...while you're busy making other plans." (John Lennon, 1980)
[Sigh.] It's hard to realize that you're not "special." I think I, up until the past couple of years, always based my own personal "special" (and "aware") feeling on a few odd things:
(1) When my dad took me to his office when I was 11, one of his co-workers told him that I was "the prettiest girl" he'd ever seen. (!!) Very great for my ego, and it's tided me over -- falsely -- to this day. But it's hard to admit that your looks peaked at age 11! :)
(2) Starting in about 4th grade, I started being very aware of the group dynamics between people, that things were far from rational. For instance, in 4th grade, our home-room teacher asked all of us if we'd prefer to be in school or out of school. All of us little sheep chose "in school" except for one scruffy kid, who said he'd rather be out of school. The teacher then grilled him excessively: What would he rather be doing? Riding horses. Oh, so did he have a horse? No, but he liked them. Oh, so if he didn't have a horse, then he'd STEAL a horse and ride it? No... Well, it sounds like you'd steal a horse...
Jesus. What was the fucking point of all of that?
(3) In 5th grade, we girls were in our "locker room" after PE, changing. The preacher's daughter, a popular girl named Cheryl, thought it would be funny to hold the locker-room door open while we all in turn ran in front of it, half-dressed. It was funny, until a teacher caught us. Or rather, the teacher caught an unpopular girl named Laura while she was flashing. The teacher demanded to know what was going on. No one spoke up. Laura got busted. Not Cheryl. Cheryl wouldn't "man up" and admit it was all her idea, so someone else took the fall for her. And nobody, including myself, said anything.
(4) When I was in 6th grade, I moved from one Texas small town to another in early Fall. When we got to the new town, all of my clothes hadn't been shipped yet, so I had to wear the same 3 dresses for 2 weeks. My home-room teacher treated me like I was a piece of shit based on my crappy wardrobe. On one occasion, at the end of the school-day, parents were pulling up in front of the school, which we could see from our window. We would all stand up to see if our parents were there yet. But I was the one who got yelled at.
My status quickly changed with this teacher for two reasons: One, I scored very high on the 6th-grade aptitude test that was being given. Nothing to do with her, but it made her look good and she liked that. Two, I won the school spelling bee. Again, nothing to do with her, but it made her look good and she liked that.
After that, she was sweet as could be to me, to the extreme point of letting me make seating charts for the class. I wallowed in my newfound approval, but the earlier memories of her shallow disgust and hatefulness over my "3 dresses" stayed with me.
The idea of not being able to trust anyone or anything was set at a very early age. Some people feed off of societal recognition, vowing to do what's acceptable in order to at least not be shunned...I did this when I was a kid. It was drilled into my head that if I preferred riding horses to being in school, if I didn't have a sufficiently varied wardrobe, if I ran unclothed in front of open doors, then I was going to be publicly derided by authority figures. I accepted this when I was 9, 10, and 11.
Around 15 or so, though, came the break: I still lived in a small town in Texas, ruled by religious fervor. Everyone was being "saved." I was in love with a religious friend, and myself got "saved" at her fundamentalist Baptist church. I took it seriously and started reading the Bible seriously... only to discover that the Bible had multitudes of discrepancies: If we all came from Adam and Eve, then where did the cave people fit in? What about the dinosaurs? And women are to be subservient to men??? Like hell to all of it. Like my 4th-grade teacher, the Bible was bullshit.
I see Age 15 as the year of my Awakening and Recognition. Previously, I'd only wondered and worried about what I'd been aware of when I was little. When I was 15, though, the bullshit kind of solidified into an obvious pattern of corruption that I've been aware of and guarding against to this day. Not always successfully.