Left-handedness No Shame

Sarada Symonds, Editor-in-Chief

As a leftie, I bear a mark a shame.

Surely, all left-handed people know to I am referring: The ink or graphite smudges that build up on the side of our hand as we write from left to right. After an in class essay, the left side of my hand is almost entirely black, and after a day of writing with pencil it looks like part of my hand is made of chrome.

But at least pen and pencil marks wash off. I don’t even want to talk about how long it takes the stains to fade when I’m using a Sharpie.

When I was a kid, the negatives of being left handed, such as ink smudges, seemed to outweigh any good that might come from it. My teacher initially tried to make me write right handed, and once she figured out I was actually a leftie, she didn’t really know the correct hand position and just told me, “Reverse everything I’m doing.”

As a basketball player, I was first taught how to dribble with my right hand, even though the coach knew I was left handed. I felt like an awful dribbler.

Furthermore, my left handed parent told me he had to compete with another student to get to sit in the only left handed desk in the classroom. And the frustration of trying to use right handed scissors was just embarrassing.

It’s estimated that about 10% of the population is left handed, according to the Huffington Post.

There is a historical social stigma of being left handed. For centuries, left handedness was considered malicious or evil, and even associated with witchcraft. In French, the word for left is synonymous with awkward and clumsy, similar to English, where right means “correct” and “good.”

Even today, a Wall Street Jounal article asserted that left handers’ salaries are roughly 10% less than their right handed counterparts.

However, I have found that being left handed has given me several advantages. Being forced to learn to dribble with my right hand first ended up making me a much better player. In volleyball, being left handed gave me an advantage when I played both right side and middle, as blockers usually blocked my right hand. And, while I may have to arrive early to get a leftie desk, it could also mean that there’s a desk reserved for me.

In fact, left handedness is celebrated more and more. Recently, I visited Lefty’s the Left Hand Store in San Francisco, which is stock full of left handed scissors, notebooks, and kitchen tools. There’s even a day specifically for left handed people (August 13- International Left Hander’s Day).

The point is, while being left handed has many disadvantages, like those darn smudges, there are also several advantages.

But because I didn’t initially see the benefits, I saw my left handedness as a bad thing, and I hated it. It made me different from everyone else.

When the features that separate us, like left handedness, make us take a different path than the majority, we often see it as a negative.

At Campolindo, it sometimes seems we need to fit a mold: we need to be academically or athletically successful. Especially when we’re applying to colleges, our worth is judged by a short list of our activities and test scores. Success is measured by winning championships, earning straight A’s. In fact, society seems to adopt this view, that success is defined by our grades or the awards we’ve won, and it’s bad if you don’t happen to fit the mold of high achievement.

Sometimes it’s not the celebrated attributes that lead to great discoveries or new inventions. Thomas Edison was considered “addled” by his teachers. Due to an incident when he was boarding a train, he began to lose his hearing; however, Edison later stated that this allowed him to devote his full attention to his work. Albert Einstein’s parents were concerned when he did not talk until the age of three, and his teachers thought him lazy, sloppy, and insubordinate. However, Einstein attributed this to his dislike of rote memorization, preferring to consider things like ‘why the needle in a compass points in one direction’ or ‘what is the speed of light?’.

While the traits that set us apart may seem like detriments, they can be beneficial for us and allow us to think about things in new ways.

While I used to hate my left handedness, I’ve now come to appreciate it as a part of my identity, of what makes me who I am. I bear those smudges with pride.