onsider these examples, reviewed in Life Span Development by John Santrock (2008, McGraw Hill, 11e).
“Ted Kaczynski sprinted through high school, not bothering with his junior year and making only passing efforts at social contact. Off to Harvard at age 16, Kaczynski was a loner during his college years. One of his roommates at Harvard said that he avoided people by quickly shuffling by them and slamming the door behind him. After obtaining his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Michigan, Kaczynski became a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. His colleagues there remember him as hiding from social circumstances—no friends, no allies, no networking.
After several years at Berkeley, Kaczynski resigned and moved to a rural area of Montana where he lived as a hermit in a crude shack for 25 years. Town residents described him as a bearded eccentric. Kaczynski traced his own difficulties to growing up as a genius in a kid’s body and sticking out like a sore thumb in his surrounding as a child. In 19656, he was arrested and charged as the notorious Unabomber, America’s most wanted killer who sent 16 mail bombs in 17 years that left 23 people wounded or maimed, and 3 people dead. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to the offenses and was sentenced to life in prison.
A decade before Kaczynski mailed his first bomb, Alice Walker, who later won the Pulitzer Prize for her book The Color Purple, spent her days battling racism in Mississippi. She had recently won her first writing fellowship, but rather than use the money to follow her dream of moving to Senegal, Africa, she put herself into the heart and heat of the civic rights movement. Walker had grown up knowing the brutal effects of poverty and racism. Born in 1955, she was the eighth child of Georgia sharecropper who earned $300 a year. When Walker was 8, her brother accidentally shot her in the left eye with a BB gun. By the time her parents got her to the hospital a week later (they had no car), she was blind in that eye and it had developed a disfiguring layer of scar tissue. Despite the counts against her, Walker overcame pain and anger and went on to become not only an award-winning novelist but also an essayist, a poet, a short-story writer, and a social activist.” (p. 4)