both cerebral hemispheres equally).
I have always been considered very creative throughout my life, with a passion for music (I play the guitar, piano, and have composed several original songs).
Whether this is aided by me being left handed will be difficult to prove or disprove however.
There have been several theories of why someone becomes left handed.
One popular theory is postulating that a biological/pathological event occurred in utero.
If the right hemisphere is somehow injured in fetal development the plasticity of the fetus can compensate by “re-wiring” the brain and have resulting left hand dominance.
Depending on when the insult occurred and the degree of compensation achieved could certainly impact intelligence.
This may explain why there is a seemingly bi-modal distribution of intelligence amongst left handed individuals (have more outliers on either end of the intelligence spectrum (for example autistic people are more likely to be left-handed)).
Studies have demonstrated that left handed individuals tend to excel in complex mathematical equations.
There is also a greater than expected representation of left handed individuals in the higher level thinking occupational fields.
I remember in medical school one professor mentioned that left handed people make up 10% of the general population.
When he asked the medical students who were left handed to raise their hands there was a far greater percentage (I would estimate 25-30% of the class).
Again completely anecdotal but it was impressive nonetheless.
So my fellow lefties, enjoy your day.
Sometimes it is okay to be the square peg in a world full of round holes.
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