It’s Not What You Think By Ethan Zucker (Age 16)

I’m kind of a big nerd. I mean, I do spend many hours after school working on homework that won’t necessarily be checked, and make it a regular activity to bug my teachers on anything I don’t understand. I will often even finish research papers several months before they are due. This probably sounds crazy, but don’t worry, I’ve completely normalized these things in my life. A good friend even came up to me and said, “Ethan, the amount of time you spend on school is insane! I know I’ve told you this many times in the past, but it’s worth repeating.” I have even heard from friends that some acquaintances are intimidated by how seriously I take my academics. It is very possible this has limited other friendships as well. I accept this reality without protest, after all, it is my own doing. But there are a ton of other things I love in life that don’t involve academics at all. Besides the people that know me best, most don’t really know those things and only know the nerd side of me.

I also realize there is a bit of irony that I’ve chosen to write this Flaunt essay about this aspect of my life given I was born with one finger on each hand and two toes on each foot. But that part of my life is my normal– so my physical difference is not what I believe makes me truly different. But it has enabled me to take pride and be confident in every aspect of myself, including my non-academic traits.

People assume I love and prioritize school over everything else. And while school obviously does matter to me, it is far from my only value. Instead my being perceived as a big nerd is what can truly provide unwanted difficulties in my life. Sure, I live up to the nerd stigma since I am fascinated by certain academic topics like biology and whatever I’ve just read. However, I am more than that nerdy persona. Actually, my greatest passions in life, the ones that give me the most joy, stray far from the realm of school. For example, I LOVE dancing. At my brother’s bar mitzvah, I made sure to hit the dance floor and do all the craziest and weirdest moves possible (most of them inspired by Pitch Perfect’s Fat Amy). The emcee would occasionally pull me out of my ice cream indulging at my table by saying, “Ethan, we need you on the dance floor NOW!” I think I deserved to be paid for that evening. I’ve always loved music and dancing, and I spend just as much time creating and listening to my Spotify playlists as I do on homework.

I am also a HUGE bicycle junkie. Biking is not only a passion, but also a major stress-reliever. If I feel like I do have too much work to do, I will gladly stop and go for a relaxing bike ride. I by no means place my academics over my mental health, which would actually surprise many people who know me. Biking is one of those things that not only comes easily, it brings me pure joy. Just a few days ago, I rejected my mom’s offer to drive me to the local YMCA because I wanted to bike there myself. Once I got there I naturally proceeded to do an hour-long indoor cycling class. It isn’t just the act of biking itself that captivates me, I also love biking in parks and neighborhoods where I can take in natural beauty and enjoy varied architecture. The only problem is when I stare at an old stone house too long while riding that I forget to see the pothole is front of me and go bouncing. See, these are the real problems I face in my life.

What’s funny is that I still plan to continue my craziness about school into the coming years, it has enabled me to work really hard at everything I do and find success. But I will also balance that side of me by flaunting my other more awesome qualities in public. I am more than just my brain and certainly more than a teen that happens to look very different than most. So sure I am a big nerd, but I’m also so much more.




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